Thursday, February 11, 2016
San Diego: The Quest For a Tattler
In preparing for this trip to San Diego, I had gone through a lot of lists and reports to see what new birds I could possibly find in San Diego. Surprisingly, the list was relatively small. Only 2 life birds stood out for me, without taking a pelagic trip for sea birds out on the ocean, the Wandering Tattler and the Scaly-breasted Munia. Most of the other species in southern California were either birds that could also be found in Arizona, or birds that I had already found on a few previous trips to the area. Prime target was Wandering Tattler. After perusing the many eBird reports on this bird for the month of January, it appeared that it was most frequently encountered around the La Jolla Cove area on the coastline. I decided that this would be my first stop to see if one might be hanging out in this area. Thanks to all the new smart technology and the use of my iPhone, I was able to locate this place in a reasonable amount of time. What a view this was from the parking along the street high above the ocean waves crashing on the rocks below. It was early morning and the cliffs were covered with cormorants; Brandt's, Pelagic, and a couple of Double-crested in the mix. A few Brown Pelicans dotted the rocks as well. But what quickly caught my attention was a Brown Booby on the cliffs with all the cormorants. Not a bird that I see that often and fairly close.
I decided to walk the entire coast road and along the way, I had the pleasure of seeing some California Sea Lions and at the far end, some Harbor Seals. Both species had pups and they were pretty darned cute if you ask me. And for those that are interested, sea lions have small visible ear flaps, whereas seals do not have visible ear flaps
California Sea Lion & Pup
Harbor Seal & Pup
Just as I reached the end of the walk, I noticed a different bird on a large boulder along the shore and once I got my binoculars on it, then I knew that I had struck gold; Wandering Tattler! Sandpipers can sometimes be notoriously difficult to identify, but knowing behavior of many birds can most assuredly help in the ID process. The Wandering Tattler has a behavior of bobbing and teetering as it walks or stand still. This behavior is also seen in Spotted Sandpipers, but these 2 birds are vastly different in appearance, so it would be difficult to get them confused.
Also along this area I was able to find and photograph a Black Turnstone, a Royal Tern, and a Western Gull.
Mission accomplished for my number 1 target bird and I still had a lot of time left in the day. My next plan was to visit Tijuana Slough, which is a place I had visited in May of last year and I liked it so well, I wanted to go again. But along the way, I decided to make a slight detour off the freeway and visit Tecolote Canyon Natural Park. Reports of the Scaly-breasted Munia had been sketchy on eBird up to this point, but this spot seemed to be the most likely possibility. I pulled into the lot, parked my car and got out to hear an American Crow calling and then heard something unfamiliar to me on the north side of the parking lot, and lo and behold, there was the Scaly-breasted Munia! That just seemed too easy, but then I remember so many of the times I have dipped on birds, so I guess I was due for a bit of good luck!
But since I was there, I decided to hike a ways up the canyon to see what else I could find. Got some decent looks at Bushtits, California Towhee, and California Thrasher.
I then made my way to Tijuana Slough, and while there, my zoom lens on my camera quite working. I was left without a workable zoom lens for the rest of Saturday and all day on Sunday, so photos became a bit tougher. Nevertheless, on Sunday I headed out to the area of the San Diego Harbor area. I was looking for another bird that I had only seen once before in Rocky Point, Mexico, and at quite a distance. This time I was hoping to see a Brant a little closer and also add it to my USA list. I not only saw it, but I saw over 100 of them! Without a zoom lens, I still had an issue with photos, but did the best I could with my regular lens.
Also, quite plentiful, were Surf Scoters, which is a bird we see occasionally in Arizona in the winter, most generally females. But this time, I got to see the males and they are outstanding!
One last stop on Sunday, gave me a view of a new reptile for me; a San Diego Alligator Lizard. What a cool looking reptile, very long at probably about 14" from snout to tail and such tiny legs.
The trip was most definitely worthwhile and I got my 2 new life birds that I had targeted plus so much more.