Winter Birding in San Diego County
Mid-December to mid-March officially bracket winter birding in San Diego County, even though they are mild by most Northern Hemisphere standards. All habitat types except for the highest mountains offer interesting and comfortable winter birding here. Just know that it’s the rainy season here, so watch the weather forecasts and keep your rain gear within reach!
By December, most of the birds here are either year-round residents or migrant species that have been hanging around for a while. The regular winter stalwarts, such as Yellow-rumped Warblers and White-crowned Sparrows, appear everywhere. Check any bush or tree sporting red berries for fruit-loving birds such as Cedar Waxwings or American Robins. Many species of wintering waterbirds—American White Pelicans, Eared Grebes, Canvasbacks, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks—troll the coastal lagoons such as Buena Vista or Batiquitos Lagoons. February may even bring about some long-distance migrants arriving here to set up breeding territories. Every winter seems to also bring errant shorebirds or seabirds (perhaps a White-winged Scoter), predominantly eastern warblers (Northern Parula, Hooded Warbler), unusual sparrows (Lapland Longspur), or southwestern specialties (Painted Redstart, Thick-billed Kingbird).
If you’re interested in the latest unusual sightings, consider joining the Yahoo group SanDiegoRegionBirding. If you were in this group, you’d know about the likely 1st county record Grove-billed Ani hanging out in Encinitas, just south of Oceanside. As of this writing it has been here for more than two weeks and seems to be happy as a clam (or a well-fed ani). If you like to chase rarities, know that wintering rarities tend to linger a bit once they arrive (Can you blame them?). Mornings are most productive for finding passerines, but waterbirds will be visible all day so if those are your target you can sleep in a bit!
*All bird images courtesy of Steve Brad.
Bird Watching Opportunities:
What: Join the Buena Vista Audubon Society on this regular monthly walk and survey of the birds at Oceanside’s special wildlife sanctuary, Whelan Lake. The freshwater lake, adjacent riparian forest, and grassy upland hills provide an exciting array of bird species to view throughout the year.
When: First Saturday of Every month, 8-10am
Where: Whelan Lake, 3650 North River Road Oceanside, CA 92058 United States
What: Come join the Friends of El Corazon for their monthly bird walk at the Garrison Creek Trailhead. The walk lasts about an hour and a half. To get there turn into the El Corazon gate near El Camino on Oceanside Blvd, then veer to the left where there is ample parking.
When: Second Wednesday of Every month, 7:30-9am
Where: El Corazon Park, 3210 Oceanside Blvd Oceanside, CA United States
More: For more information about the trail and El Corazon park, please see FOEC’s website: http://www.friendsofelcorazon.org/
What: Come enjoy a casual combination birding workshop and bird count around Buena Vista Lagoon. The group will visit Maxton Brown Park, walk to the ocean, and return to the nature center along Coast Highway with plenty of wader, songbird, and shore bird sightings along the way. After the walk the group will tally the bird sightings and finish by 11:30 a.m.
When: Last Saturday of Every month, 9-11:30am
Where: Buena Vista Nature Center, 2202 South Coast Highway, Oceanside, CA 92054, USA
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.