Southern California
9-11 Oct 2009
by Henry Detwiler

Paul, Bruce, and I had an excellent three-day trip exploring the birds of San Diego, the Laguna Mts, and the Imperial Valley.

178 species seen  Click here for bird checklist.
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos. border  

FRIDAY, Oct 9, 2009

We met early at the "Sea world" Hampton Inn and were soon on our way north to San Elijo Lagoon. This birdy and reliable spot proved itself, yielding our first California Thrashers, California Gnatcatchers, Nuttall's Woodpeckers, and Bushtits. The watery channel provided arm's length views of Gadwalls, Green-winged Teal, Willets, and a confiding Marsh Wren.

Paul & Bruce
Paul and Bruce

Lizard - Carbrillo Nat. Monument

wandering tattler
Wandering Tattler

Down at the tide pools we found a big flock of Black Turnstones, a Black Oystercatcher, a Wandering Tattler, and a hybrid American/Black Oystercatcher. Alas, the Surfbirds proved elusive.

The rocky shores of La Jolla Cove made short work of finding three cormorant species, Brown Pelicans, and a couple of distant Black-vented Shearwaters winging their way by in the deep water. After a hearty fish sandwich at the Seaforth Harbor, we made our way to Cabrillo National Monument at the end of Point Loma. A Pacific-slope Flycatcher posed for photos at the "drip", along with many Orange-crowned Warblers, Spotted Towhees, and a "bush" lizard.

. pacific-slope flycatcher
Pacific-slope Flycatcher - Cabrillo NM

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Just north of the border, we scoured the sod farm for a previously-reported Pacific Golden Plover. It wasn't there, but we did find a flock of American Pipits as compensation. At the community gardens not far away we picked up Common Ground-Dove and Eurasian Collared-Dove.

Our final stop for the day was at Robb Field, overlooking the mouth of the San Diego River. Shorebirds and waders of all types were vying with the "clammers" for tasty morsels. It appeared that some of the Snowy Egrets were even dancing around the clammers' feet, waiting for them to suck up and discard some kind of egret food.

SATURDAY, Oct 10, 2009

On Saturday we made a beeline for El Cajon to watch the Red-fronted Parrots mass dispersal at sunrise. Maybe the parrots headed south that day, but we wound up seeing only a few scattered groups. A quick trip up the Laguna Mts. put us on the road to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Wild Turkeys were everywhere, and we had visions of tasty white meat sandwiches.

wild turkey
Wild Turkey - Laguna Mts.

red-shouldered hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk - Laguna Mts.

At the visitor center we saw a couple of Band-tailed Pigeons, some cooperative California Quail, and a nice Red-shouldered Hawk.

townsend's warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Farther on, at the Paso Picacho Campground, we watched a beautiful male Townsend's Warbler feeding in the cedars, plus lots of the expected forest birds: Oak Titmouse, Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Western Bluebird, and Hairy, Nuttall's, & Acorn Woodpeckers.

acorn woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker -
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

At William Heise County Park we couldn't find the resident Spotted Owls, but we did enjoy the scented cedar forest and several Hermit Thrushes. Farther down the mountain we added Lawrence's Goldfinch, and then at the town of Jacumba we had excellent looks at the resident Tricolored Blackbirds. Before sunrise we made it to Sunbeam Lake for the free-loading Cackling & White-fronted Geese, and over to the Fig Lagoon golf course for Inca Dove, Gila Woodpecker, and Vermilion Flycatcher.

fig lagoon
Fig Lagoon

snowy egret
Snowy Egret - Fig Lagoon

SUNDAY, July 20-22, 2008

On Sunday we explored a bit of the Imperial Valley and the Salton Sea. Cattle Call Park turned up more Vermilion Flycatchers, a Brewer's Sparrow, and Bob Miller (a rare bird, indeed)! At Ramer Lake we scored with Clark's Grebe, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, and Phainopepla. Red Hill Marina was good for the rare Lesser Black-backed Gull. The Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR headquarters had Verdin, lots of Abert's Towhees, and the resident Barn Owl lurking under palm fronds.

gambel's quail
Gambel's Quail at Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR

A strong west wind had the gulls mixed up at Obsidian Butte, so we were happy to see a Brant flying just off the surface of the water. Down at the end of Young Road we found even more of these tiny geese.

barn owl
Barn Owl - Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR

A quick trip over to Unit 1 of the refuge turned up the first Ross's Geese arrivals for the season, along with Snow Geese and a few Sandhill Cranes. By working at it, we induced Sora, Virginia, and Clapper Rails to call from the extensive marshlands at the end of the road.

Bruce and Paul had an afternoon flight to catch in San Diego, so we hightailed it back west. We made it back to the big city with an hour to spare, so like any good birders, we put the time to good use chasing our feathered friends. At Sunset Cliffs we spied not one, but three Surfbirds, capping the trip with one additional lifer for both Bruce and Paul!
sunset cliffs
Sunset Cliffs & Cormorants

banner valley
Banner Grade from Laguna Mts.

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