Load 1699 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach into your GPS map navigation program. Find a free parking space as near to the end as you can. Get out and walk the dike southward.
This dike/beach walk isn't really a scenic walk, and there aren't a lot of different species. However, it is a place to go to search for specific birds at specific times of the year. I recommend a scope to view seabirds and also to enlarge the shorebirds, terns, and egrets you may see at quite a distance on the Oneonta Slough and later at the Tijuana River mouth itself.
|The south end of Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach looking northward across Oneonta Slough. At the horizon on the right is the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge visitor center and start of the McCoy Trail--a site for another time.|
It is exactly 1 mile from the parking area to the river mouth. The first 1/2 mile is on this dike. It disappears and then the final 1/2 mile is on the beach sand.
From the dike look east along the slough for egrets and herons--Snowy Egrets are abundant; Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and Little Blue Herons are frequent; Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is a specialty and may be slightly more expected than Black-crowned Night-Heron here; and Reddish Egret is a regular rarity. Perhaps a Ridgway's Rail will venture out of the marsh vegetation for a moment or give its loud grunting series of calls.
You can see for yourself in the photo above that shorebirds would be difficult to identify along the slough with only binoculars (you must stay on the dike or beach). Willets, Long-billed Curlews, Marbled Godwits, Whimbrels, American Avocets, and Black-necked Stilts are identifiable, but you'll likely need a scope for smaller sandpipers and plovers.
Stop periodically to scan the ocean to the west for Surf Scoters or rarer kin. You may be able to see Brown Boobies from shore here though, again, a scope to look out 2-3 miles takes your vision out where it needs to be for these birds, and perhaps jaegers or shearwaters in fall.
You may hear Western Meadowlarks singing and there are Horned Larks on the dike and behind the foredune, such as it is. Look for Northern Harriers (they nest here) or other hawks, especially in winter, working the slough.
After the rocky dike dissolves into the beach you are at the sandy breeding grounds of Least Terns and Snowy Plovers. In summer the breeding area is roped off, but you can still walk around it. Both species breed here from April to July, but you may be able to find the Snowy Plovers on the adjacent beach all year. I've found this location to be the most reliable place to find Snowy Plovers in the county, but maybe I just don't know where else to look--others find them on many other beaches.
|Tijuana River mouth looking south toward Tijuana, Mexico on the hill.|
|Tijuana River mouth looking southwest toward Islas Coronados offshore.|
|Brown Pelicans and friends|