Monday, February 12, 2007

San Diego -- Sunday

On the last day of the San Diego Bird Festival, I joined the Lake Hodges/winery field trip. We started our three-hour visit to San Dieguito River Park with dry skies, a Cooper's Hawk overhead, a calling Cassin's Kingbird across the street and a very cooperative California Towhee that posed on a rock for many minutes.

The trail took us by this sign for American Bird Conservancy 's Important Bird Area program before leading us to an area that yielded California Thrasher, Bewick's Wren and California Gnatcatcher. We heard the calling birds long before we spotted them.

The trail toward the lake led us past Bushtits, Anna's Hummingbirds, White-crowned Sparrows, a female Phainopepla, American Kestrel and Spotted Towhee. The latter gave us good, long looks at his dapper plumage.

The closer we got to the lake, the more overcast the sky became. As we enjoyed watching the Clark's and Western Grebes, the drizzle made a determined debut. That didn't stop us from noting the lake's avian decorations: Gadwall, Black Phoebe, Ruddy Duck and Double-crested Cormorant. At another point on the shore, we observed Tree Swallow, Yellow-rumped Warbler (flycatching amid reeds!) and Spotted Sandpiper.

A Loggerhead Shrike appeared at the top of a tree, while a Rock Wren later bobbed atop various rocks. One last search by leader Doug Nail yielded good looks at a Burrowing Owl among another rocky area.

By then, the drizzle had turned into rain, but that didn't stop us from visiting another side of the lake. That visit provided California Quail, Mallard, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Moorhen, Say's Phoebe and Wrentit.

We stopped at Orfila Winery, where a dazzling Mountain Bluebird flitted among the vines. The rain prevented us from eating in the garden, as planned, but we sampled wines in the tasting room ($6 for six tastes -- not bad) and got a kick out of the stuffed owl, which resembles nothing recognizable.

After eating lunch at Kit Carson Park and observing Western Bluebird, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Chipping Sparrow and American Pipit, we began birding at Sand Lake with its Ring-necked Ducks. After walking around the sculpture garden and through the Arroyo del Oro area, we saw Acorn Woodpeckers in the palm trees, Red-shouldered Hawks directly overhead and Lesser Goldfinches. The rain and drizzle finally let up, giving us a blue-sky finish to a fun outing.

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