San Diego County Summer Birding
June and mid-September bookend the summer in San Diego County birding. Birds begin to quiet down and lay low, busy feeding their new families and guarding against predators. Until mid-July, if you want a special treat, visit one of the breeding grounds of the California Least Tern—an endangered subspecies (Sterna antillarum browni). San Diego County supports 60% of the breeding population of this subspecies at 12 sites including the western end of Batiquitos Lagoon, just south of Oceanside in Carlsbad. When the lagoon was dredged and re-opened to the tides in the mid-1990s, several artificial sand flats were installed there for Least Tern nesting. This local colony is most easily seen from South Ponto Beach off the Pacific Coast Highway. Park along the southbound side of the highway (if you can find a spot) and point your optics east across the highway toward the fenced-off sand flats. The nearly constant, high-pitched chatter of the Least Terns confirms you’ve found the spot.
Later in the summer, birds begin to move. The migration of shorebirds commences in late June; the fall passerine migration, in August. Post-breeding dispersal can result in odd species showing up just about anywhere. You can join San Diego Region Birding (operated by the San Diego Field Ornithologists) to stay abreast of the latest sightings. For example, in May, this group reported a Nelson’s Sparrow (formerly Sharp-tailed Sparrow) at San Elijo Lagoon and a pair of nesting Yellow-crowned Night-Herons near the Del Mar fairgrounds. Early June brought a report of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Leucadia. As the shorebird migration begins to pick up, this group will be the one to check for interesting migrants. If you have an individual species or two that you’re interested in finding, don’t forget about the “explore” options on eBird.
About the Author
After birding for a quarter-century in Colorado, Tina and her family recently moved to Oceanside, where she’ll probably spend the next quarter-century trying to remember that the mountains now lie to the east. Tina is a guest blog contributor that will be sharing her insights and discoveries as she explores Southern California with her binoculars, scope, and field guide.
To learn more about regional birding opportunities, contact the Buena Vista Audubon Society and Nature Center.