Sighting birds on Tijuana Slough’s McCoy Trail.

The short, easy McCoy Trail at Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge is a fine place to sight birds. I found this out recently during my own quiet walk down the nature trail.

The McCoy Trail starts south of the Visitor Center on the north side of the Tijuana Slough, in Imperial Beach. I walked along the trail once before, back when I blogged about a guided nature walk that I enjoyed. But you don’t need a guide to appreciate the beauty of this protected wetland.

Spotting birds requires patience and searching eyes. There’s a lot of helicopter activity in the area from Naval Outlying Landing Field Imperial Beach, which might spook some birds.

If birds aren’t inside the lush green vegetation feeding or nesting, they’re out on the open water channels, usually as some distance from the trail. I found it best to sit on one of the McCoy Trail’s benches, relax, and let time and serendipity reveal the hidden life.

During this walk I saw several Snowy Egrets, a cormorant at a distance, and quick little birds flying shrub to shrub that I couldn’t identify. I also saw a brown pelican and great blue heron flying overhead.

Near the trail you’ll also observe prickly pear and cholla cacti, which might seem odd. The separation between wetland and very dry habitat can be sudden in our arid coastal region. It’s one reason for San Diego’s amazing biodiversity.

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National Wildlife Refuge Week in San Diego!

A very special event was held today at the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. National Wildlife Refuge Week was celebrated! And the public was freely invited!

I arrived around noontime and started down the refuge’s nature paths toward San Diego Bay.

At one station near a brackish wetland pond, a friendly ranger was inviting kids (and curious adults) to play Bird Bingo! How many wild birds could visitors spot? I saw a beautiful Snowy Egret.

At a second station, rangers were encouraging people to dip a net into the nearby water. Netted plankton was then observed under magnification!

The event was a fun opportunity to learn about the value of wildlife refuges, where animal and plant life–some of which is endangered–can thrive undisturbed. And where we humans can reconnect with nature, absorbing all that goodness that awaits us in wild places.

San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge consists of the Sweetwater Marsh and South San Diego Bay Units, preserving coastal salt marsh and intertidal mudflat habitat.

What’s in here?

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Living Coast Discovery Center, SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife are working together on a captive propagation program to rear the endangered light-footed Ridgway’s rail…

I checked out the Bird Bingo first.

A Snowy Egret hunts for food in the pond.

Now heading through the wildlife refuge toward the Plankton Netting activity. I see downtown San Diego in the distance.

A curious kid was netting microscopic specimens.

At the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge today, there was much to experience and learn!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Red-tailed hawks and fog in Balboa Park.

This morning I walked from downtown San Diego to Balboa Park, hoping to capture some interesting fog photographs.

As it turned out, most of my photos were of red-tailed hawks!

I observed three of them from the Cabrillo Bridge.

Anyone who walks into Balboa Park from the west side should keep their eyes peeled for hawks. They like to perch in the trees above the archery range or the slope of the West Mesa overlooking State Route 163.

I often hear the distinctive cry of red-tailed hawks near the eucalyptus trees west of the California Tower. Once or twice in the past I’ve seen them perched on the tower!

I managed to get a few decent photos with my little camera. You can see two hawks in the final image!

From the Cabrillo Bridge I also took a photograph of foggy downtown San Diego in the distance.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Quiet beauty at Maxton Brown Park in Carlsbad.

A small but very beautiful public park can be enjoyed in Carlsbad at the corner of Laguna Drive and State Street.

Maxton Brown Park is a quiet place. One can sit on a bench to read a book or gaze out at Buena Vista Lagoon.

During my recent walk in Carlsbad I rested on one bench that had a view of the lagoon. It was very peaceful.

I then briefly explored the park and found several memorial plaques that honor loved ones.

Here are a few photos…

The above plaque overlooking the lagoon reads:

LT. MAXTON BROWN PARK

515th SQDN

MARCH 5, 1915 – JULY 8, 1943

BUENA VISTA LAGOON CONSERVATOR

AMERICAN LEGION POST 146 MARCH 5, 1976

I did a little searching on the internet and learned that during World War II, on July 8, 1943, 2nd Lieutenant Maxton Brown of Carlsbad was downed over Sicily. He flew with the 515th Bomb Squadron.

The Buena Vista Lagoon is home of the Maxton Brown Bird Sanctuary. According to this page of the Carlsbad Historical Society, prior to the war Maxton “spent many hours at the lagoon sighting and recording over 150 species of birds.”

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A hike near the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center.

A beautiful, very easy nature hike can be enjoyed at the south end of Oceanside near the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center. The quarter mile hike follows a quiet looping trail with views of the Buena Vista Lagoon Ecological Reserve.

Yesterday I walked the trail and took these photographs.

The Buena Vista Audubon Society runs the Nature Center, which is located at 2202 South Coast Highway. The trail begins and ends a few steps from the building’s front entrance, directly across the driveway.

The Buena Vista Audubon Society engages the community and local students by offering nature education and various birding opportunities. They are also active in working to protect and restore wetlands and other environmentally sensitive land. You can learn more about their mission at this web page.

