Winter Birding in San Diego County
Mid-December to mid-March officially bookend winter birding in San Diego County, even though the weather is 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 berries (especially red ones) for fruit-loving birds such as Cedar Waxwings or American Robins. Many species of wintering waterbirds—Eared Grebes, Canvasbacks, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks—troll the coastal lagoons such as the Buena Vista or Batiquitos Lagoons or freshwater lakes. February may even see some long-distance migrants arriving from the south to set up breeding territories here. For instance, a few early arriving swallows can be found flying over the lagoons, swooping and zipping after flying insects.
Every winter seems to bring errant shorebirds or seabirds (a Long-billed Curlews was spotted at Louise Fousatt Elementary School in Oceanside), predominantly eastern warblers (several Northern Parulas were spotted at Agua Hedionda Lagoon), or southwestern specialties (Grace’s Warbler were spotted in both Del Mar and Encinitas).
If you’re interested in the latest unusual sightings, consider subscribing to San Diego Region Birding to stay abreast of all the latest sightings. If you had followed this group’s emails, you’d have read about all of the above birds as well as the Snow Goose at Solano Beach and a pair of Summer Tanagers at Guajome Regional Park. And don’t forget about eBird.org if you’re looking for specific species!
If you like to chase rarities you’re often in luck as wintering rarities tend to linger a bit once they arrive (Be honest—you would too if you could!). 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! Good birding!
*All bird images courtesy of Steve Brad.
Bird Watching Opportunities:
What: Come join the Friends of El Corazon for their monthly bird walk at the Garrison Creek Trailhead. Joan Bockman will also be sharing her knowledge of the local flora and the history of El Corazon. The walk lasts about an hour and a half to two hours.
When: Second Wednesday of Every month, 7:30-9:30am
Where: To get there from the intersection of El Camino Real and Oceanside Blvd, go east on Oceanside Blvd and turn left (north) into the first gate. Veer to the left where there is ample parking.
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.