Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Birding Site Guide: Mesquite Bosque and Borrego Springs WTP

Mesquite Bosque, Borrego Srpings, California
The Mesquite Bosque at the end of Yaqui Pass Rd, Borrego Springs, California. December 25, 2014. Greg Gillson.
Previously, I wrote a birding site guide to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center. Here is another nearby area for desert birds.

Borrego Springs birding map
Borrego Springs birding map.
Mesquite Bosque

The birding location known as the Mesquite Bosque is in the Borrego Sink. It is easily reached from the end of Yaqui Pass Rd in Borrego Springs.

Honey Mesquite trees used to flourish here in this low area where infrequent rains brought water. Most are dead now, a result of a lowered water table. Nevertheless, what trees remain are especially attractive to desert birds such as Gambel's Quail (or hybrids with California Quail), White-winged Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Costa's Hummingbird, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Verdin, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Crissal Thrasher, Phainopepla, Lucy's Warbler, and Black-throated Sparrow.

Getting there: From San Diego take I-8 east to Descanso Exit (Hwy 79) through Cuyamaca State Park to Julian and then right on Hwy 78 and left on S3 (Yaqui Pass Rd) following the signs to Borrego Springs. Total time is just under 2 hours; distance about 88 miles. The Mesquite Bosque is at the very end of Yaqui Pass Rd.

Parking: Park (FREE) in the dirt at the very end of Yaqui Pass Rd. Hours: Dawn to just after sunrise is best, especially in spring, as temperatures rise fast. Once the sun is up and heat rises, the birds stop singing and hide in the shade. Map navigation: Approximately 3300 Yaqui Pass Rd, Borrego Springs, California.

Where to bird: From the end of Yaqui Pass Rd, walk the dirt track "road" that starts west and then immediately turns NE about 1/2 mile to an abandoned cabin. From there follow the dirt road another 1/2 mile East to the densest part of the woodland. Here, somewhere, is an abandoned yellow van that is in the best birding spot. It often requires going this far to see Crissal Thrashers and Lucy's Warblers, March through May. The other desert birds listed 3 paragraphs above may be found more easily, and are more widespread into other dry habitats, including the creosote/ocotillo/cholla desert.

Borrego Springs Waste Treatment Ponds

The wet grassy "ponds" may attract sparrows in winter, and thirsty migrants in spring and fall. Look for Common Yellowthroats, Black Phoebes, Northern Mockingbirds, and Marsh Wrens. Hybrid Gambel's x California Quail are regulars here. Otherwise, some desert scrub may have the common birds found in the Mesquite Bosque nearby. Shorebirds are possible, as are vagrants.

Getting there: Back at the intersection of Yaqui Pass Rd and Borrego Springs Rd, turn SE on Borrego Springs Rd and go about a mile. You are looking for a dip through a wash (dry creek bed) and the unmarked dirt road leading off to the left (north). It is at the 2nd set of power lines heading north. I knew about where it was the last time I visited but still drove past the inconspicuous road twice before finding it. The sandy dirt road then leads about a mile to the waste treatment ponds. Note: This is NOT the sewage treatment plant that is only 1/2 mile from the intersection of Yaqui Pass Rd and Borrego Springs Rd. Map navigation: Approximately 4990 Borrego Springs Rd, Borrego Springs, California.

Parking: Park (FREE) near the waste treatment ponds.

Where to bird: Walk the road around the ponds and more widely through the mesquite trees and desert nearby.

Cautions: You may find quail or dove hunters here at dawn, in season. The dirt roads may be impassible to passenger cars after a rain. Exercise caution, and stay on the packed road surface, and don't get off into the loose sand.