California Dreamin – August 21st – 30th

Just like the Beverly Hillbillies, if I wanted to increase my life birds, Californy was the place I had to be.

There were a possible 40 life birds, many of which are only seen on pelagic boat trips, in California.

Sue couldn’t be away from work in early September so we decided travel to San Diego for the last 10 days of August.  We stayed in the heart of Little Italy  at the La Pensione Hotel for 5 days and traveled up to Ventura for our trip to the Channel Islands for the Island Scrub Jay  and Dana Point for our trip to Catalina Island for the Spotted Dove (more on these trips later)


One of the reasons we both liked San Diego, was the usually moderate temperatures.  On this trip though, we were in for a big surprise, temperatures were in the mid to high 90’s, for most of the trip, meaning finding shade and drinking plenty of water, was a must.

The airport and car rental was easy and we were soon on our way but knew it was a little early to get into our hotel room.  We decided to take a trip south to the Tijuana River/Border State Park area to kill some time.

Plenty of photo opportunities but none of the birds I was looking for.

Light-footed Ridgway Rail (levipes)


Forster’s Tern


Heerman’s Gull


Marbled Godwit


Queen Butterfly


Song Sparrow (heermani)






Yellow-crowned Night-Heron


As the light began to fade it was time to get back to the hotel for a great italian meal at a spot we ate at 3 times during our visit.  The Gnocchi Bolognese was to die for.  If your ever in San Diego check out the Trattoria Fantastica, you won’t be disappointed.


We got up the next morning, walked over to one of the numerous coffee shops in the area for coffee and biscotti, great way to wake up.

It being Saturday morning we weren’t in any rush to beat the traffic.  We took our time getting over to Lake Murray, a good spot for California Gnatcatcher.  On arrival we realized we weren’t the only people, out early to beat the heat.  There were joggers, walkers, dogs, strollers, bikers and a few birders using this recreation area.  The temperature was already in the high 80’s by 8:00 am and I saw very few birds until about a mile up the path, my eye caught movement in the brush.  It was my first decent look at a California Gnatcatcher.

California Gnatchatcher – Life Bird #698



It was getting near 10 am and the temp was hovering in the low 90’s and we turned around for the car.  On the walk back, I saw a small flock of Scaly-breasted Munia’s, they were on the move and I had no chance for a photo.

NOTE:  I had seen Munia’s in Florida earlier in the year but as yet they are not countable in the ABA, where California birds are.

Scaly-breasted Munia – Life Bird #699


We finished up the morning at the Tecolote Nature Center located at 5180 Tecolote Road, a lovely place to bird.  Wrentit, California Thrasher and Munia’s were common.  Pay close attention when walking along the trail, to the homes along the north side of the trail, many have feeders.



California Thrasher




A quick stop for lunch and we headed over to the San Diego Zoo.  In my opinion this is the best zoo in the world, just for the shear number and variety of animals, birds and reptiles  housed here.  Below are some of my better images from the day.

Bonobo Chimp


Indian Elephant










What a full day!  Thanks Sue.  We headed back to Little Italy to meet up with good friend Dan Brown and you guessed it, more great food.

Tomorrow would be a long day for Dan and I, up early, 10 hours on a boat looking for seabirds….Ciao for now





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2 Responses to California Dreamin – August 21st – 30th

  1. Dan Brown says:

    Very nice, Paul! Can’t wait for more! BTW, I got my hands on the new Nikon 200-500 and it is proving to be a great lens, especially for $1400 US!! dan b.

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