Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Break Birding

La Jolla, CA
Last month during my spring break in San Diego, I killed a lot of birds with one stone (excuse the expression).  I got married, escaped the classroom of 24 first graders, relaxed on the beach, went whale watching, and saw some very cool birds.

On my first morning in Point Loma, I woke up to a loud and unfamiliar bird call.  I peeked out the blinds and saw a group of green blurs zooming by.  I knew from watching the San Diego Birding List (while Gaby was busy with wedding details) that several types of parakeets and parrots were possible in the area.  I was excited when the flock of eight began feeding in a tree across the street.  After careful inspection I determined they were Red-masked Parakeets.  Boy are they loud!  It made me wonder what the neighbors thought of them, but I never got a chance to ask anybody.

Some nice sea birds had been spotted at Point La Jolla a week before I arrived, namely a Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, so I decided to check it out.  I arrived early and found four friendly birders with their scopes set up in the grass.  They shared distant views of Black-vented Shearwater, Common Murre, Pacific Loon, and Pelagic Cormorant.  I checked the rocks and found Surfbirds and Least Sandpipers.

An estimated 2,000 Brandt's Cormorants were in the cove.  Adults were hanging out on the rock ledges with their young.  It was quite a sight.

Brandt's Cormorants
A baby!
grown up baby with sea lion buddies
Bet you can't do this!
These guys were also in the area:

Double-crested Cormorant with marble eye
Black Turntone after cropping stinky, gross cormorant puddles
Western Gull posing
Ha, you call that posing? -Brown Pelican
Spotted Sandpiper (thanks Steve!)
lazy seals
The next day Gaby and I were very lucky to be able to tag along with one of the best birders in the business, Paul Lehman.  We ran into him at the parking lot of Salt Works at the southeast end of San Diego Bay, where a Lesser Black-backed Gull had been found a few days before.  Unfortunately, the distance of the resting gulls and the afternoon heat shine made it too difficult to determine if it was among the group of California Gulls.

Paul was very generous and let us tag along with him to check out the birds on the bay at 10th and 7th Streets.  As I raised my binoculars, Paul had already set up his scope and spotted a lifer for me, two Gull-billed Terns resting with a Black Skimmer.  He told me that the Gull-billed Terns were his first of the season and that they only nest two places in California- there in the bay and at the Salton Sea.  I was just in time to see this local specialty.  I also had good looks at a few Long-billed Dowitchers.  We only stayed at each location for about five minutes since it was very windy.  As we hopped back in the car Gaby remarked, "I love this speed birding, I could get used to this!"  Little did she know that I would spend an hour at our last stop, the South Bay Marine Biological Study Area.

Long-billed Dowitcher, because Paul Lehman told me so
I was pretty excited when I spotted a distant Reddish Egret, before Paul.  Well, to be fair, he was busy on his phone working out the details of an upcoming birding tour.  But a guy can dream can't he?  It was like getting a 90 meter lead on Usain Bolt in a 100 meter sprint, to make the race fair.  I was just happy when he confirmed my ID of the bird.  We thanked him and he gave us some pointers for our upcoming whale watching trip.  Then Paul left us to enjoy the area.  What a great guy!  There were lots of Brant, Bufflehead, Snowy Plover, and both species of scaup.  As Gaby and I walked towards a large flock of Elegant Terns, I noticed this Gull-billed Tern splashing around in shallow water.

distant Gull-billed Tern cleaning up
Elegant Terns boomeranging
The next day I went to the San Diego River at Robb Field.  The lighting was great and there was lots of bird activity.
Whimbrel with a snack
Great Egret doing what Great Egrets do

 I positioned myself on the rocks and photographed a very cooperative Long-billed Curlew.
Long-billed Curlew catching prey
Hair ball!
Takin' a dip
Post-dip, yes I know I'm beautiful

Snowy Egret
Marbled Godwit and its evil twin
Little Blue Heron looking blue
Caspian Tern ready to kick butt and take names
 Love was in the air.   
Caspian Tern playing hard to get
A Clapper Rail was walking along the edge of the rocks.  Surprisingly, it came within 15 feet of where I was sitting!
Clapper Rail (light-footed)
Look at my gorgeous color!
Later, I picked up a lifer that I tried for and missed on my last visit.  A Cackling Goose at the Scripps Library pond.

 We also saw some cool birds while on a whale watching trip.

Surf Scoter
balding Royal Tern
Xantus's Murrelet before take-off
This spring break of birding will be hard to beat!  We were also able to see three fin whales, including a baby.  To see whale and other non-bird photos, please visit my blog.
-Jeremy Medina


  1. You really cleaned up here (I'm in SD as well). Great images, I think I like the Clapper Rail and showy Brandt's Corm the best. POSSIBLY more importantly, congrats on getting hitched as well.

    Sorry to be a bearer of bad news, but the bird in the tattler photo is a Spotted Sandpiper.

    1. Thanks Seagull! Thanks for correcting my id. I did see a different WATA, but botched the id on this one in an attempt to put up a better photo...oops!

  2. Hot shots! The shorebirds, et al are exciting to observe. I just came back from Rocky Point this past weekend and am still excited from all the wonderful finds. The Whimbrel is one of my favorites.....probably because it looks so much like a larger hummingbird....especially while flying. Great pics. I've got a birding issue and I'm wondering if you or someone here can help...I'm trying to figure out what kind of bird we found at the San Pedro House in Sierra Vista back in it a Hutton Vireo or a Ruby Crowned Kinglet? Link is here....

    Thank you for the tour!

    1. You're very welcome! You're right about the Whimbrel, it's a great bird. I'll have to check out your blog.

  3. Wow Jeremy! Terrific post! This was a great read and a great invigorating force--makes me want go get out in the field right now!

    Your list of well-photographed birds (especially that handsome Rail and Curlew) is a charming list of birds I need to see. Congratulations again on getting married.

    1. Thanks Laurence! I can't wait to get out and bird with you again sometime.

  4. Awesome pictures. Loved all the pics the parakeets are my most favorite birds. Your photographs are superb!! Thanks for sharing them. Cheers, Ruby

    1. Thanks Ruby! I was amazed to wake up to the parakeets. That's the beauty of visiting new places.

  5. These are great Jeremy! Congrats on getting married. Congrats on all the birding you did too!

    1. Thanks Mia, I'm lucky to have a wonderful wife that understands my passion.

  6. Jeremy, I ohhed and ahhed while viewing all your fabulous photographs! What an awesome list of birds you saw on your spring break. Gorgeous birds!

    Congratulations on getting married!

    1. Thanks Julie. I heard Texas calling my name when I said this spring break would be hard to beat.

  7. Oh, Jeremy. that was such an enjoyable 'scroll' through your spring break! Congratulations on getting married and on such beautiful images!!

  8. Congratulations on your marriage and a great post and pics. Great group of birds

  9. Great images. Looking forward to west-coast birding myself when I visit a friends wedding in LA.