Tuesday, April 26, 2016

San Dieguito River Park -- Coast to Crest Trail

I often do quite a bit of "hiking" on my birding outings. But I don't care to walk far at a time. Even if I total 5 miles in a day, I only care to do about a mile at a time. The biggest hike I routinely do is around the Bernardo Bay end of Lake Hodges--about a 3 mile loop. But even calling these a "stroll" is being very generous, as I meander very slowly as I stop, and sometimes backtrack, to watch birds and take photos.

Recently I hiked portions of the Coast to Crest Trail in the San Pasqual Valley southeast of Escondido. One 10-mile long trail section starts just off Interstate 15 at the northeast corner of Lake Hodges near Kit Carson Park and ends at the intersection of State Route 78 and Bandy Canyon Road not too far east of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Coast to Crest Trail Pasqual Valley
A) Ysabel Creek Rd Staging Area. B) Old Coach Trail Parking Lot.
Rather than hike the whole trail, I selected the middle two parking access points. First I started at the Ysabel Creek Road Staging Area (A on the map) and hiked east about 3/4 of a mile to a bridge over the Santa Maria Creek. After returning to my vehicle I drove to the Old Coach Trail Parking Lot (B on the map) and caught a short linking trail where I walked north about a mile toward (but not reaching) Raptor Ridge.

Driving directions to Old Coach Trail Parking Lot from Hwy 78 and Interstate 15 intersection in Escondido: south on I-15 for 5.9 miles, exit W Bernardo Dr/Pomerado Rd, Right on Pomerado Rd 0.4 miles, left on Highland Valley Rd 2.4 miles to Trailhead parking.

Driving directions to Ysabel Creek Road Staging Area from Old Coach Trail Parking Lot: north on Highland Valley Rd 1.7 miles, left on Bandy Canyon Rd 1.7 miles to Ysabel Creek Rd, left on Ysabel Creek Rd and immediately right into parking area.

San Dieguito River Park: Coast to Crest Trail
Trail sign at Ysabel Creek Road Staging Area.
San Dieguito River Park: Coast to Crest Trail
View east at start of trail at Ysabel Creek Road.
San Dieguito River Park: Coast to Crest Trail
View south at start of trail at Ysabel Creek Road.
San Dieguito River Park: Coast to Crest Trail
View north at start of trail at Ysabel Creek Road.
The trail hugs the riparian zone. Generally, in this area, one side of the trail is willow thickets or farmlands and the other side is dryer chaparral or coastal sage scrub.

These trails aren't birded very often, mostly the spring and winter. (eBird checklist here)

You may see or hear Bell's Vireos, April-June, though I seem to be the only one to have recorded them. Cattle Egrets fly up and down the valley and visit the dairy farms (they nest at the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park). Watch for the rare Zone-tailed Hawk, most of which are spotted in winter at the Wild Animal Park across the valley. Cactus Wrens are resident in the thicker prickly pear patches on the drier edges of the valley. You might hear Yellow-breasted Chats in late spring and summer. Blue Grosbeaks have been reported, but not frequently. They may arrive in later spring when there are fewer birding visitors.

San Dieguito River Park: Coast to Crest Trail
Prickly pear cactus just east of Ysabel Creek Road parking area.
Frankly, however, it's more of an enjoyable walk than it is a must-bird location. Nevertheless, my spring bird walk has provided several good bird photos that I've been able to share recently.