Friday, January 3, 2014

Birding Site Guide: San Luis Rey River Mouth, Oceanside

Mouth of San Luis Rey River at dawn. January 1, 2014. Greg Gillson
Habitat update: August 2017

The ocean builds a sandbar that usually blocks up the mouth of the San Luis Rey River. In the small lagoon formed gulls, shorebirds, ducks, and herons gather. It's not much, but sometimes unusual gulls may be found there in winter.

Getting there: Oceanside is about 40 miles north of downtown San Diego on I-5. When on the north side of Oceanside, take Exit 54-C for Oceanside Harbor Drive. This gets you directly onto Harbor Drive. Follow Harbor Drive west and then south to the harbor. Parking: Directly across from the harbor and Joe's Crab Shack (reputedly the best seafood around) turn left (east) through a tunnel under the railroad tracks into a free public parking lot. Map navigation: N Pacific St & Harbor Dr, Oceanside, CA 92054.

San Diego birding site guide

Where to bird: From the parking lot (1, on above map) walk west on Harbor Drive to the river mouth (2) observing birds in the channel. You may also wish to walk the beach north to examine and gulls, terns, or shorebirds. The jetty here may have some shorebirds--it's worth a shot. There is another jetty down the sand spit at the mouth of the harbor. This sand spit includes a pay ($) parking lot. When done here walk across the bridge (N Pacific St) and follow the San Luis Rey River Trail for a ways east along the south shore of the river. There is a storm water catch basin (3) along this trail that may attract smaller songbirds.

I spent an hour here at dawn (6:45 am) on January 1, 2014 and recorded 39 species. Highlights were a stake-out Glaucous Gull, several Mew Gulls, 2 Herring Gulls, and 1 Glaucous-winged Gull in the river mouth. Near the catch basin was a Wilson's Warbler and a White-throated Sparrow. My eBird checklist.

142 species are recorded in eBird for this location. Interestingly, it doesn't get birded very regularly, mostly only fall and winter (no doubt by local birders looking for rare shorebirds and gulls). View the eBird bar chart.

Glaucous Gull
Glaucous Gull. San Luis Rey River mouth, Oceanside, California. January 1, 2014. Greg Gillson.

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