Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

San Diego: A Blast From the Past

The weekend before my 'over-the-top' trip to Minnesota, I was blessed to have the chance to make a trip to San Diego with a great friend of mine, Karen Lawrence.  She had flown into Mesa a couple days early and stay at our house before she was to travel to San Diego to attend a CFA Cat Show, which is one of the largest shows in the United States every year.  My connection?  We used to breed and show CFA registered cats (Abyssinians and Burmese) in the past, and that is how I got to know Karen as a valued friend.  Of course with the opportunity, my mind got to thinking and I wondered what kind of birds could I find in the San Diego area in January?  I have been to San Diego several times, but never done any birding in January.  I knew there was one bird that has been high on my target list for some time, the Wandering Tattler.  And I also knew that they were a winter resident only in San Diego; they breed far north in Alaska and the Yukon Territory in Canada.  Yes, some people will think, 'It is just another species of sandpipier'.  But I think the name also adds little more intrigue to this bird. It might be interesting to research on how it got its name. 

Anyway, Karen was kind enough to let my tag along and she also shared some of the driving with me so neither of us got burnt out.  We left early and wanted to take our time in getting there so we stopped at the Imperial Sand Dunes which are in California, but just west of the city of Yuma, Arizona.  Now this is the stereotypical thought that comes to mind way back when I was a young lad back in Nebraska several decades ago, on what all deserts looked like!    

We arrived in San Diego, early afternoon and decided to check out the beach near the motel where we were staying.  It was really good to see the ocean once again.  Karen was very patient with me and my fascination with the birds and she actually showed a lot of interest in what we were seeing.  She was also taking photos of many of them as well.  Of course we had gulls and I was happy to see one of my favorite gulls, the Heerman's Gull.  Probably one of the best looking of all the gulls and usually one of the easiest to identify.

 Heerman's Gull

And we had several Sanderlings milling about in the gull flock, one of the most entertaining shore birds around.  They run up the shore to escape the waves, but once the water recedes, they follow it out to snatch any tidbits of food such as mollusks and crustaceans that are exposed by the retreating waves.  


From the beach we headed to the show hall so Karen could set up her booth display and of course, I went exploring outside the building which was located on the Del Mar Fairgrounds.  Did not take me long to find some tidal flats in the back of the building where many gulls were resting on an island out in the water.  But closer to the shoreline, I discovered a Marbled Godwit and a Spotted Sandpiper.

 Marbled Godwit

 Spotted Sandpiper

Considering that this was only a travel day with not a lot of time for birding, I was pleased with what I found.  The next day, Saturday, and also most of Sunday, was going to be all about birding on my own.  I had mapped out the places I was going to check out and the Wandering Tattler was my most primary bird to locate.  I had also included the Scaly-breasted Munia to my target list as well.  Not a native bird in the United States, but it is now well established in Southern California and is now accepted on the ABA list; very similar to the Rosy-faced Lovebirds we have in and around Phoenix in Arizona.  Stay tuned for the rest of my San Diego adventure!



  1. Wonderful post. The Heerman's is my favorite gull too.

    1. Hi Carole,
      Thank you for the comments! I am working on the second part for this adventure, but not sure how soon I will get it completed.