The Nature Center was closed when I happened by, but the trail was wide open and inviting on a sunny July day.

Here and there through dense bulrushes, or at viewing platforms, one can see the placid lagoon, and birds floating in the water or taking flight. Not only does local wildlife depend on this important natural habitat, but Buena Vista Lagoon is used by thousands of migrating birds that follow the Pacific Flyway.

One section of the hike was on a wood plank boardwalk over shallow water, then the trail turned toward dry land where I saw majestic trees, including sycamores, cottonwoods, and even a few Torrey pines.

During my walk I happened to meet Buena Vista Audubon Society’s Executive Director Natalie Shapiro. Before I began my hike, I observed her picking up trash along the Coast Highway, where it crosses the lagoon. Then I saw her again on the trail! She asked if I’d like to volunteer! Volunteers are always greatly appreciated!

She was super friendly and explained to me the difference between bulrushes and cattails, which I tend to confuse. At the margins of the lagoon, the plant community includes both of these, not to mention pickleweed and saltgrass.

Since the 1940s, Buena Vista Lagoon has been sealed off from natural tidal fluctations, and it has consequently become a stagnant fresh-water system. But there are now plans to open the lagoon to the ocean, creating a more healthy wetland.

If you’d like to enjoy this very easy, educational nature hike, head to Oceanside. And plan to visit when the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center is open! I need to do that, too!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

How to create a wildlife-friendly backyard!

I saw this great information on how to create a wildlife-friendly backyard and thought I’d share it! These four ideas were posted in a trailhead kiosk at Mission Trail Regional Park.

  1. Grow plants that provide wildlife with a natural food source such as nuts, berries or nectar, or add backyard feeders.
  2. Provide water for wildlife with a birdbath, small pond or shallow dish.
  3. Offer protective cover for wildlife by providing ground cover, a hollow log or rock piles, dense shrubs or a roosting box.
  4. Provide places for wildlife to raise their young, such as a water garden, pond or nesting box.

If you’d like to watch the birds and animals without them being spooked, or perhaps take close-up photographs, consider building a blind from which you can watch your wild visitors!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

River ducks arrive, greet, depart!

These events were recorded in Mission Valley this morning. I watched from the middle of the pedestrian bridge that spans the San Diego River by the Fashion Valley Transit Center.

Two ducks splashed down. They exchanged quack-greetings with a duck that floated nearby. The single duck launched itself from the water. Contented ducks swam happily along….

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Nesting cormorants above La Jolla Cove!

It must be breeding season already, because hundreds of Brandt’s cormorants are showing their blue throat patches and building nests on the cliffs above La Jolla Cove!

Today I stood and watched peculiar bird behaviors from the roadside above the cliffs. I saw amorous flirtations and angry squabbles and seaweed tug-of-wars. Cormorants in nests would occasionally angle their heads and wings way back, staring straight up. I’m not sure if that’s a natural behavior, or if they were merely gaping at all the tourists above them!

I tried to select my best photographs. In some the cormorants appear very beautiful; in others a bit strange and primitive–almost monstrous.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

The many birds of Famosa Slough.

Yesterday I headed to Point Loma to walk by Famosa Slough, a protected wetland I have driven past on many occasions. This was my first time walking the trails of the slough south of West Point Loma Boulevard, and along the channel that runs north toward Interstate 8 and the San Diego River.

The more I walked along the water and natural vegetation of the Famosa Slough State Marine Conservation Area, the more birds I saw! There were bright white egrets, and gulls and cormorants and ducks and various shorebirds. As you’ll see in one photo, I also spotted an osprey!

My photographs begin beside the slough that motorists see from West Point Loma Boulevard, then I crossed the street and followed a dirt pathway north up the channel to the end of the path.

Famosa Slough is part of a statewide network of Marine Protected Areas. It includes open shallow water, riparian habitat, wetland upland transition habitats, and four treatment basins to protect water quality.

Here is where I crossed over West Point Loma Boulevard. First I checked out the following information signs near the path up the Famosa Channel.

Birds one can see at Famosa Slough include the great egret, American wigeon, black-necked stilt, snowy egret, little blue heron, California brown pelican, and blue-winged teal.
Famosa Slough is a 37-acre coastal wetland owned by the City of San Diego and cared for by the Friends of Famosa Slough. It is home to many rare and endangered local and migratory bird species.
Looking north up the channel through the remains of an old bridge.
A kiosk. I couldn’t read the weathered words, but enjoyed the image of two gulls.
Heading up the dirt path.
I could see many birds in the distance.
A snowy egret.
A nice bench for resting and birdwatching.
An osprey soars high overhead!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Birds in feeding frenzy at Tuna Harbor!

The birds of Tuna Harbor gobbled up a delectable meal this morning!

Pelicans, egrets, cormorants and other feathered diners pursued a school of small fish as it moved back and forth next to the shoreline.

I stood on the boardwalk above the rocks for several minutes and photographed the feeding frenzy!

The birds were so intent on breakfast they didn’t seem to mind my presence.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!