San Diego Birding Pages
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Facilities: There are restrooms on the east side of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and at Cabrillo National Monument, and a porta potty at the Famosa Slough parking lot.
Directions: To start the route at Sunset Cliffs, take Interstate 8 west to its terminus and turn left at the light (stay in the right-most left turn lane). Follow the signs to Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, taking care not to wind up in the right-turn-only lane at West Point Loma Boulevard! Go through Ocean Beach, and when you come to the cliffs (obvious as it's the first open area past town) park in the first parking area you can.
I'm almost afraid to publish this particular page, because my own list for the area is embarrassingly inadequate to cover all that's shown up here! (It'll be obvious to the old-timers that I don't get out here much...) But even though they're not on my list, I'll mention some of the goodies that have shown up to whet your appetite!
Sunset Cliffs + (There's a couple of tiny little inclines) I generally start at Sunset Cliffs, as logistically I feel it's easier first thing. Parking at the first lot allows you to take an easy ten minute walk down to Ross Rock, which is generally the easiest place in the county to find all three cormorants (but at the same time, the rock could be empty). Walking also allows you to check the rocky "tables" for the specialty "rockpipers" such as Wandering Tattler, Surfbird, and both Ruddy and Black Turnstones in season. Other shorebirds to keep an eye out for include Whimbrel, Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, Willet, and Spotted and Least Sandpipers. Gulls hog the rocks as well, the most common being Western and Heermann's year-round, joined by Ring-billed and California in winter (although you may find an over-summering individual); look for the odd Glaucous-winged or "Olympic" hybrid as well. Off-shore, Brown Pelicans can sail by in large numbers, and Royal Terns feed year-round, joined by Elegant and Least in summer. You may even spot a Parasitic Jaeger harassing another larid! In winter look for Brant, Surf Scoters, loons, and large rafts of Western Grebes. Scanning out to sea may bag you a Black-vented Shearwater. Although more likely in "Residential Point Loma" (see below), both Red-crowned Parrot and Red-masked Parakeets are possible in the neighborhood.
Flower display along the trail
Ross Rock on a good cormorant day (the pteranodon notwithstanding...)
It's a great place to watch for that "green flash"!
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery to , depending on how you decide to tackle it... From here I generally continue on Sunset Cliffs, bear left at the fork, and turn left at the four-way stop on Hill Street up to Catalina, where you make a right to continue on to the Point. Apparently the trails at the end of Dupont (part of the Nazarene College) are no longer accessible, so it would behoove you to continue straight to the cemetery (keep in mind that the military installation you must pass through opens at 5:00 am during the week, but at 9:00 am on weekends). The property covers both sides of the peninsula, and in my younger years I used to hike the whole thing (and honestly, people generally find the rarities by checking every tree), but nowadays I can barely manage the Bennington Monument area (which is flat)... This particular area is located on the eastern side of Cabrillo and is just inside and north of the entrance, marked by a huge obelisk. Look for warblers and other migrants in the trees; sometimes Golden-crowned Kinglets can be found in the pines in winter. Check the wires for kingbirds (Cassin's is expected, but Tropical shows up regularly). Flycatchers and thrushes like to perch on the headstones, so driving through the area slowly can bag you some birds that way; any number of empids show up here, so it's a great opportunity to practice those skills! Birds normally associated with pine and oak woodland, such as Chipping Sparrow, American Robin, and Western Bluebird, occur here. Be sure to check the fencelines; this is usually where rarities like White-throated and Clay-colored Sparrows show up, but White-crowned and Golden-crowned are more expected, along with Dark-eyed Juncos (check for non-"Oregons") and California Towhees. California Quail can sometimes be found just on the outside of the fence.
Another favorite spot to check is called "The Dip", which is on the west side of the cemetery: if you drive in the main entrance on the west side of Catalina and head south, the road "dips" down, and for some reason rarities seem to like this area. Besides the Little Bunting, other mega-rarities that have popped up include Bay-breasted, Red-faced, and Mourning Warblers, and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher; other goodies in recent years include Yellow-throated and Yellow-green Vireos, and Grace's and Prothonotary Warblers. Annual rarities to look for include Gray and Least Flycatchers; Black-and-white, Chestnut-sided, Palm, and Blackpoll Warblers; American Redstart; Varied Thrush; and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Birds that are more or less expected in other parts of the county (like Sage Thrasher, Band-tailed Pigeon, White-winged Dove, and Red-breasted Sapsucker) sometimes get lost and show up here! The use of this area by birders has been a source of controversy for many years, so please be respectful of mourners and the property in general so that birders can continue to enjoy this important area!
Looking over San Diego Bay
Cabrillo National Monument Tidepool Area to Heading on down to Cabrillo National Monument (fee), I generally visit the Tidepool area first, visiting all three parking areas along the road. The birds here are similar to what you'd find along Sunset Cliffs, but in my experience rarities such as Black Oystercatcher are more likely here (American has also shown up, but that's extremely rare). There's also coastal scrub habitat where you might add various landbirds to your list, like California Thrasher, both towhees, and sparrows in winter. (One summer a disbursing juvenile Black-throated Sparrow showed up, and Harris' also made an appearance once.) This is one of the few places in the county you can find Song Sparrows away from a riparian area! From the first parking lot you can walk a trail that goes to the tidepool area and beyond (be sure to check the rocks below the bench first), up to the second parking lot, but beyond the tidepools the trail gets very strenuous; another option would be to take part of this trail from the second parking lot, which gives you a good look at the rocks below without having to climb down the stairs. If you missed the specialty cormorants at Ross Rock, this latter trail is another good spot for them. Scanning the ocean from this vantage point, especially in fall, can be a good way to bag off-shore Red-necked Phalaropes, Black-vented Shearwaters, and Parasitic Jaegers.
