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Pinyon Jay and overall montane invasions; miscellanea

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  • Barbara Carlson
      CALBIRDS: First some minor miscellanea: Last Thursday I visited the SD Zoo parking lot/entrance area and central section of Balboa Park. At the Zoo the only
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 15, 2011

      First some minor miscellanea: Last Thursday I visited the SD Zoo parking
      lot/entrance area and central section of Balboa Park. At the Zoo the only
      oriole I saw in the early AM was an adult male HOODED, undoubtedly
      wintering here and probably the same bird (?) seen last month farther
      inside the Zoo by Trent et al. Otherwise, just a very few Bullock's and
      Western Tanagers elsewhere in the central park section near the Hall of
      Nations and Palm Canyon. And yesterday--the 14th--I did a brief AM
      seawatch at La Jolla, with the minor highlights being 1 Pink-footed and 300
      Black-vented Shearwaters, Pom Jaeger, only 5 Common Murres, and a flock of
      6 Elegant Terns heading south (getting close to the typical departure date
      for that species). A nice flight of loons and scoters.

      Recent discussions on SDBirds and in the field have emphasized this fall's
      wonderful Pinyon Jay incursion in to San Diego County and what it means for
      other montane species, and how it relates to the distribution of Pinyon
      Pines in the county. As for a grander montane invasion: there isn't one!!
      This is the ONLY site with wandering Pinyon Jays; no other corvids appear
      to be on the move anywhere (although Barbara and I did have a single very
      wayward Steller's Jay at a lowland desert oasis in s. Nevada a few weeks
      ago--my first Steller's ever at a desert oasis--so even if there isn't a
      'flight' going on, a few odd things can occur). The flight of Mountain
      Chickadees and even Oak Titmice seems to be largely restricted to San Diego
      County (and to 100 yards inside Imperial County!). It appears that almost
      NO other montane birds are moving this year in the West. There has been a
      tiny sprinkling of single Pine Siskins scattered about. Western and
      Mountain Bluebirds are occurring here and there to places which suggest a
      bit of a movement. But that may be about it. A few exceptions, of course,
      but nothing large-scale.

      As for Pinyon Jay habitat needs--and where our SD birds may have
      originated--the closest populations to San Diego County are just to the
      south in the northern mountains of Baja or just to the north in the Garner
      Valley area of the San Jacinto Mtns in Riverside County. In both these
      areas the birds frequent JEFFREY Pine, not Pinyon Pine. And that's exactly
      what they are being seen in at the mile-marker 28 area on Sunrise Highway,
      and it is presumably also the dominant pine at Stonewall Mine. Yes, many
      Pinyon Jays from elsewhere in the species' range are from areas dominated
      by Pinyon Pine, although many other populations frequent large expanses of
      Ponderosa Pine (e.g., in northern AZ). Whether 'invading' birds necessarily
      prefer the same species of pine in which they normally frequent is
      uncertain--or at least I don't have a clue.

      --Paul Lehman, San Diego

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