[Tweeters] Carry on Birding, San Diego Part 1
drisseq.n at gmail.com
Thu Mar 14 21:58:36 PDT 2019
Carry on Birding - San Diego
I left a Seattle under threat of more snow on Friday Feb 22nd, and landed
in warm sunshine! What a difference 15 degrees in latitude makes!
Astronomical twilight was at about 5am, with dawn at 6am, and I decided to
start at the San Diego River, Mudflats & Estuary as the ebird counts were
high there. (I assessed all areas recommended through ebird records of
previous years and current year for February.)
Once I saw all the birdlife there, I realized I really had arrived in one
of paradise's intermediate zones. San Diego even has scooters (as well as
gaudy bikes) for rent with BIRD written on them. I even saw birders using
them to get up and down the riverside - and one girl has rented them for
her birthday - she was taking her non-birder friends Birding for her
birthday - her party of 8 had a scooter each and a pair of binoculars (the
latter were loaned by San Diego Audubon). Seattle needs scoot-birding!!
What a great idea esp for large parks like Discovery.
San Diego seems to be mostly polite (like Portland) – but also a little
like LA. The sunshine and good cheer is infectious. I did apply sunblock on
the first day but it did little to prevent a nice sunburn on my face and
neck by noon. Windy, but warm, I birded all the day in a long sleeved top
and a summer hoodie. It’s all about the layers but the glorious weather
instantly changed my Snowy Seattle mood, and I found myself happy, excited
and very thrilled at all new wildlife. I was particularly looking for new
herons and I found plenty, especially the famous Reddish Egret who was
dancing for his food near the sewer outlet on the south west side of the
river. Reddish Egrets mantle their wings over the water creating a shadow
for fish to swim into. They make very striking birds to watch.
I'll start with some misses.
In one patch of vegetation, Ridgeway Rails can be seen but you do have to
wait a long time. I didn’t see one on each trip to the river. Making
multiple trips back at different times to see different things was
necessary. I searched a great deal many times for a Tricolored Heron, too,
to no avail.
But I met photographers and birders who showed me lots of little spots, and
to their credit I got a Green-tailed Towhee (WOW!), Roadrunner, and an
immature Laughing Gull. I was even given a personal tour of the eastern
areas of the Tijuana Reserve on Sunday by a gent I bumped into named Guy
McCaskey – an incredible bird nerd who took me around for a few hours. Now
I knew this gent was an elder Birder – he started birding when he was 12
and now he was retired but didn't know he was a living legend until I
returned home. My friend Anthony G from Orange County explained just how
famous Guy is…which makes my experience even more audacious. (Guy is the
first California birder to get 500 species.) So there's little me in my
stupid, bright-red Beetle rental, driving down Dairy Mart Ponds Road when I
saw 5 people with scopes, and immediately pulled over and explained I had
just arrived from Seattle. After finding 3 lifers right off the bat, Guy
took my under his wing, driving me all around the Tijuana Reserve!
He showed me my first Palm Warbler – and gave me some more well-needed
Gull-knowledge which will prepare me for learning my gulls over the next
year. I took time to really look at the gulls in the area while there – it
was really good to see so many strident field marks and non-hybrids.
That afternoon, after Guy left me to go it alone, it was very warm and i
had numerous failures for Munia, Sissor-tailed flycatchers, any kind of
Gnatcatcher, and a male Vermillion Flycatchers.
One thing I hadn’t been prepared for was the numerous homeless who used the
nature reserves such as the Formosa Slough as places to sleep. I was a
little wary but I squared my shoulders and Carried on Birding. (Do you
folks know these British Carry On films? We need a Carry On Birding film
for sure! lol)
Day One! My life list grew and I saw the following birds at the San Diego
river: NB: (L) = Lifer.
WHITE PELICAN (L)
GREAT EGRET (L)
SNOWY EGRET (L)
DOUBLE CRESTED CORMORANTS
GREAT BLUE HERON
PIED BILLED GREBE
REDDISH EGRET (L)
MARBLED GODWIT (L)
LITTLE BLUE HERON (L)
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (L)
BLUE WINGED TEAL
SHORT BILLED DOWICHER (L)
SAYS PHOEBE (L)
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (L)
On the way to Lighthouse after the river I heard my first NORTHERN
MOCKINGBIRD (L) (HURRAY!) on W Point Loma Blvd high in a tree. I had heard
the song online, so I knew what it was right away. A lady in a house who
waved at me seemed to think I was crazy for being so delighted by the sound
of a bird that must annoy her every day.
