Tuesday, May 10, 2011

California/Arizona, Feb 2011 - Day Three

Pier just north of Tijuana Slough, San Diego

Our second day in California (third day of the trip) started off bright and early with a Peregrine Falcon flying over our hotel as we checked out. We headed down to the famous Tijuana Slough shortly after sunrise to see what was around. As it turned out there was quite a bit! The visitor centre was closed but the area was well worth the visit with many shorebirds including Black-necked Stilt, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Least and Western Sandpipers, both Dowitchers, American Avocet, Whimbrel and Dunlin. In the marsh, waterfowl included Snow Goose, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaup and Ruddy Ducks and there were Great and Snowy Egrets along with many 'Light-footed' Clapper Rails. Offshore there was a lot of activity with Western and Clark's Grebes, Pacific Loons, Heermann's Gulls, Brandt's Cormorant, Forster's, Caspian and Royal Terns and a Parasitic Jaeger. For land birds, we had American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, Anna's Hummingbird, Western Meadowlark, and 'Belding's' Savannah Sparrow along with a possible "Large-billed" Savannah Sparrow.

Western Gull

Tijuana Slough

Palm Trees in the Sunrise

 Marbled Godwit

 Anna's Hummingbird

From there we headed down to Borderfields State Park (I think that's what it's called anyway), stopping at a butterfly garden on the way which didn't seem to have many butterflies but definitely had a lot of birds! Here we added Pacific, Bewick's and House Wrens, Hutton's Vireo, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Western Scrub-Jay, Violet-Green Swallow, Orange-crowned, Yellow and both Myrtle and Audubon's Warblers, Pine Warbler (super-rare in SoCal apparently!) and Cassin's Kingbird. At the state park, we came across a road closed sign pretty much on the Mexico border so opted to walk up the road.

There wasn't actually a flood

We climbed up the hill in the background of the above photo, mainly to see what we could see but also to try and find some specialty birds. We had some luck with close views of a Wrentit along with California Thrasher and a White-tailed Kite flying over the fields. We also had an encounter with a friendly Border Patrol agent who checked our passports and commented on all our gear then bade us good day.

The view from the hilltop

From there it was off to Chula Vista to try for a Thick-billed Kingbird which had been hanging out for the past little while, but hadn't been reported for about a week. Turns out it was still around and we got good views of it within a few minutes of arriving!

Thick-billed Kingbird

After lunch at a Mexican restaurant which had delicious food, we headed up to La Jolla, just north of San Diego where the nice weather and the holiday meant that the streets were packed. We checked out the sea cliffs quickly and had a Ruddy Turnstone in with a few Black Turnstones, and offshore there were Brant, Pelagic Cormorants, and more of the same birds we'd had earlier in the day.

All three SoCal cormorants in one pic - can you spot them all?

Then it was a cruise around the neighbourhoods to look for parrots, a venture in which we had no success and very few birds around for our efforts. We decided to cut our losses and head up to San Dieguito River Park, where a road closure gave us a bit of trouble. We ended up getting to the park eventually after a bit of a detour, and in fading light explored the park. Our main target here was California Gnatcatcher, after missing them everywhere else during the day. We ended up missing them here too which was disappointing as we wouldn't be in their habitat again during the trip. The stop was well worth it though, as we added species like White-throated Swift, Gray Flycatcher, Western Bluebird, Great-tailed Grackle, more Cassin's Kingbirds, Lark Sparrow (nearby), Say's Phoebe and got good close looks at Clark's Grebes out on the lake. 

Part of the park

 Western Scrub-Jay

As the sun was setting, we headed off over the mountains to stay at a friend of the family's house in Desert Hot Springs, who graciously provided us with beds and a good meal (as well as leftovers for the next day). Thanks again!

Our day's total was 105 species, with Wrentit being my only lifer of the day. More to come soon!

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