Saturday, February 10, 2007

San Diego -- Saturday

Saturday’s kayaking field trip for the San Diego Bird Festival started at the leisurely time of 8:30 a.m. Aaahhh. The jaunt to Pepper Park in National City went by quickly, and the 11 participants met Jim Peugh and Ted Godshalk in the park’s parking lot. After a lesson in paddling techniques and some pointers, we carried the kayaks to the bottom of the ramp, settled ourselves into the crafts and received a push into the water. Whee!

Kayaking offers a really neat perspective for birding. I enjoyed being closer to the birds, and it seemed like our presence on the water didn’t disconcert the birds overly much. We quickly encountered Snowy Egret, Osprey, Double-crested Cormorant, Surf Scoter and couple rather vocal Belted Kingfishers.

A Green Heron looked beautiful on the rocks, and a mixed flock of Willets and Marbled Godwits almost camouflaged the lone Whimbrel in the background. A few Dunlin appeared amid other Willets, and another flock of WILL and MAGO dispersed and revealed a lone Long-billed Curlew on the mud.

A Northern Harrier soared overhead, while American Wigeon and Cinnamon Teal later decorated the water. A Great Blue Heron lifted off with some cranky-sounding calls, and flocks of feeding Least and Western Sandpipers and Marbled Godwits continually appeared on the shore.

We hit some rough spots where the low tide made it really difficult to make progress, and I had to imitate an inchworm in my attempts to move the kayak over mud and eelgrass. Oh, and I *highly* recommend wearing rain pants; by design, water fills the bottom of the kayak, and your lower half will get wet and perhaps a little muddy. A wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen will add to your comfort.

The final leg took us into the bay, where we saw Pied-billed Grebe, Brant, Bufflehead and Surf Scoter. A little breeze and some waves created more of a challenge and an invigorating finish to my first experience with birding by kayak. I definitely want to do it again!


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