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Saturday, February 8, 2014

San Elijo Lagoon and La Jolla Cove

We got outta Dodge just in time, as much of the Pacific Northwest is covered in a fair amount of snow right now. There was just a dusting on the ground as we lifted off from Seattle and headed south for warmer climes - it was 69 (more than 40 degrees warmer!) and sunny upon landing in San Diego.

Today was our first full day in California and you can bet I was chomping at the bit to get adding to the year list. My goal was to reach 100 species (I was at 86) before heading to Mexico on Monday; little did I know it would take just an hour at San Elijo Lagoon to pass that mark!

First up was a black phoebe (87) as we pulled up the park, followed quickly by a white-crowned sparrow (88) and a pair of Anna's hummingbirds (89) right after stepping out of the car. Yellow-rumped warblers (90) flew everywhere among the scrub brush. There wasn't a lot of water in the lagoon, but enough to have a nice variety of waterfowl, including my first canvasback (91) of the year. The mud flats made good habitat for snowy egrets (92), willets (93), great egrets (94), and dunlin (95). 

Silhouetted black phoebe at San Elijo Lagoon

The lagoon wasn't really much to look at, but just over an hour of birding turned up over 30 species. Other year birds included a ring-billed gull (96), brown pelicans (97), orange-crowned warblers (98), an osprey (99), marbled godwits (100) a couple California towhees (101), and a common yellowthroat (102).

San Elijo Lagoon - right off I5, but great for birds!
In addition to all the birds, there were lizards everywhere too!

In fact, pretty much everywhere I looked, everything was totally different from home - not to mention the fact it's February and I was birding in a T-shirt!

Next, after getting some final provisions for the next leg of the trip, we headed to La Jolla Cove. It was a popular spot on this sunny Saturday, but that didn't keep the birds and marine mammals away. Again, right after stepping out of the car, I saw western gulls (103) and Heermann's gulls (104) - the latter species we won't see in the San Juans until July!

I also saw a small tern being harassed by some gulls, but wasn't able to get a good enough look to ID it. On the rocks, though, I found a single whimbrel (105) and wandering tattler (106), finishing off the year birds for the day with 20 new species, and easily making my goal of 100 before Mexico.

Brown pelicans at La Jolla Cove - love the "hairdo" of the one on the right

It's pretty cool that there are several places you can walk right out practically among the harbor seals and California sea lions. They don't seem to mind a bit.

People above, harbor seals below
I don't know why, but the harbor seals here looked so much bigger than the ones in Washington! Maybe it's just because I got so much closer to them.

It was cool to see so many California sea lions, too, the less common of our two sea lion species up north. There were only a few males, but lots of females and juveniles. I call this a sea lion "cuddle puddle":

The close observer could also find on terrestrial mammal underfoot - these ground squirrels on the cliffs:

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of wildlife sightings for this trip - I'll be out of internet contact for a bit, but I'm hoping there will be some pretty amazing stuff to share when I get back!


The K said...

Cool to read about your southern adventures while holed up at home with tons of snow on the ground and freezing rain coming down. My turn to be jealous about what you're seeing. I would venture a guess that you saw a least tern?

Blue Heron said...

Drive a half hour north to Fallbrook's Santa Margarita and you will get a hundred more species easy. Take Mission to Willow Glen and drive down to the dirt road and you will hit the river.