March 05, 2019

Birding the San Diego-Tijuana Border (and Beyond)

I've been to San Diego many times now over the last decade or so—but I don't recall ever birding San Diego (with the exception of my hawk-walking excursion).

This year, I signed up for the San Diego Bird Festival to explore some areas I've never visited and wouldn't necessarily know to visit—not the least of which turned out to be a nesting spot of black- and yellow-crowned night herons (the latter of which, Nyctanassa violacea, I'd never seen before).

We were by Imperial Beach Sports Park, just east of the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge—also where we spotted a bright yellow-rumped warbler (Setophaga coronata).

This male of the "Audubon" subspecies had no problem showing us his yellow rump, out there in the open—and distracting us from looking for a western bluebird somebody thought he saw.

At the Chula Vista Marina at Chula Vista Harbor, I was in for another surprise sighting, and another first in my birdwatching...

A little blue heron (Egretta caerulea), with its small, gray body and purplish blue head. It looks more like a snowy egret that took a dip in a bath of bluejean dye than its closer relative, the Great blue heron.

Out there, just abutting the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, is also where we got a good view of two ospreys... atop a mast on a boat in the marina, and the other perched upon a streetlight that illuminates the marina's parking lot.

At the adjacent Chula Vista Bayfront Park—less than 6 miles as the crow flies from the border—the tide was so far out that a number of abandoned shopping carts were exposed, making the refuge resemble the LA River much more than you'd expect this far south. The clusters of gulls, ducks, coots, stilts, sandpipers, and avocets didn't seem to mind.

Thankfully, the weather cleared up on Sunday, my second and final day of the festival—because it rained all day on Saturday and let up just long enough for us to chase down a flock of wild parrots near Famosa Slough in Ocean Beach.

You never really know where you're going to find these red-crowned Amazons (Amazona viridigenalis)—or their lilac-crowned counterparts (Amazona finschi)—especially since they only perch in any given tree for 10 or 15 minutes until they move on to find where they'll roost for the night (and it's not always the same spot).

Fortunately, with the help of a few lookouts, a knowledgeable bird guide, and an intrepid bus driver, we tracked hundreds of them down at a place I would've never known to look—a coral tree in front of Dental Express on W. Point Loma Boulevard, between the Starbucks and the liquor store.

And oh what a clatter! It didn't matter that it started to rain again or the oncoming traffic nearly hit me as I crossed the intersection towards them. These exotic birds—who are disappearing from their native homelands but thriving in West Coast cities—were magnificent to watch.

I don't go into these birding events with a wishlist of species I want to see. I don't need to linger too long looking for that one bird I was hoping for.

And I don't need to "collect" as many spotting as I can in a lightning-fast bird-watching session, rapid fire-style. With the birds I do see, I like to sit and watch them for a while—digging their beaks in the sand, diving for fish, stomping their feet, preening their feathers, taking a bath, whatever.

I go for quality, not quantity.

So although many of the birds I saw on this trip were in silhouette against an overcast sky—and there were many others that I didn't see but certainly heard—I'll take it.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Birding Morro Bay's Parks, Estuaries, and Harbor
Birding Without Binoculars
On This Side There Are Also Dreams (De Este Lado Tambien Hay SueƱos)
Crossing the Border (Cruzando la Frontera)

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