|San Elijo Lagoon, California. High tide: From N Rios Ave looking north |
across the lagoon to the Nature Center on the other side.
South side: N Rios Avenue, Solana Beach
Getting there: Solana Beach is 25 miles north of downtown San Diego on Interstate 5. Exit I-5 at Lomas Santa Fe Dr and follow it west almost 1 mile. Turn right (north) on N Rios Ave and take it 1 mile to the end. Parking: There is free street parking here. Hours: Dawn to dusk. Map navigation: 899 N Rios Ave, Solana Beach, CA 92075.
North side: San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center, Encinitas (Cardiff-by-the-Sea)
Getting there: Take I-5 North (as above) and exit 1 mile farther north on Manchester Avenue. Loop around and under I-5 to the west about a mile to the Nature Center. Parking: Free parking lot at the Nature Center. Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. For earlier arrival, if you drive up over the rounded curb, perhaps 3 cars can park on the shoulder of Manchester Ave near the entrance. Map navigation: San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center, 2710 Manchester Avenue, Encinitas, CA 92007
N Rios Ave
Where to bird: From the street parking at the end of N Rios Ave ("A" on the map above) there are two ways to go. You probably want to bird both ways, but which one first depends upon you. This is a popular place for joggers and dog walkers. Perhaps you want to bird near the water first, before foot traffic moves water birds out away from the edges.
The trail down the hill to the west has a spur out into the marsh ("B" (dead center on top photo)). This is a favorite location for Belding's Savannah Sparrows and Marsh Wrens. This is where I discovered a Nelson's Sparrow during an extreme high tide on January 1, 2014.
The trail continues below the residential area (Allen's Hummingbirds on the hillside) where there are cattails and duck ponds. Listen for Sora and Clapper Rails here. After the pump station the trail parallels a ditch below the commuter rail tracks and out past some pond scrapes ("C"). These scrapes are excellent for shorebirds when they have water. The edge of the marsh here is also good for larger shorebirds and herons, depending upon tidal stage. You can walk farther, if birds are present. Otherwise these ponds ("C") are a good place to turn back. Be sure to check the winter sparrow flocks here.
Back at the parking area ("A") again you may wish to shed your early morning jacket and rehydrate for the next portion. There is great birding at the parking area on the bluff overlooking the lagoon. The residential area will have Hooded Orioles spring through fall. There are many trees below the parking area that usually has good bird activity.
|N Rios Ave trailhead looking east toward I-5.|
|South side of Lagoon looking toward the ocean. The N Rios Rd |
trailhead is left of the houses 1/2 mile distant.
Where to bird: From the Nature Center parking lot ("E" on map above) walk the loop trails. I'd walk the entire perimeter, then cut through the middle and back to the nature center walking on the marsh side again--about 1 mile total.
The trail through the willow tangles and woods should be really good for migrant birds, but I have yet to really hit a fallout here. American Goldfinches and Downy Woodpeckers reach the southern edge of their range here. Sometimes you get a closer view of some waterbirds. Frankly, if you bird N Rios Ave, you can probably safely skip this portion. Probably. But I think the habitat here has the potential for some really good finds--better than what I've found so far. Although I did find Prothonotary Warbler at the entrance one morning in late October.
|The Nature Center trail leads through a small grove of endangered Torrey Pines.|
|Marlene and Cosette ("Cosi") come along for a walk on the Nature Center trail.|
San Elijo Lagoon--Nature Center Loop 175 species
San Elijo Lagoon--Rios Ave entrance 189 species
San Elijo Lagoon--west (combined above areas and beach) 222 species