Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Vacation Birding

We've just returned from a family holiday in San Diego.  Much fun was had by kids and adults alike at the Zoo, Legoland, and so on.  By keeping my binoculars close at hand, and taking a couple of hours early one morning to bird a local hotspot, I also saw 74 species of bird including 28 lifers.  I plan on sharing a few photos as well as details of some great birding locations over the next few weeks.  Hope you enjoy - all photos click to enlarge as usual!
Brown Pelican was one lifer that was a sure thing heading down to southern California.  Very impressive to watch small flocks cruising along the cliff tops like wide-bodied aircraft coming into land, then turning out to sea and plunge diving with unexpected speed and precision.
Western Gulls were another "guaranteed" lifer.  These are BIG gulls made more impressive by the contrasting dark backs and clean heads.  This trio was cleaning up after a show at SeaWorld.
Also looking for handouts at SeaWorld, a Snowy Egret - yet another life bird posing beautifully for the camera.
Visitors to the Calgary Zoo will find many House Sparrows under their picnic tables and dashing around animal enclosures looking for scraps.  At the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park it seems to be Brewer's Blackbirds that fill the same role in a much more aesthetically pleasing manner! 
Migrant shorebirds were fairly abundant on beaches and lagoons in the area.  Here a flock of Whimbrel do a formation flypast...
...and a little further up the shore Black-bellied Plover and a lone Willet hunt for evening snacks along the tideline.
Next week, the San Diego posts head to the desert!

Meanwhile, for those interested, here are those 28 life birds:
Wild Turkey
California Quail
Brown Pelican
Snowy Egret
White-tailed Kite
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail
Least Sandpiper
Western Gull
Heermann's Gull
Common Tern
White-winged Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Costa's Hummingbird
Acorn Woodpecker
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Cassin's Kingbird
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Northern Mockingbird
California Towhee
Black-throated Sparrow
Great-tailed Grackle
Lesser Goldfinch


  1. Hello from up north, I am near Pigeon Lake. I am not much of a birder by any means, but noted that we saw more birds this winter than we have most others. One of our new visitors was a whole bunch of Pine Grosbeaks they blew in on a cold winter storm and stayed until a few weeks ago. It was nice to see the red birds.

  2. Thanks very much for your comment! I'll bet there's some great birding in your provincial park on the lake!