Road to the tidepools
Tidepools at low tide
High tide at the bottom
Part of the "Tidepool Trail"
View from the upper parking lot trail
The Upper Monument if you make the circle, or if you tackle that plus the Bayside Trail. Heading back up to the Monument, make a right on Catalina and park in the Ocean View parking area. Unfortunately one of the most famous and productive spots on the peninsula (the Myoporum Grove and "The Drip") have been removed by the Park Service in the interests of water conservation and the re-establishment of native plants. Only time will tell if the park will continue to host past rarities such as "Red" Fox Sparrow, Prairie and Hooded Warbler, and Brown Thrasher. More expected species that would frequent this area included House Finches, Lesser Goldfinches, Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped (winter) Warblers, both towhees, Song Sparrows, and Mourning Doves. During migration you may still see various warblers, and in winter Hermit Thrushes and various sparrows move in, including (potentially) several races of Fox Sparrow. A walk up around the old lighthouse and down to the visitor's center might still be productive for local chaparral species such as Bushtit, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Wrentit, and California Thrasher. Be sure to check the huge antennas for Peregrine Falcons. For the hardy, a walk down the Bayside Trail may get you away from the crowds and cover more chaparral habitat.
The Myaporum Grove before its removal (since moving to Texas I have no current photos)
Path out to the very tip
View of NAS North Island and San Diego
Bayside Trail from on high
Residential Point Loma to I personally feel kinda funny birding in residential areas, but my friends rave about the stretch along Silver Gate and the little alleys and side streets therein; to bird this area you can hang a right at your first opportunity once outside the military complex (and past the first light), and follow the road as it curves around and eventually comes to Silver Gate. Turn left here and start exploring. For another productive spot, continue on Silver Gate to Dupont, turn right, and then left on Albion to Dudley; this short cul-de-sac (and the path down the hill beyond) can be quite birdy and has hosted rarities such as Painted Redstart and Tennessee Warbler. The feral parrots can be found anywhere in here and are easily located by their racket! Again, this area is most productive during spring and fall migration (which starts in mid-summer where the hummers are concerned; the exotic flowers are a big attraction to Rufous and Allen's Hummingbirds in particular!).
The lush exotic plantings of residential Point Loma
Famosa Slough + (depending on where you park, there's a little slope to get down to the main trail, but if you access the trail from the end of the street it's relatively flat the whole way) My last stop is Famosa Slough, a great place to pad the list and perhaps find something juicy! Follow Catalina all the way to its terminus; there's a parking area here with a very short loop that takes you through the reeds and willows, but I prefer to make a left here, go up the hill, and make a right at the four-way stop (Camulos). Turn right at Mentone and park at the bottom of the hill; the trail takes off to the west and provides many good views of the lagoon, with strategic benches placed throughout. Look for herons (Little Blue in particular), shorebirds, and ducks in season (both Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teal can occur year-round). In migration you may find Red-necked Phalaropes, and on rare occasion a White-tailed Kite may be hanging around (Osprey is more expected). Common Yellowthroats are in the reeds, and there's usually a Yellow Warbler that hangs around the brown house all year! In winter you might be able to kick up a Lincoln's Sparrow in with the Whiteys, and Belding's Savannah Sparrow is possible. Rarities that have shown up here include Swamp Sparrow, Stilt Sandpiper, Tricolored Heron, and Eurasian Wigeon. Summer is usually the dullest season, but you should at least be able to find breeding Black-necked Stilt and Forster's Tern (Least is also possible). Amongst the abundant Euro-trash, the Eurasian Collared Doves have finally arrived here as well...
Small willow "jungle" along the trail
One of the viewing spots along the trail
To get back to the freeway, return to Camulos, turn right, then left on West Point Loma Boulevard. Turn right on Nimitz, and that'll take you right to the freeway. Turning right on Point Loma Boulevard will take you to many restaurants and gas stations should you need them; eventually you intersect with Sports Arena Boulevard, where turning left will also take you to the freeway.
Personal Checklist ●=small numbers █ = large numbers (10+)
Please keep in mind that these lists are NOT comprehensive (especially this particular one), and that some months may have had poor overall coverage. Species in red are out-of-place, irruptive, or vagrant species and should not be expected.
|Great Blue Heron||●||●||●||●||●||●||●||●||●|
|Little Blue Heron||●||●||●||●||●|
|Black-crowned Night Heron||●||●||●|
|Eurasian Collared Dove||●|
|Western Wood Pewee||●||●||●||●||●|
|Western Scrub Jay||●||●||█||█||●||●||●||█||█||●||●|
|Northern Rough-winged Swallow||●|
|Black-throated Gray Warbler||●||●||●|
|"Belding's" Savannah Sparrow||●||●|
|"Slate-colored" Fox Sparrow||●||●|
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