Sunday, May 15, 2016

Birding Site Guide: Kit Carson Park

See September 2017 update at the page bottom.

Kit Carson Park is on the southern edge of Escondido, 30 miles north of downtown San Diego on Interstate 15 (or, "The 15" as Californians refer to their freeways).

Map Kit Carson Park, Escondido

Getting there: From I-15 take Exit 27 and go east on E Via Rancho Pkwy. In 0.2 miles this road becomes Bear Valley Pkwy and bends to the north. Another 0.2 miles or less and turn left on Casteneda Drive, which is the entrance to Kit Carson Park. Parking: FREE throughout the park. See map below. Hours: Dawn to dusk. Map navigation: 3333 Bear Valley Pkwy, Escondido, CA 92025

Map Kit Carson Park, Escondido

Where to bird: You may walk the 1 mile loop in either direction. For the purposes of this guide, park in the northern lot just off Entrance Drive (northernmost of the 3 "P" marks on the map). You may have ACORN WOODPECKERS right there in the parking lot.

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker. Kit Carson Park, Escondido. April 10, 2016. Greg Gillson.
Walk across the street to the west to the main duck pond ("A") (named "Sand Lake"). AMERICAN WIGEON, RUDDY DUCK, RING-NECKED DUCK are regular in winter. WOOD DUCKS are occasional. CLIFF, TREE, and NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS are the primary swallows here.

You can follow trails or Casteneda Drive through the park to the north and off the map about 1/8 mile alongside the frizbee-golf course and a usually-dry creek bed. HOODED ORIOLES are regular and more ACORN WOODPECKERS frequent the trees.

Kit Carson Park
Sand Lake (A on map)
Ring-necked Duck. Kit Carson Park, Escondido. April 10, 2016. Greg Gillson.
A weedy area of "habitat restoration" ("B") will have LESSER GOLDFINCHES and, in late spring, YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS.

Kit Carson Park
Weedy area (B on map)
Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-breasted Chat. Kit Carson Park, Escondido. April 10, 2016. Greg Gillson.
tall yellow flower

A thick riparian zone ("C") is best in spring for Neotropical migrants such as ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, YELLOW WARBLER, WARBLING VIREO, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHERS, COMMON YELLOWTHROATS and more.

Head north from "C" and off the map along the riparian zone up to 1/4 mile. LESSER GOLDFINCHES, SONG SPARROWS, both SPOTTED and CALIFORNIA TOWHEES, and HOUSE WRENS are abundant. There is some scrub habitat up the hill to the east that has CALIFORNIA THRASHER, WRENTIT, and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS in summer.

Continue on to a drier upland and residential edge portion of the trail before following the edge high above Beethoven Drive and another thick riparian section ("D"). I keep expecting to hear rails in here, but did find a pair of BELL'S VIREOS on my last two visits. Migrant WESTERN TANAGERS may be in the tall eucalyptus trees.

The little cattail encircled pond ("E") is always good for BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS. The pampas grass tufts seem a favorite of the SCALY-BREASTED MUNIA, recently added to the ABA checklist as an established exotic. This is another good spot for migrant warblers.

Kit Carson Park
Cattail pond and pampas grass (E on map)
Black-crowned Night-Heron. Kit Carson Park, Escondido. April 10, 2016. Greg Gillson.
Scaly-breasted Munia. Kit Carson Park, Escondido. April 10, 2016. Greg Gillson.
As you walk the picnic areas back toward your vehicle watch for flycatchers: BLACK PHOEBES, CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS, and PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHERS.

Kit Carson Park
Picnic areas
If you are interested, here are a few of my eBird lists from Kit Carson Park...

February 2, 2014

April 10, 2016

May 8, 2016

September 8, 2017

October 23, 2016

UPDATE: September 9, 2017

eBird added a tracking function recently, so I wanted to add the map of my actual birding track from yesterday morning. This is the "full route" of my preferred birding of this area.


This is basically the same route as explained in the original, but notice I first headed northeast along the edge of a Frisbee-golf area (1 on the map). The edge of the trees I search in spring and fall for warblers and other migrants. Then I go on to Sand Lake (A on the map). A loop along another tree-lined dry creek and up to an orchard (2 on the map) also provides a chance to search for migrants. The rest of the route is the same. The woods (C on the map) provides another area of songbirds. By this time I've used up most of my birding time, and hurry around the trails to the little pond (E on the map). Note that my recent visit was 2 hours and 20 minutes, and covered 3 miles with the side loops and backtracking inherent in birding.