Below is a review from Ken Weaver our CBC compiler, summarizing the
the results of our recent Escondido Christmas Bird Count.
Escondido Christmas Bird Count December 23, 2022
On December 23, eighty-five birders counted 157 different species of birds within the
Escondido Christmas bird count circle which also includes the San Pasqual Valley and
parts of Valley Center, Poway, and Ramona. The total number of individual birds on our
annual 38th count was 19,298.
Three things stand out from the count. 1) we did really well in finding nearly every single
species that could be reasonably expected, 2) rarities were, well, just plain rare this year (few
mountain birds or overwintering “summer” birds), and 3) many species were in unusually low
numbers especially waterbirds, raptors, and flocking passerines like crows and blackbirds. Was
this due to drought or avian flu or some combination of a bunch of bad stuff?
Countdown of rarities. Here is our list of species from this year’s count with ten or fewer
previous records. Observers are shown in parentheses.
Greater White-fronted Goose. Ten previous records. We had record numbers of Greater
White-fronted Geese this fall in San Diego County, mostly along the coast. Twelve were
recorded in east Ramona with another one sighted at the Safari Park, and likely the same
individual nearby in the San Pasqual Valley. (East Ramona: Matt Farley, Brennan Mulrooney,
Declan Mulrooney. Safari Park: Joni Ciarletta, Gayle DeLalla, Eric Lutomski. San Pasqual
Valley: Jim Beckman, Michael Beeve, Sonja Beeve, Vince Kalaher, Tsaiwei Olee.)
Cackling Goose. The single Cackling Goose recorded was found at the Safari Park. This
species is probably not as rare as past records reflect as we are probably paying more
attention now that it is no longer “lumped” with the Canada Goose. (Joni Ciarletta, Gayle
DeLalla, Eric Lutomski)
White-winged Dove. Six previous records. This species is becoming regular at select spots
within the count circle. Observations on this CBC include one individual near Bandy Canyon
Road in the San Pasqual Valley, five near Black Canyon Road in northeast Ramona, and six
near the Ramona Airport. (Bandy Canyon Road: Clark Mahrdt, Kate Cleven, Jan Nordenberg,
Barbara Orr. Black Canyon Road: Tim Burr, Kirsten Winter. Ramona Airport: Stephen Perry,
White-throated Sparrow. Also with six previous records. This is an “eastern” bird which
showed up in record numbers this past fall. One at Lake Wohlford is likely a returning bird from
last year. (Trysten Loefke, Mary Jo Hayes, Patrick Hayes, Connie Lee, Aedyn Loefke.)
Townsend’s Solitaire. Five previous records of this “mountain” thrush. One was spotted in the
Paradise Mountain Road area in Valley Center. Another was noted along Santa Isabel Creek
southwest of Pamo Valley. (Paradise Mountain Road: Steve Lima. Santa Isabel Creek:
Herring Gull. Four previous records. One at Dixon Lake in Escondido was away from the coast
where it is regularly noted. (Philip Unitt, Randi Feinberg)
American Redstart. Also with four previous records. Kit Carson Park in Escondido hosted this
bird again. It winters in small numbers in the county, but seldom away from the coast. (Paul
Swainson’s Hawk. New to the count and noted at the Safari Park (Eric Lutomski, Stan Walens).
This species is showing some very erratic migration movements of late. In the old days, the
population would be in South America long before Christmas time. Now, some individuals are
apparently starting their south-bound journey much later. Confusingly, some actually appear to
be north-bound. What is going on here? One was noted by Safari Park staff several days prior
to the count as well as on count day. It was reported on eBird, but I’ve seen no “acceptance”
from eBird reviewers as of yet. It’s possible that it is the same individual that was reported
back in November)
Lazuli Bunting. New to the count and quite a surprise as this bird just doesn’t winter north of
the U.S./Mexico border. Eric Lutomski, on the staff at the Safari Park, has noted a male
bunting for months sneaking into to an off-exhibit cage to snack on meal worms meant for the
park’s own creatures. This individual bird appears on the recent eBird list for the county,
indicating that the reviewers accept its occurrence. Christmas bird counts, though, are
reviewed by a CBC regional editor (a separate entity) who will undoubtedly have a comment on
More rarities. The following species are not quite as scarce in the count circle as all have
occurred on more than ten but fewer than fifteen previous counts. They include a Gray
Flycatcher in east Ramona (Matt Farley, Brennan Mulrooney, Declan Mulrooney); a Band-tailed
Pigeon near Paradise Mountain Road (Steve Lima); a California Gull at Lake Wohflord (Trysten
Loefke, Mary Jo Hayes, Patrick Hayes, Connie Lee, Aedyn Loefke); and two Vermilion
Flycatchers, one at the Vineyard in south Escondido (Ed Hall, Dave Batzler, Jim Zimmer) and
another at Rangeland Road in Ramona (Phoenix Von Hendy, Beth Cobb, Beth Deutsch, P. J.
Falatek, Miranda Kennedy, Robert Sutton).
A few facts. Only two species were reported by all 29 teams, Red-tailed Hawk and Yellow-
rumped Warbler, an indication of how varied this count circle is even though it doesn’t border
the coast. The most abundant bird was, no surprise, the Yellow-rumped Warbler with 1711
individuals reported (including 9 of the Myrtle subspecies). Twenty-four species were
represented by a single individual.
Record high numbers. This only applies to two species on this year’s count, Mountain Quail
and American Robin. The quail is present at higher elevations in the count circle, but is tricky
to find. Eight individuals were reported from the Santa Isabel Truck Trail (Adam Eidson, Lee
Hamm), the first reported in a number of years. Regarding robins, we knew this past fall that
their numbers were way up. The question is why? Our total count was 695, a new record,
although coastal counts had even higher numbers.
Exotics and invaders. Several introduced or invasive species apparently reached their peak
numbers some time ago only to disappear or decline. Examples: Ring-necked Pheasant.
Gone. Cattle Egret. Just five individuals this year. Populations of Eurasian Collared-Doves,
Scaly-breasted Munias and Great-tailed Grackles have either leveled off or appear to be in
decline. These three species weren’t present when we started this count in the 1980s. Will
they still be with us in five or ten years?
Thanks. I would especially like to thank Angela Ray, who coordinated our teams at the Safari
Park, and to her staff members, Eric Lutomski and Lacey Zeno, who escorted the teams and
located a number of birds for the count. I would also like to thank Jim Beckman, Palomar
Audubon’s field trip chair, for advertising the count, leading a CBC team, and serving as the
compiler at the count day luncheon (while I was still way out in the back country).
Great job everyone! Hope to see you on the next Christmas bird count!
Ken Weaver, count compiler
Below is a review from Ken Weaver our CBC compiler, summarizing the