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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Birding North of San Diego

It took a day or two to recover from our time in Mexico - there was a lot of sleeping and a lot of shaking sand out of everything, but what small price to pay for the experience of a lifetime. What was most amazing about our first full day back is that that evening we saw a gray whale breaching off our hotel at Moonlight Beach! It was a pretty spectacular sunset, too.


We still had several more days to spend in the San Diego area, and we visited with some family and friends while we were there. On February 15th we went for a hike at Los Penasquitos Canyon. I didn't have my camera with me, but my eyes and ears (and binoculars) were enough to add California quail (131), western scrub-jay (132), Say's phoebe (133), acorn woodpecker (134), and red-shouldered hawk (135) to the list. The acorn woodpeckers were the most amazing - there were several dozen of them cackling away all over the park!

On the 17th I got to visit a very special place to me - Batiquitos Lagoon. This place, not too different from several other lagoons along this part of the coast, isn't too far from where my grandpa used to live. I used to visit here regularly as a kid, when I was just getting into birding, and as a result I probably got more life birds at this one spot than any other single location I've ever been! I remember another birder with a scope here teaching me the difference between western and least sandpipers at this lagoon when I was probably 12 or 13 years old.

Since my grandpa passed away, I hadn't been back to this lagoon, so it was awesome to visit again after about a 12 year absence. It was much like I remembered it.


The birding was like I remembered, too - excellent! While walking here I added Nuttall's woodpecker (136) and white-tailed kite (137). We saw the kite on our way up the trail, but on our way back we saw it again, this time harassing a peregrine falcon! The kite is flying through the trees here, agitating a the perched falcon:


 I even found another life bird - an Allen's hummingbird (138) in with all the Anna's hummingbirds. 

Another Batiquitos life bird, 12 years later: an Allen's hummingbird
There were lots of people enjoying the lagoon, but we only saw one other birder - appropriately a young girl, probably about 12 years old! She was impressive and reminded me in several ways of a young version of myself. She also gave us a tip about some American white pelicans that she saw the day before, and that gave me enough of a head's up to drive around to the far side of the lagoon where we saw half a dozen of them (139).

Being so close, I wanted to drive by my grandpa's old house, where I also saw lots of amazing birds over the years, including my first great horned owl perched on a lamp post on his street, a hooded oriole in his backyard, and a roadrunner on the hillside behind his house. Looking down this same hill, I saw a pair of Cassin's kingbirds (140), not only another tally for the year list but a life bird, as well.


We headed then to Carlsbad, where we camped for a couple nights with some friends from San Juan Island who work up here in the summer and camp host down there in the winter. We weren't there long before we met their resident osprey, who flew overhead several times carrying the largest fish I've ever seen an osprey carry!


Our first morning there, we spent half an hour doing an informal sea watch. In addition to some bottlenose dolphins cruising the surf, we saw, I kid you not, about 5000 black-vented shearwaters (141). They flew by in a steady stream that took about 10 minutes to pass! We also got some great eye-level views of some brown pelicans cruising the cliffs:


We also visited the Oceanside Pier, where in addition to seeing a very vocal great-tailed grackle (142), we got an even closer look at some brown pelicans:


They weren't being intentionally fed, but they were stealing fish from the fishermen! I tried to get an even closer look, but I couldn't get my binoculars to focus...


After a tour of Stone Brewery, a beach walk back at camp yielded the last year bird of the trip - a couple nice flocks of sanderling (143). Finally, on the 19th, after nearly two weeks in California and Mexico, it was time to head back to the comparatively chilly northwest. It was such a memorable trip - I hope you enjoyed virtually traveling along via my blog posts!

3 comments:

Vera said...

Interesting about the shearwaters, the 12-year-old birder and so nice that you visited Grandpa's old residence (and added a new year-bird there)!

The K said...

Looks like you had wonderful and productive trip. Thanks for sharing.

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Looks very interesting down in that bottom corner of the States! Will have to visit, my mate went to Uni there....jealous!

Cheers

DaveyMan
PS stop adding to that year list will you!!!!!