City Birding in San Diego

San Diego has lots going for it. There are lovely seashores, a plethora of fantastic meals and drinks, a large number of household enjoyable places, a world-renowned zoo, and one of many greatest birding festivals within the US. My household visited San Diego yearly as a part of a Disneyland-SoCal Street journey to flee the wet Christmases at residence close to Portland, Oregon. We’d stroll the Pacific Seashore promenade, see Shamu at Sea World (that is earlier than Blackfish, thoughts you), and pattern scrumptious Mexican meals in Outdated City San Diego.
My relationship with San Diego has developed since turning into a birder. In our early birding days, Erik and I had one in every of our most hilarious bird-related fights whereas taking a look at a flotilla of geese in Mission Bay yelling at one another about subject marks earlier than realizing we had been taking a look at two totally different geese. On one other journey, a number of birders by accident woke us up as they had been staking out a vagrant Prothonotary Warbler which occurred to be final seen in a tree simply above our tent. So, it has gone from a ravishing place for a quick respite from the Pacific Northwest to a premier birding location that we had been fortunate sufficient to weasel a recurring guiding spot on the San Diego Birding Pageant, securing our likelihood to get just a little vitamin D once we want it probably the most.

9 birders on bikes stopped to look at a water way with palm trees in front of them
Birders biking round Mission Bay

Annually, the San Diego Audubon Society hosts their annual birding pageant within the third week of February. With all kinds of subject journeys, glorious guides, and a strong vendor expo, it’s no marvel that it attracts so many birders. The pageant headquarters is positioned on the southwest facet of Mission Bay, overlooking a marina with close by Black-crowned Night time Herons and continuously performs host to a number of falcon species, and a brief stroll to the San Diego River. This makes it a chief spot for bicycle-birding, our area of interest on the pageant. Driving round Mission Bay and again to the headquarters alongside the San Diego River can garner us about sixty-five species over the 10-mile bike trip. Granted, it’s a giant county spanning many alternative habitats, however San Diego County garners 515 species.

Black-crowned Night time Heron

A number of issues that I like about San Diego is that the group couldn’t be higher. There’s a main airport close to downtown AND that main airport occurs to be one of many best airports to navigate. It’s in a significant metro space with many eating places and lodge choices. Lastly, unbelievable birding websites usually are not an enormous distance away. The Salton Sea might be one of many furthest locations you may contemplate visiting whereas there and it’s roughly a 2 ½ hour drive from San Diego – which many birders may contemplate a day journey.

Though my birding is normally restricted to a motorbike trip round Mission Bay on my annual journey to San Diego, we handle to squeeze in some visits to different birding websites, eat tasty meals, and pattern the cocktail and beer scene. Listed here are a number of of my favourite gems that you simply may contemplate trying out.

Mission Bay gives over a dozen miles of pedestrian entry alongside its shores. Traditionally, it was an enormous marshland stuffed with shallow waters, a plethora of waders and shorebirds, and tall grasses. Humankind has since modified the panorama right into a leisure wonderland with open water for boating, fishing, and jet skis with an expansive spoils pile on the south facet referred to as Fiesta Island that has entry for off-leash canines, seashore recreation, and extra. Efforts have been made to return Mission Bay to its wildlife roots which will be witnessed from the Kendall-Frost Marsh Protect on the northwest nook with a number of businesses working to replant and handle for wildlife, together with the Ridgway’s Rail. We recurrently discover Snowy Egrets, scope out Brant, and shorebirds.


By bicycle, the route round Mission Bay may take hours with common stops for birding. Certainly one of my favourite stops is alongside the San Diego River the place you possibly can see Little Blue Heron, all three recurrently occurring teal species, and quite a lot of shorebirds relying on the tide degree. Lately, there was a Burrowing Owl hanging round that’s straightforward to identify amongst the riprap close to the river mouth.

Digiscoped Burrowing Owl

San Elijo Lagoon is a county park north of San Diego and is without doubt one of the area’s largest wetlands. At just below 1,000 acres of reserve property with a number of habitat sorts, it hosts a variety of vegetation and animals. The paths range from boardwalks alongside the tidally influenced estuary to slim canyons to hikes by scrub. Because it flows into the Pacific Ocean, the twice-daily tide combats the freshwater drained by the rain-fed creeks and different drainage. Though the property has seen human impacts, there have been current efforts to enhance water high quality and restore this essential habitat.

Whether or not you need a brief stroll or an extended hike, San Elijo Wetland can supply that. Once I visited, it was wet and a trek by a doubtlessly slippery canyon appeared like I might find yourself within the hospital, so we ventured alongside the raised boardwalk. A number of rain showers handed which precipitated us to run for the character middle and canopy. In between showers, we had been capable of go examine a bit and we discovered a number of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, fishing Osprey, and chickadees.

Osprey carrying a fish

La Jolla Cove has lots happening. Multi-million-dollar houses, fancy eating places, rugged swimming, California sea lions, and close-up seems to be at some birds. The cove itself is a small seashore surrounded by sandstone cliffs and a pure platform the place the ocean lions haul out. As you method, the mixed odor of seabird excrement and sea lions fills the air.

La Jolla Cove with nesting cormorants on the cliff

The La Jolla Cove is a good hotspot for all. Not solely are you able to see cormorants, turnstones, and pelicans up shut and private, however as it’s on some extent, it’s a great place to scope out pelagic species. In addition to birds, there’s fascinating geology, simply viewable wildlife, and a large number of different points of interest that can curiosity the non-wildlife lovers at your celebration.

San Diego has a lot to see and do. There’s a variety of city birding websites that offer you a glimpse of the wild in amongst the hustle and bustle of one in every of California’s most various cities and give you the convenience of doing just a little birding on non-birding journeys. Each time I go to, there’s something new to discover, and retains me coming again for extra. What are a few of your favourite San Diego city birding websites?

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