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Why You Should Go Bird Watching In San Diego's Lagoons

The Batiquitos Lagoon and the Agua Hedionda Lagoon offer you a chance to see some of the 200 different bird species that visit them.

Shelley J. Beeby

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This mini-doc from the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation tells the story of the dredging process which removes sand and sediment buildup and deposits it on Ponto Beach or the sand is used to enhance two of the least tern areas.

San Diego is world-famous for its sunny beaches, serene coastal climate, and year-round idyllic weather. But it’s also home to numerous species of birds that frequent the local lagoons.

Batiquitos Lagoon
The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in San Diego nestled between the cities of Carlsbad and Encinitas. It is one of the last tidal wetlands along the southern California coastline, and it is protected by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as an ecological reserve. More than 180 different bird species have been spotted at the lagoon throughout different times of the year, including pelicans, herons, egrets, ducks and grebes.
Snowy Egret
At Batiquitos Lagoon, you may see birds like the Snowy Egret.

For self-guided tours throughout the Batiquitos Lagoon, a trail guide is available to download from the Nature Center’s websiteRed-winged blackbirds nest in the cattails close to the water and can be easily spotted on the walking trails during the early morning to late afternoon. On the sandy banks are special man-made nesting areas created for the endangered California Least Tern and the Western Snowy Plover.

To view the beautiful Great Blue Herons, Snowy and Great Egrets, look no further than the nearest Eucalyptus tree for their nests. Amazingly, these birds build their nests in trees, not on land. Sometimes lone herons or egrets can be spotted among the wooded areas close to the water.

Pie-Billed Grebe
At the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, you may see birds like the Pie-billed Grebe.

Agua Hedionda Lagoon
The Agua Hedionda Lagoon is another ecological reserve, with 400 lush acres that are home to hundreds of mammals and bird species. Among the native birds include the California Brown pelican, California towhee, Snowy EgretPie-billed Grebe and Red-tailed Hawk. Out of the 192 bird species identified at the lagoon, ducks are among the most common residents. The mallard is one of the most prominent species, with its trademark emerald head. Other ducks commonly found paddling on the lagoons include Redheads, Cinnamon TealsGadwalls and Ruddy ducks. Hiking trails designated by the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation provide excellent viewing for shorebirds. Prime viewing times for the waterfowl range from early morning until just before sunset (8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., depending on the season).

Out of the 192 bird species identified at the [Agua Hedionda Lagoon], ducks are among the most common residents.
For the adventurous (and nocturnal) bird watcher, waterfowl such as seagulls, pelicans and black-crested night herons are visible from the Oceanside Pier. Prime viewing times for the birds vary from around 8:00 p.m. until just before midnight. With the help of night-vision goggles, you can watch the elegant Black-crowned Night Herons bob on the ocean and dive for a nighttime snack. To get an idea of how long the herons can stay underwater, check your watch and time them to see when they come up for air. You’ll be amazed at how long the birds can remain submerged in the ocean! 

Where do you plan to go bird watching next? Check out our other birding hotspot locations:

Birding America: South Dakota Smorgasbord
Birding at Cape May's Northern Cousin
Birding in Nevada's Lahontan Valley
Georgia's Enchanted Birding Lands


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Posted: May 13, 2014, 12:45 p.m. PDT

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