Birding in Southern California

Jim Rose - November 2003

This website provides details of the species seen, along with many photographs, on a five day birding trip to Southern California, in particular in the San Diego and Salton sea areas. The website has been written by a British birder and therefore gives a perspective which is perhaps of particular interest to non-US birders.  Therefore, I have included as many photographs as possible, including the common species, in order to give an idea of what can be seen in the area over a few days. The quality of the photographs is very variable but please bear in mind that each photograph being obtained during normal birding (using a digiscoping set-up) and only a few minutes were taken when photographing any one species.

10889-MourningDove.JPG (25460 bytes)
Mourning Dove - A common species seen at many sites.  This individual was at Tijuana Slough NWR.

Overall the birding was excellent and the San Diego and Salton Sea areas are renowned as being good places for birding in the winter months. I was pleasantly surprised by the large numbers of birds seen, particularly around the Salton Sea. This is clearly an area which attracts huge numbers of ducks, geese, waders and herons during the winter months, so there was always plenty to look at.   My total species count was 133 which I feel is good for a single birder over five days.  There is no doubt that the species count would have been higher if I had been familiar with the bird calls of the local species, or with more up to date local knowledge.

At times, such as the large numbers of birds flying to roost over Harris Road (11 miles S of Brawley), the birding was breath taking. The weather was also very comfortable for birding, as I understand that the Salton sea area becomes incredibly hot during the summer months. The other surprise was just how few birders I met. I did meet two birders trying to twitch a Black Oystercatcher at Point Loma (which unfortunately had gone), but other than that I only met two other people that expressed any interest in birding, even at the NWR Headquarters! So if you want to have the birds to yourself this is a good place to go.

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Equipment Used during photography:-
Optolyth TBS80 Telescope with 20x wide angle lens
EagleEye 5x lens
Nikon Coolpix 995
EagleEye adapter camera to scope
Jessops manual shutter release
Image Tank (portable bulk for storage of digital photos)

Reference Books :-
Birders Guide to Southern California - Harold Holt - Published by The American Birding Association 1990.
Field Guide to the Birds of North America - National Geographic - Third Edition
Various website data.

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I was fortunate to attend a conference in San Diego in connection with my work. By taking a few days holiday, I managed to squeeze in a total of five days birding spilt into two parts. A car was essential for birding these sites and a four wheel drive was useful at times.

15th November - flew London to San Diego (Cost only 320 which was excellent value).

16th November - Point Loma, Sunset Cliffs, La Jolla and the San Diego River/Harbour area. The first three sites are all on the coast just to the north of San Diego.

19th November (PM) - Drove from San Diego to Brawley in the Salton Sea area (about 120 miles inland). Birding at Harris Road south of Brawley at dusk. Motel in Brawley.

20th November - Brawley area (Las Flores Drive - a residential area), South end of the Salton Sea (Poe Road) and the southern section of the NWR reserve.

21st November - Finney Lake, South Eastern corner of the Salton sea including NWR Headquarters, Red Hill Landing and Obsidian Butte.

22nd November - Salton City, Anzo Borrego Desert (Yaqui Well), Cuyamaca Lake, Laguna Mountains. Motel in San Diego, ready for an early start.

23rd November - Tijuana Slough NWR, Coronado area of San Diego. Then flew home.

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The weather was generally very comfortable (70s), although breezy on the coast and a jacket was required. In the Salton Sea area in was warm and tee-shirt weather although the weather turned colder and very windy on the morning I left. At Lake Cuyamaca in the mountains it was very cold and I could have done with gloves!

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If you have any comments or questions relating to this trip report please contact Jim Rose.   In particular any feedback on the two mystery birds would be greatly appreciated.

All photographs are Copyright and should not be reproduced without written permission from Jim Rose.

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Next Page

Trip Home Page

Salton Sea area

San Diego Area

Brawley area
Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs

Salton Sea Waders/Shorebirds

Tijuana Slough NWR Salton Sea  Geese
Cuyamaca Lake/Laguna Mountains Trip List
Other Sites

Mystery Birds

Other Birding Trips

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