Birds of the Box Springs Mountains area

Birds of the Box Springs Mountains area (UCR and Sycamore Canyon to northwest Moreno Valley)

By E. N. Anderson

This is not a complete list, just a comment on interesting observations, mostly of changes.

Anyone interested in serious detail should consult Eugene Cardiff , John Green, Dave Goodward, and Chet McGaugh. They are more serious birders and keep good records.

* indicates birds I have seen in Two Trees Canyon and Box Springs Mountains Park; **, additional birds seen at my former home on Terrace Drive, within sight and sound of the canyon; # indicate birds seen at UCR.

“Ponds” are the ponds in the center of the Agricultural Operations lots at UCR. The few other bodies of water in the area have not been birded.

Pied-billed Grebe: ponds, rare; possible breeding 2011

*White Pelican: uncommon migrant, but flocks regularly move northwest from the reservoirs and Salton Sea, flying over Moreno Valley and Pigeon Pass.

#*Double-crested Cormorant: Erratic but sometimes common migrant; large flocks flying to and fro throughout Feb. 2010 was an unusual event. As with the other waterbirds, this species is common and regular at Perris Reservoir and the San Jacinto Wildlife Area, and the very commonly used migration routes from these to the coast or over Cajon Pass takes these birds directly over the Box Springs Mountains area. Flocks of water birds, and also migrant hawks, often avoid flying over mountains by flying over Pigeon Pass (on the east side of the Box Springs), or over Box Springs Pass and then over UCR.

#*Great Blue Heron: uncommon migrant and drop-in, usually at ponds, sometimes flying over or in fields

#Green Heron: ditto

#Great Egret: ditto

#Snowy Egret: ditto

#Cattle Egret: ditto

**Black-crowned Night Heron: rare migrant

#*Canada Goose: common migrant overhead, mostly Nov.-Dec. and Feb.

White-fronted Goose: Very rare migrant.

#Mallard: ponds and streams, migration, winter, also breeds

#Pintail: ponds, mostly migration, sometimes winter

#Gadwall: ponds; possible breeding 2011

#Shoveller: ponds, casual, winter

#Cinnamon Teal: ponds, winter

#Wood Duck: ponds, winter

#Ring-necked Duck: ponds, winter; fairly common

#Lesser Scaup: ponds, winter; rare

#Redhead: ponds, winter

#Canvasback: ponds, winter, rare

#Ruddy Duck: ponds, migration and winter

#*Turkey Vulture: Common migrant, but much less common than formerly. Used to breed in Riverside area; declined with sanitation, disappearing as breeder with loss of garbage, etc.

#*White-tailed Kite: Rare when I came here, but established in the Santa Ana river bottom. Became steadily commoner, peaking in the early 1980s, when it was a downright common bird. Steady decline since, and now rarer than ever. The theory in the 1980s was that new suburb construction chased lots of mice out of their holes, and then final suburbanization eliminated open habitat without chasing any more mice.

#*Sharp-shinned Hawk: Fairly common, migration and winter; occasional summer

#*Red-tailed Hawk: Most birds of prey are declining, but the redtail seems to increase slowly but steadily. Hunts for rats and groundsquirrels along freeways and seeks out burns to hunt mammals that cannot find much cover. A dramatic situation was created by a major fire in Two Trees Canyon around 1988 (Richard Minnich would know the exact year); the mammals had no cover and up to 8 redtails hunted constantly over the burn all winter. Ground squirrels never recovered in the area. Breeds on campus, in Two Trees Canyon, and elsewhere in the area, pretty much wherever there are tall groves. The Two Trees Canyon pair is particularly site-faithful, nesting every year in the central part of the riparian strip.

#*Red-shouldered Hawk: Always (since 1950s at least) a substantial breeding population on campus. It never seems to change, but this species has become a commoner breeding bird around Riverside, evidently spreading from bases on UCR campus and in the Santa Ana river bottoms.

#Swainson’s Hawk: very rare migrant

*Ferruginous Hawk: formerly uncommon but regular migrant and rare winter; now about gone

#*Golden Eagle: Rare wanderer. Before my time, regularly bred on Slover Mountain (which no longer exists) and elsewhere. A pair bred on the Box Springs Mountains in 1979 (?) and raised one young, female. It was fun to watch the young one following the male through the sky and begging constantly for food, even when she was almost half again as big as he was! Until recently, a regular migrant and wintering bird in wide open areas especially near water, but wind farms have almost exterminated this bird in California. It is now extremely rare.

*Bald Eagle: Rare migrant, mostly Feb.

#*Marsh Hawk (Hen Harrier): rare migrant; formerly common migrant and fairly common winterer. This bird has declined dramatically everywhere in the west.

#Peregrine Falcon: Very rare. One lived on the UCR bell tower for several years, ca. 2009-2012.

*Prairie Falcon: Presumably rare migrant; I have observed many migrants on the other side of the Box Springs and in the Pigeon Pass area, including the headwaters of Two Trees Canyon.

#Merlin: I have seen one on campus, around 1985, in addition to the one that wintered in 2009-11. Rare migrant and winterer in area.

#*Kestrel: Steady decline, as in most of the US, but not so bad here as in many (or most) areas; remains fairly common resident. A pair nested in a palm tree in my yard in 2014 and raised at least 2 young.

Mountain Quail: rare wanderer to area.

#*California Quail: Abundant till the droughts of 2001-2 and 2006-7; now much less so, but still common in riparian and chaparral areas.

#Ring-necked Pheasant: Formerly fairly common in the orange groves of the area, often showing up on campus, but eliminating the groves has eliminated this bird. I think some remain down in Hidden Valley (on the Santa Ana toward Corona).

#*Coot: Ponds. I have one odd record on top of one of the high Box Springs peaks—an exhausted bird in fall migration after a howling santana.

#*Killdeer: When I came here, 2 to 3 dozen killdeer wintered on campus, often centering on what is now the Amy Harrison Field. The killdeer gradually declined, becoming only casual migrants after about 1980. In general, killdeer are down probably 99% in coastal southern California since my youth, because of loss of wetlands everywhere. However, at least one pair of killdeers still summers on campus, around the Ag Ops ponds, and the birds are uncommon migrants and winterers elsewhere—anywhere that water occurs in open country.

#Common Snipe: Apparently a fairly common winterer and migrant along the creek that runs through the Agricultural Operations fields. Presumably shows up elsewhere occasionally.

#Least Sandpiper: Ponds; this and the following shorebirds are uncommon migrants

#Western Sandpiper: Ponds

#Greater Yellowlegs: Ponds, creek

#Long-billed Curlew: rare migrant

Whimbrel: rare migrant (at least in Moreno Valley)

#Black-necked Stilt: Ponds. New; found June 30, 2010, by Mark Chappell.


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