San Diego Birding Pages
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Facilities: There are restrooms at Silver Strand State Beach (fee), Fiddler's Cove, and Coronado Community Park.
Directions: The best way to bird this area is to start from the south end and work your way up. From San Diego take I-5 south to Palm Avenue in Imperial Beach. Turn right (west) and continue to 13th Street, where you'll turn right and park in the large lot at the end of the street. Note: There is sometimes "questionable activity" going on behind the buildings at 13th Street, so if you're alone, it might be best to head straight to 7th Street.
This spot and the end of 7th Street provide some of the best shorebird-watching in the county. From here you're looking north into the old "salt works", now a part of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. 7th Street is by far more productive, but for some reason 13th Street seems more attractive to certain birds like Red-necked Phalaropes in season. The barren area to the east can have Horned Larks as well. Continue west on Palm Avenue to 7th Street and turn right, following it to its terminus. This is the most reliable spot in the county for Black Skimmer, but they may be hiding behind one of the dikes! Common shorebirds include Western and Least Sandpipers, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Marbled Godwit, Willet, Red Knot in season, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Dunlin. Rarities such as Stilt Sandpiper and Ruff have also shown up here. The far dikes are almost always occupied by Brown Pelicans (American Whites have been declining in recent years), Double-crested Cormorants, and Western Gulls; in winter California and Ring-billed join the ranks, along with the occasional Herring, and in spring and summer the din of the Elegant Terns can be deafening! Forster's Tern is also a common breeder here, and a small colony of Royal Terns also nest in the area, so check your orange-billed terns carefully (in winter this is the default orange-billed tern)! This can be a great spot for herons as well: both Great and Snowy Egrets and Great Blue Heron are the expected species, but on rare occasion you might spot a Green, Black-crowned Night, Little Blue, or even the quasi-vagrant Reddish Egret. In winter numerous ducks can be found here; this is a good spot to look for Red-breasted Merganser, and Greater Scaup sometimes shows up in large numbers (Lesser is generally the default scaup here), as well as the occasional Eurasian Wigeon. Osprey and Belted Kingfishers often perch on the posts, and on rare occasion you might spot a Peregrine Falcon. This can also a good spot for Belding's Savannah Sparrows.
San Diego NWR from the end of 7th Street
The Egret Club (look for the Reddish next to the spit)
Return to Palm Avenue and veer right onto the Silver Strand (Highway 75). A little over a mile up the road is a parking area for the South Bay Marine Biological Study Area, a big name for a little place! A short walk down the dike will usually yield many Belding's Sparrows (sometimes at your feet), and on rare occasion a Large-billed Savannah Sparrow. Shorebirds often hide in the cordgrass, and in winter this can be a good place to find Brant and Surf Scoter out in the bay. Western, Clark's, Eared, Pied-billed, and occasionally Horned Grebes can be found here as well. In summer this can be a good spot for Least and Gull-billed Tern in addition to the much more abundant Elegants.
Marsh and dike at South Bay Marine Biological Study Area
Hide tide at the overlook
Continue north to the Silver Strand State Beach on your left (fee). In winter this can be a great place for loons (Red-throated seems to be particularly consistent here), but also hordes of Surf Scoters and Western Grebes can be easily seen offshore, as well as common coastal birds such as Western and Heermann's Gulls, Brown Pelicans, and Brandt's Cormorants. Expected shorebirds include Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plover, Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling, and Ruddy Turnstone. Endangered Snowy Plovers and Least Terns nest in the area, so keep an eye out for them. Sometimes Horned Larks and Brewer's Blackbirds hang out on the beach as well.
Silver Strand State Beach with Point Loma in the distance
On a clear day you can see Mexico's Los Coronados Islands
Continue north to Attu Drive and turn right, where you can access the state park's nature trail. Bay birds are similar to what you can see at the Marine Biological Area, and more gulls and shorebirds can be studied at the mouth of the creek. The scrub area is good for Say's Phoebes, Horned Larks, and American Pipits (the latter only in winter). In migration this can be a good area for swallows, and check the wires for White-tailed Kites and American Kestrels. In winter, White-crowned Sparrows especially like this stuff; check the flocks carefully for nominate Savannah Sparrows as well. In summer Hooded Orioles nest in the residential area and sometimes will pose on the wires, and the trees may attract Northern Flickers. On quiet days you should at least be able to kick up a Jackrabbit...
Silver Strand Nature Trail
View of south San Diego Bay
Cove at the south end of the trail
Continuing north on the strand, you shortly come to the entrance of Fiddler's Cove, a marina that also offers parking for an easy, ten-minute walk north to an observation platform that gives you a marvelous view of the mudflats of Delta Beach (the down side is that, in order to see anything, you'd better drag your scope along...). The path borders a Least Tern colony, so if you missed them earlier, you're sure to get them here! (Horned Larks are also a possibility.) Shorebirds are about the same as what you'd see elsewhere along the strand, but this seems to be particularly attractive to Semipalmated Plovers and Long-billed Curlews (in the spring of 2007 a Wilson's Plover showed up here, and in July of 2008 San Diego County's first Red-necked Stint was found, so you never know what you'll turn up).
Start of the "Strand Trail"
Mudflats at the overlook at low tide...
...and at high tide!
If you want to pad your songbird list, a stop in the Coronado Community Park (about three miles north of the marina, accessible from Strand Way just past the Naval Amphibious Base) might be worthwhile. The flowering bushes are also attractive to butterflies. If you have time you may also want to check the beaches from the Hotel Del down to the naval air station; for some reason this area seems to be more attractive to Mew Gulls in the winter than other areas, but can be a good spot to study large gatherings of gulls and terns in general, despite the people! One easy access to the beach is to continue north to RH Dana Place and make a U-turn, then make a right on Avenida del Sol, which ends at the beach (the rock jetties here sometimes have Black Turnstones and other rock-pipers in winter). Otherwise you can continue on RH Dana Place (which becomes Ocean Blvd.) and park anywhere you can find a spot. The road ends at the gate to North Island Naval Air Station.
Coronado Community Park
Checking for offshore birds at Coronado Beach
To return to San Diego, continue north through Coronado and follow the signs to the Coronado Bay Bridge, which will take you to I-5.
Personal Checklist ●=small numbers █ = large numbers (10+)
Please keep in mind that these lists are NOT comprehensive, 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.
|American White Pelican||●||●||●||█|
|Great Blue Heron||●||●||●||●||●||●||●||●||●||●|
|Little Blue Heron||●||●||●||●||●|
|Black-crowned Night Heron||●||█||●|
|Northern Rough-winged Swallow||●||●||●|
|"Belding's" Savannah Sparrow||●||█||●||●||█||●||█||●||●||●||●|
|Large-billed Savannah Sparrow||●|
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