The rest of California.

I arrived in San Diego on a foggy St Patrick's Day morning, ready to take on some birding before Sunni would get done with work.  The sun emerged while I stopped for a sandwich and by the time I arrived at Lake Hodges things were hot and dusty.  Quite the difference from the snowy death march only 24 hours before. 

I was supposed to be looking for sparrows but I was quickly distracted by grebes doing that thing they do...

Both Western and Clark's Grebes were getting in on the mating ritual, sometimes one of each.  I sat and watched for a long time before deciding to drive over to Oak Hill Cemetery.  Birds love dead people.

Another Western Bluebird caught a caterpillar and proceeded to beat it into submission atop a gravestone.

Other birds around the cemetery:

 Lark Sparrow

Mountain Chickadee

My last stop near Liberty Station had this handsome Marbled Godwit feeding along the shore with a Willet:

And another Black Phoebe, because they are everywhere...

When Sunni was done with work we decided to head over to a pizza pub walking distance from the hotel to grab a bite and a beer.  It being St Patrick's Day, and us not having seen each other for awhile, this turned into a few beers.  And a few more.  Green ones.  Oh and tequila too.  So many bad decisions that led to my birding the next morning consisting of me sitting on the lawn behind the hotel with gatorade and iced coffee, trying not to hurl. 

At least a bunny showed up.

This bunny appeared out of the rubble along the shoreline and provided me with all kinds of combo possibilities.  The best was a Western Gull, Great Blue Heron, Marbled Godwit, bunny combo:

Yessss.  A ground squirrel also kept me company.

By the time Sunni was done with work at noon I was feeling alive again and we headed out to the desert.  You've already heard all about that.  The day after we returned from the desert we woke up in El Cajon, the only place with a motel room, and went over to Lake Murray for some misty cloudy birding.  Here I learned snails love a good cactus:

I picked up an un-exciting lifer here, the Scaly-breasted Munia (aka Nutmeg Mannikin):

Gross.  Shortly after that Don Francisco arrived at the park and we all went for a good walk around the lake.  We had some hummers that may or may not have been Allen's, which would have been a lifer had I been able to tell for sure.

After the park we brought Sunni to the airport, and continued birding at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. 

Black Phoebes love dead people more than most. 

We stopped for lunch at a burger place, then went over to Famosa Slough where the water was too high for rails and shorebirds.  Things went south there. 

I suddenly had to go to the bathroom.  Real bad.  Real real bad.  We made it to the car and to a gas station where a man with his child had just exited the bathroom, announcing to the cashier that "things are really stopped up in there."  FUCK.  The next place did not have a bathroom.  I was about to cry and accept the fact that Frank would have to watch me poop in my pants while driving around.  Then there it was, my savior, a Jack in the Box.  After accidentally stealing the men's room key from a ten-year-old I managed to acquire the ladies room key and get inside and took care of business without a misplaced drop.

When I was done I bought a small sprite out of guilt, walked back to the car, and never felt sick again that day.  We drove out to our next destination, the Tijuana River estuary, to look for a reported Pacific Golden-Plover. 

Ground squirrel - meadowlark combo

On the horizon we saw birders and followed in their footsteps down the dike to the beach.

Snowy Plovers were plentiful.

Royal and Forster's Terns were racing around, being awesome.

The other birders had turned around and it seemed like the plover was not to be found.  But then they found it. 

Yes!  ABA bird!  So good!  And to think if I had not had all those bathroom issues we would have arrived much earlier and probably not seen the bird.  Cheers to bad lettuce or whatever the hell did me in!

We took a quick walk out on the Imperial Beach Pier before leaving town.

We had planned to camp somewhere but Frank had forgotten his own sleeping bag and I refused to share, so we got off the highway at a random town, Pine Valley, and crashed at the local motel for the night.  In the morning we checked out the two eBird hotspots nearby starting with Sunrise Highway MP 14.5.  Ever heard of it? 

It's lovely.  Frank quickly noted that a couple of Black-chinned Sparrows were singing which I was super excited about.

This is one of the most pleasant birds I have ever met.  Listen to one sing on this action-packed video here.

This spot was was littered with abandoned mines and is apparently a Gray Vireo spot at the right time of year.  From there we headed back to town, stopping for a dead little bunny in the road:

We killed time at the local diner while waiting for the Pine Valley County Park to open at 9:30.  The park itself was well-maintained with a playground and ball fields, though we discovered a dusty trail leading out a gate on the east side.  We followed it for a long time through some awesome-smelling sage and found quite a few birds including Band-tailed Pigeons, Pine Siskins, Mountain Chickadees, Steller's Jays, and piles of Western Bluebirds.

 Nuttall's Woodpecker

Back in San Diego we made stops along Dairy Mart Road, Border Field, and some ball fields, picking up more year birds.  Bell's Vireo was one I had not planned on seeing, so that was nice.

That was about it.  I picked up 17 year birds down there including three lifers, had awesome times with Sunni and Frank, and got my warm and dry weather fix.  Good times!!!


  1. Actually I do know that turnout on the Sunrise Hwy, I was there in the mid 80's, parked with a group of birders, we all had our trunks open getting our scopes out to scan for owls,if I recall, in the late afternoon. I will repeat: group of cars, trunks open , north of the Mexican border..a few police cars pulled up, not pulling weapons but ready to do so, I walked towards them, reached for my binoculars and raised them to show we were birders, a mistake. Tense moment for a sec while I realized what my motion looked like, we all had a nervous laugh and we showed the police officers a few birds. One of my birding moments I will never forget.

  2. Damn...such variety of bird and beast and habitat. This stop-over time would have made for its own rightly regaled and regarded birding vacation much less as a reverberation after Mexico.

    Black-chinned Sparrows as disarmingly charming with their morning calls.

  3. Mellow. That PAGP has been wintering there for years, but I always dipped on it when I was living down there. BCSP is an underrated bird for sure.

  4. Loved the Cali trip blogs Jen...SOOO many of these birds would be lifers for me, the Blk chinned, and lark sparrow just for starters! Thanks for taking me along via the blog!! Now the migrants are arriving had Black n White warblers in the yard today...I gotta get a bird trip in soon.

    1. You've been getting into all kinds of adventures lately yourself! I wish I had Black and Whites in my yard...


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