Saturday, August 5, 2017

Channel changes at the San Luis Rey River mouth

The above normal rains we had this winter and spring, after 5+ years of drought, brought a lot of water down the San Luis Rey River in northern San Diego County. I visited once in March and found the river bed full with water rushing into the sea. The former lush beds of cattails and great birding habitat were strewn northward on the beach for a half mile or more.

I visited recently, and the area has not recovered. I have not observed the wash-out of this lagoon before. Perhaps someone who has been around longer will remember how long it takes to recover. At this point it is my guess that winter storms and tides will again pile up beach sand and block the river mouth from reaching the ocean directly and the lagoon will reform. It may then be a couple of years before it reaches a state where it was these past few years. Or, perhaps it happens faster.

At any rate, silt and sand has replaced mud and cattails. Sand smothers the former food-rich river bottom. I do not believe birding will be good this winter for ducks. I don't think it will be good for migrant shorebirds and rails in spring or nesting Black-necked Stilts, Common Gallinules, and Least Bitterns next summer. I could be wrong. I hope I'm wrong. We'll have to keep checking back.

This location was my first birding site guide in San Diego County.

San Luis Rey River mouth
Fresh silt and sand temporarily replaced a healthy lagoon. July 28, 2017.
San Luis Rey River mouth
The San Luis Rey River is now flowing directly into the ocean. July 28, 2017.