Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

California - Part 2

Day 3 

St. Michael's Abbey

On Saturday we woke up early (again) and headed off to St. Michael's Abbey. Patrick had a camp there, and we went to pick him up. After mass, Aimee said we could wander about the Abbey's accessible paths while the awards ceremony took place. I already knew it would be a great place for birding. Before mass I had seen Cliff Swallows and Lesser Goldfinches. Past the parking lot we walked by a grove of trees and I spotted a family of Acorn Woodpeckers. However, when I tried to take a picture of them, I realized I had forgotten my memory card at Aimee's! No photos for me! All my camera was good for now was a birding optic! It was a shame too, here at St. Michael's, I found my lifers Nuttall's Woodpecker, Hooded Oriole, and Wrentit. Here is the checklist.

O'Neill Regional Park

After lunch, we decided to take a hike at O'Neill Regional Park, which is within walking distance of Aimee's neighborhood. O'Neill Regional Park is a fairly dry park. The habitat is mainly chaparral with lots of open areas covered in low shrubs, but it is also forested. There are a few creeks, and here is where all the insects congregate. Bees and wasps were drinking on the edge of the creek, and my lifers Vivid Dancer and Flame Skimmer were flying about. Marine Blue were also present. The birds at the park were mostly Lesser Goldfinches, Hummingbirds, and Acorn Woodpeckers, but Black Phoebe, House Finch, and White-throated Swift were around. I was seriously hoping to find a rattlesnake or a coyote, but none showed.

Typical habitat of O'Neill Regional Park
San Elijio Lagoon and Lake Mirimar

Our time in Orange County was over for now and Aimee took us to my Great Aunt Joan. Since San Diego and Orange County are relatively distant, we met in the middle near Camp Pendleton. On the way to San Diego, we stopped by San Elijio Lagoon in Encinitas for a little walk. There is a short nature loop that is very easy to walk and here we found California Towhee, Black-crowned Night Heron, Great and Snowy Egret, American Coot, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Cooper's Hawk, Mallard, and Bushtit. It was getting a bit chilly, being nearly 6 in the evening, but the walk was enjoyable.

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron 
After San Elijio, we drove to Scripps Ranch, where we decided to visit Lake Mirimar, which is a reservoir with a recreational park for running, biking, and fishing. Not a great spot for birding, but I did find my lifer Great-tailed Grackles here. I also found Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbirds, Mallards (domestic and wild), American Coots, and a ton of American Crow. American Crow are very populous in Southern California. It made me miss my Fish Crows.
Afterwards we wrapped up the day with dinner at Aunt Joan and Uncle Larry's restaurant, Pernicano's. We spent the night at Aunt Joan and Uncle Larry's house with their funny dog Maylee.

Day 4

After Sunday Mass, we were picked up by my Great Uncle Nils. We pretty considered our options and what we could do for the next few days as we ate lunch at Hometown Buffet. After doing nothing the rest of the day, Uncle Nils dropped Kyle and me off at our 2nd Cousin Tina's house in Mission Bay where we'd stay for two nights. Mission Bay is a pretty affluent area and Tina's house had a pretty nice view of the area and the Bay. I'd never stayed in a house so nice, and it was a great experience!
Tina took us to Belmont with her three kids and the neighbors after playing kickball and dinner. Call me crazy, but I had never before been to an amusement park or fair before (my excuse when asked is that I'd rather be birding), so Belmont too was a first for me. I'm not normally a big fan of roller coasters and that sort, but I ended up having a pretty good time.

Day 5

Waking up in Mission Bay is always a nice thing. From the window we had a great look at the Mission Bay area, with the bay water glimmering in the distance and an hour or two later, we were sitting on the shore of the bay laying in the sun or paddleboarding to the opposite shore. While we were in the area, we visited the Catamaran Resort and Spa where there were talking Macaws and exotic ducks. Sadly, all the drakes were in eclipse plumage, which means I wasn't able to see the glorious plumage of the Mandarin Duck.

La Jolla

Though Mission Bay was great, the highlight of Day 5 was definitely La Jolla. Tina's husband Todd took Kyle and me, as well as two of the kids, to the Children's Pool area. There they have a neat walkway that was built to act as a shield to the beach so the water would be suitable for children, hence the name. From the spot on the curb where we parked, I had a view of a rock island a few hundred feet out. Sitting on this island was nothing less and nothing more than my lifer Brandt's Cormorant.

Also visible from the spot were Western Gulls, Brown Pelicans, Black Phoebe, a little Ground Squirrel, and this view.

We walked down to the beach where I saw my first wild seals! A Harbor Seal pod was active in the Children's Pool and a few were even coming near the beach, probably finding a place to sleep for the night.
We reached the top of the walkway the hard way by climbing up from the beach (not recommended) and were nearly immediately sprayed by a wave. I hadn't noticed it from beach, but the waves on the side opposite the pool were crashing up pretty high.

This high to be exact.
Yes, I did manage to get my cameras slightly wet, but they are still working just as well as they had before. After walking and getting wet, we headed over to the other side of the beach and explored a while before going back to Tina's for the day.

I'll think I'll leave it at that for now. Part 3 coming soonish, so stay tuned.

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