My first ever SAYS PHOEBE (L) was sallying near the park and YELLOW RUMPED
WARBLERS abounded throughout the San Diego area. They all seemed to be
AUDUBON ONLY/ I didn't see any Myrtles at all. They were so abundant that
they made our Junco's seem scarce.
It was a very short drive (10 mins) to the Rosencraz cemetery with
incredible views of the bay, I was looking again for flycatchers and found
lots of Phoebes. It was noon so not the best time to visit but I still was
able to get
Then onto the Cabrillo Lighthouse and Tide Pools area. Be aware when
visiting tide pools that the tide needs to be out. I didn't really bother
with them bc I was birding so much but there was a long wait to get into
the lighthouse and they wanted to charge me $30 for the week. After talking
to the nice man, he let me in for FREE!! <3 I spent the next few hours
slowly finding birds in the vegetation along the steep banks. Many phoebes
but some birds I just shot and am worked on ID’ing at home later.
At the lighthouse I did the tourist thing and went to the gift shop. I
almost bought every single audubon bird that makes the right call but
resisted them. Instead I got a Peterson's bird coloring book to get me
through the Seattle winter blues - for $8 and a bunch of pencils, one can
while away hours coloring in field marks of many birds and also have a
bunch of bird stickers!
Behind the lighthouse I heard a slightly familiar call and decided to leave
the car on the side of the road quickly and investigate. I found a
CALIFORNIA THRASHER (L) busy announcing his presence, and then looked back
at my car to find two cops announcing their presence too! I rushed back
guiltily to my rental. Forlornly and in my best British accent I gave a
passionate account about a rare bird (to me), which they kindly accepted.
They explained I had parked in the bike lane (YOWZA!) – I hadn’t even
realized. Yes, another thing, San Diego is all bike lanes. Even on roads
that are so quiet that they don’t need them. Apparently, bikes are cars or
something progressively amazing like that. I say bring on a Bird Scooter
While up there I saw AM KESTREL, and my first CALIFORNIA TOWHEE (L).
The famous Formosa Slough was on my way home, and this is where I was
enchanted by saw my first ’unencumbered in twigs’ BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT
HERON. Amazingly they were proudly displaying themselves on pilings perfect
for photos! No hiding for these birds. And this was were I discovered that
the immatures were various shades of BROWN!!
After investigating one side of the Slough, someone told me about the other
side (yay) and I was greeted with a warm sunset, photographers in a tight
huddle, and many AM AVOCETS, BLACK-LEGGED STILTS, more SHORT-BILLED
DOWICHERS (L) than I could shake a stick at, and some incredible sights of
GREAT EGRETS (L) close up. Something I had noticed by now about the San
Diego area – the birds were far less skittish than those in WA state. Was
it the plentiful food combined with closer proximity to humans that made
them more habituated? Or were they just happier birds? More carefree?
Sunset was coming and I was enjoying the amazing Avocetness of it all, and
exploring the path all way around the southern side of the Slough.
At sunset and without warning a wuthering of Parakeets and Parrots flew
high over my head circling and roosting. The houses next to the slough have
the plastic GHO’s on their roofs and this is what I was told they were for
– to deter roosting loud parrots, but apparently they weren’t very
efficient at their intended purpose. This is when I got:
RED-MASKED PARAKEETS (L)
RED-SHOULDERED PARROTS (L)
and LILAC CRESTED GUYS (L)
but I never did find where they all hung out during the day- all I know is
that they left the river and dusk and roosted near the Slough so it's
imperative to LOOK UP at this time. The back story on these wonderful
armies of talkative colorful beings is such that, a long, long time ago
there was a Parrot Conservancy in San Diego. But a huge windstorm released
all the inhabitants who are now living in great numbers free and happy
(presumably). I told the photographers I was with about our last Red Mitred
Conure at Seward Park (see him in the mornings at the entrance to the park
or by picnic table 3 in summer). He is our sole surviving parrot because
our colony did not breed. I hope our guy lasted the winter. In Spring he
sings his mating song but no lady will ever come…he will die alone. This
made all the (male) photographers bleary-eyed and sad which is NOT
something San Diegans like to feel, so the subject was abruptly changed. I
mean, why focus on the truth of impermanence when you can look at happy
Snowy Egrets showing off their crests in the dying light? I digress...
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