Tuesday, April 19, 2005

19th April - Off to San Diego

After a leisurely breakfast we left Cat's and headed down to San Diego, but not before finding 1-2 Anna's Hummingbirds, the first time I'd seen any member of this family. This species proved to be the commonest and most widespread species of Hummingbird seen during our holiday. The first 6 of many Red-tailed Hawks were seen from the car on the way down.

First stop was De Anza Cove where wintering Harlequin and Long-tailed Duck had been the week before at least. The latter was probably of more interest to the locals than a British visitor but although I'd seen Harlequins in the UK, an adult drake would have been much appreciated by me. Typically only the Long-tailed Duck could be found but it was a nice spot with plenty to look at including my first Green and Little Blue Herons. The latter are not generally found in western USA but occur in small numbers around San Diego. In fact they were easier than I expected with singles seen in 4 places today.

I quick stop along Bacon Street provided a nice Cassin's Kingbird, a Horned Lark under some swings and my first of many Brewer's Blackbirds. From the bank looking across the river there was a good selection of waders including Short-billed Dowitcher, 4 Long-billed Curlews, 10 Semipalmated Plovers, 12 Least Sandpipers and a Dunlin with 100 Western Sandpipers.

Elegant and Forster's Terns were present, the former being the last ones seen all holiday. Black Skimmer is an extraordinary species and one I had hoped to see this holiday. I was not disappointed as a flock of 145 were present here.

Next stop was Cabrillo Monument where I hoped to find a few more passerines. California and Spotted Towhees were both common here. Around the visitor centre there were Bushtits, Western Scrub Jays and Vaux's and White-throated Swifts were overhead. A Townsend's Warbler showed only briefly but was a jaw-droppingly beautiful bird.

A dripping tap within a little grove here is apparently a famous spot for migrants. It took some finding but was home to my first Orange-crowned Warbler (which proved to be one of the commonest warblers) and Golden-crowned Sparrow among other things. The area was full of Hummingbirds, but only Anna's were identified.

The last spot visited today wasn't in my guide to where to bird in Southern California (A Birder's Guide to Southern California by Brad Schram - an excellent investment); I only found it by chance on the internet a few days before. A small wetland area in a very urban setting, Famosa Slough proved an amazing place well worth the visit.

The first bird I saw before I was out of the car was a fantastic Belted Kingfisher. Having failed to see the first British record for 25 years earlier this month this was one my most-wanted species this holiday - and this was the only one I saw. Blue-winged Teals were also the only ones seen all trip.

Waders included Black-necked Stilt and 50 Long-billed Dowitchers but the highlight was perhaps the herons, all of which were remarkably tame providing excellent photographic opportunities: Black-crowned Night Herons in a variety of plumages, Great Blue Heron and Snowy Egret. Finally 4 Amazon Parrots flew over - a variety of species of Parrots and Parakeets are more-or-less naturalised in southern California now but these were the only ones I encountered.