Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tijuana River reserve is bird wonderland

Call it San Diego’s ultimate backyard for bird-watching, and for Winand Hess, it’s just a wing beat from his door. 

Officially, it’s known as the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, but for Hess it’s a 2,500-acre wild bird wonderland where nearly 400 species can be found. He spends countless hours here and loves to share it with others as the leader of bird walks at 3 p.m. on the first, third and fifth Sunday every month.
The reserve is jointly managed by federal and state agencies, but the common mission is to protect some of the last remaining coastal wetlands and the unique species of wildlife found here.
For the public, the reserve offers a visitor center, miles of hiking trails and an opportunity to observe native bird species as well as the many migratory birds that move along the Pacific Flyway twice a year.
Five endangered and two threatened bird species call the estuary home, including the California least tern, light-footed clapper rail, brown pelican, least Bell’s vireo, Belding’s Savannah sparrow, western snowy plover and California gnatcatcher.
The various habitats found here, including dunes, salt marshes, mud flats, coastal sage and vernal pools also provide a place for more common species of interesting shorebirds, gulls, and feathered migratory travelers.
Hess, a biologist by training, is a native of Germany. He’s always had a fascination with birds and nature, and when he saw a poster asking for volunteers, he became a docent for the reserve.
A hike with Hess is more than just a show and tell. His curiosity and love of nature come across as he stimulates the visitor by teaching them to see and to connect nature’s dots.
When asked about a typical bird walk, he said they are never typical.
“There is always a surprise, and something to learn on every hike,” he said.
September is one of the peak months at the reserve because of the combination of lingering species and those newly arrived travelers heading south on their fall migratory journey.
“People come here from all over the world to see our rare clapper rails or the Belding’s Savannah sparrow, but once the fall migration begins, there is so much more to see here,” Hess said.
On a recent walk along the northern McCoy Trail from the visitor center, visitors spotted clapper rail chicks and adults feeding in the marsh grass, the elegant long-billed curlew resting near a viewpoint and Say’s Phoebes darting about in the coastal sage. At the edge of a tidal inlet a yellow-crowned night heron moved in slow motion as it searched for food.
Along the coastal dunes, snowy plovers and terns can be seen during breeding season as flights of brown pelicans drift overhead. Sand pipers, egrets, black skimmers and grebes are also a delight to be spotted by bird-watchers.
In addition to the monthly bird walks, there are weekend nature walks, a junior ranger program, and a free lecture series. Call the visitor center for schedules at (619) 575-3614. The visitor center is located at 301 Caspian Way, Imperial Beach.
For those bird-watchers who want exposure to the many unique and interesting shorebirds, waterfowl and coastal sage species found here, a visit to the Tijuana Estuary offers great exposure to a wide variety of birds.
Hess offers this bit of advice: Afternoons are better as the birds begin to actively feed before dark. Low tide is also a better time because more forage area is available for feeding shorebirds.
San Diego County has 505 identified bird species, so with nearly 400 found at the reserve, it does deserve the title as the ultimate birders’ backyard.

About the reserve

In addition to bird walks on the first, third and fifth Sundays each month, the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve also has weekend nature walks, a junior ranger program, and a free lecture series.
Call the visitor center for schedules at (619) 575-3614. The visitor center is located at 301 Caspian Way, Imperial Beach

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank You for your comment.