Escondido Christmas Bird Count results

Willet and godwit. (Darlene Luckins )

Greater Escondido definitely is going to the birds as attested by the latest Audubon Society bird count.

Palomar Audubon Society president and bird count compiler Ken Weaver flew in Valentine’s Day with the official results of the Escondido Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This was part of the 116th CBC in national Audubon Society history.

“Seventy-one observers participated in the Escondido Christmas Bird Count held on

Escondido Christmas Bird Count

Escondido Christmas Bird Count

January 2, the last CBC of the season,” Weaver said. “Our total of 159 species breaks the previous high count by three species. Brennan Mulroney and Matt Farley observed the rarest bird of the count, a Swamp Sparrow, which was an addition to the list of birds observed within the count circle.”

Not all good news though, alas. “Unfortunately, the sparrow chose to inhabit a spot at the Safari Park that is not accessible to the public,” Weaver said.

Yet, a lot of rare birds chose to be in the area for whatever reason.

Species noted that were listed on the rare bird list for the county included a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Collier Park in Ramona, a Gray Flycatcher at Ramona County Park, a White-throated Sparrow near Highland Valley Road, and three widely- separated Vermilion Flycatchers observed in south Escondido, Rangeland Road, and Ramona Community Park.

Other highlights, according to Weaver, included: A single Black-throated Sparrow observed in the San Pasqual Valley — only the count’s third record, two Zone-tailed Hawks, one adult and one juvenile, who soared over the Safari Park; an additional adult Zone-tailed occurred over four miles to the south near Lake Ramona; 20 Scaly-breasted Munias, an exotic species, which occurred at three locations in south Escondido.

“Escondido is an inland count,” Weaver said, “so it lacks many of the waterbirds and overwintering songbirds of the coastal counts. It does, though, produce a number of birds that are infrequently noted on the coast.”

Some birds, for example, that were not typical of the San Diego CBC that observers found, according to Weaver, (number of individuals in parentheses) included:

Call went out to San Diego County field ornithologists to join the annual bird count

Call went out to San Diego County field ornithologists to join the annual bird count

Common Merganser (36)

Ferruginous Hawk (17)

Bald Eagle (2)

Western Screech-Owl (4)

Cattle Egret (65)

White-faced Ibis (64)

Lewis’s Woodpecker (2)

Acorn Woodpecker (274)

Prairie Falcon (4)

White-breasted Nuthatch (45)

Mountain Bluebird (77)

Purple Finch (27)

Pine Siskin (95)

“As we move well into the second century of the Christmas Bird Count, its relevance and importance to our understanding of the status of birds in the Americas—and the effects of climate change on them—grows with each passing season,” Audubon Society official Geoffrey S. LeBaron said.

“While it’s still too early to draw any major conclusions regarding the 116th CBC results, clearly a driving factor in the season was the weather effects of the major El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean,” LeBaron said. “These events drive continental weather in North America, and significant varying effects were experienced by CBC participants across the continent.”

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