Wednesday 21 September 2022

Southern California - Day 2

The partying at Pacific Beach continued into the small hours. I think I managed some sleep, but essentially as the kids were coming to bed I was just about getting up. Different Worlds. At 5am I hit a 24 hour Denny's for a very early breakfast, and I was at La Jolla before dawn. The seawatching spot is at the north end of the small park, next to some low buildings, and I was not the first there. It later transpired that a pelagic had been organised for today, but had then been cancelled by the storm. As the next best thing the scheduled participants were going to seawatch from La Jolla Cove, and they were actually quite excited by the prospect. The dawn was clear, the rain remained out at sea. The only question was whether the storm had displaced any interesting seabirds....

The answer was an empahatic yes. To be frank, almost anything would have been exciting for me, but this was beyond my wildest expectations. Over the next three and a half hours I recorded the following, helped significantly by the local (and not so local) birders, although I did find two of the Poms as well as one of the Frigatebirds.

6 Least Storm Petrel

1 Black Storm Petrel

2 Pink-footed Shearwater

139 Black-vented Shearwater

1 Sooty Shearwater

3 Magnificent Frigatebird

24 Arctic Skua

3 Pomarine Skua

130 Red-necked Phalarope

3 Surf Scoter

Of the above, seven were ABA ticks. I had counted on three based on the normal seawatching tallies, so this was was in excess of what I had been hoping for. Sometimes timing is everything. I may have lost an afternoon to rain and had a bit of wild drive, but this was the payback. Four birds were world lifers, it was simply sensational, and other than the Pink-footed Shearwater which were quite distant, everything else was within a decent range.

I was forced to move by the threat of free parking running out, but as with all seawatches the good period had seemed to have come to an end. Beyond delighted I drove back down south to the Tijuana River Valley, starting with a circuit of Dairy Mart Pond. This netted all sorts of new birds for the trip list, including Black-crowned Night Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, Cinnamon Teal and many others. 

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Solitary Sandpiper

My next stop was the Tijuana River Valley Bird & Butterfly Garden again. This had been heaving at last knockings the previous day and I was keen to spend more time here. It did not disappoint. It seemed all the birds from yesterday were still here and then some, and I racked up quite a lot in a short space of time, including more world and ABA lifers such as Ash-throated Flycatcher and Bell's Vireo (this latter only identified by photo when I got home - the value of having a camera). Also present were two Western Wood-Pewee, three Pacific-slope flycatcher, an Olive-sided Flycatcher, and two Black Phoebe.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Bell's Vireo

Western wood-pewee

Black Phoebe

Western Tanager

Common Ground Dove

After lunch my plans unravelled a bit when I arrived at a site on the coast only to find that it was within a Naval Base. I've blagged my way into military sites before, but this seemed rather different and I went to the nearby beach instead, Silver Strand, to finish my burrito (Chipotle Shrimp - outstanding!) and look at Gulls and Waders for a bit. I should have got my camera out and crawled along the sand for a bit but for whatever reason I was not feeling the love and just papped a couple of things out of the window.

Heermann's Gull

Western Gull

My next site was also a terrible choice, Santee Lakes, a series of man-made lakes in a pay-to-enter campsite. I did get a Nuttall's Woodpecker here but it was crawling with people and deeply uninspiring. Dozens of clearly tame Wood Ducks gave the place the feeling of a zoo, and I departed quickly ruing my wasted $6 or whatever it was. At least I got to use a toilet.

With the day running out I made for El Cajon, a famous Parrot roost site in the San Diego area. It is a well known phenomenon that escaped Parrots have managed to sustain themselves in Californian conurbations, forming in some instances quite large flocks. Every night, like clockwork, the birds flock in from the surrounding area to gather in trees before all roosting communally. At the El Cajon courthouse three species are present - Red-crowned Parrot in substantail numbers, and then smaller groups of Lilac-crowned Parrot and Red-masked Parakeet. All three showed up just as expected - I doubt these genuinely count as ABA ticks, but eBird seemed to add them on, so whatever. Standards have always been low round here! 

As the sun set on another great day of birding in California, I drove to Balboa Park for another stay in a hostel. This one was a lot cleaner (including the air!) and a lot quieter (not hard), the only shortcomings being the promise of a towel never materialising and a really crap bed. It was also outstandingly cheap by California standards, and seeing as I was only there for a matter of hours I coped just fine. It does seem silly staying in posh expensive places if all you need is a bed for six hours, or that is what I keep telling myself anyway...


  1. Back to living your best life! Even as a wannabe oldie!

  2. Things are definitely picking up after a very very lean period