Saturday, December 11, 2010

Birding Lake Elsinore

Gil and I joined our local bird expert, Julie Szabo, and the Palomar Audubon Society today for a birding trip around the levee and wetlands of Lake Elsinore. You couldn't ask for more perfect weather: sunny, only mildly breezy, and up in the 70s by late morning. I was surprised to see so many people gathered in the parking lot at Diamond Stadium near the levee entrance when we arrived this morning at 8:30am - all unmistakably birders, btw, with their binocs, spotting scopes, cameras, and a few sporting those tell-tale multi-pocketed vests.

Our local paper did make note of this outing, about a week prior: 

12/11/10 Amazing fall colors of willows, Cottonwoods, and other vegetation along the banks of the levee.

I never knew this place existed, and am so glad we came today. We drive by Elsinore every weekday on our way to and from work on the I-15, and the only time we actually go into town is to shop at their Costco, which is much less crowded than the one in Temecula. Now we have another great reason to come out here, and I really must thank Julie Szabo, whom we met at Dick Cronberg's bird ID class at the Santa Rosa Plateau a few weeks ago, for the advance notice on this trip. Thanks, Julie! And, she was also an excellent guide on our trek today.

A jumble of Northern Shovelers, Gadwalls, Black-necked Stilts, and American Coots.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) on the bank of the levee. How cool is that? The last time we saw a Peregrine Falcon was in 2005 in Morro Bay, nesting on the upper fringes of Morro Rock. 

A few factoids on Lake Elsinore: This 3,000-acre lake is the largest natural lake in Southern California. The trail along the levee is 3 miles long, pooch-friendly, and offers great wildlife viewing. The levee is usually closed to vehicular traffic, but our caravan of birders had special permission to drive through today.

Kinda hard to see, but this little guy is an American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). 

Western Grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis). There were large numbers of Western Grebes, along with some Clark's Grebes (Aechmophorus clarkii) in the waters today. 

Western Grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis).

Great Egrets, a Snowy Egret (3rd from the left), and a couple of Great Blue Herons in the mix.

Great Egret (Ardea alba).

American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) and Double-Crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus). 

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus).

Mostly Ring-Billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis).

Ring-Billed Gulls in the foreground and American White Pelicans in the backdrop.

A coyote on the water's edge, I'm sure looking for some good eats amongst the plethora of waterfowl. We watched him for awhile as he treaded carefully into the water for a short distance and then backtracked, probably not too inclined to get his feet wet. 

Another shot of the coyote.

American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) in flight.

American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos).

American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos).

Male Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon). Wetlands area.

Male Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon). Wetlands area.

Here's a preliminary list of the birds seen at today's outing. I didn't actually see all of these, but they were collectively noted by the all of the participants. I'm actually short 3, as my list has 73 species, while the final tally by Palomar Audubon was 76 species:

Canada Goose                             Gadwall                                         American Wigeon
Blue-Winged Teal                      Green-Winged Teal                     Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail                        Canvasback                                   Redhead
Ring-Necked Duck                     Lesser Scaup                                Bufflehead
Red-Breasted Merganser          Ruddy Duck                                 Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe                              Eared Grebe                                 Pied-Billed Grebe
American White Pelican          Double-Crested Cormorant       Great Blue Heron
Black Crowned Night Heron    Snowy Egret                                Great Egret
Turkey Vulture                           Osprey                                           Red-Tailed Hawk
Northern Harrier                       Peregrine Falcon                        American Kestrel
American Coot                            Sora (heard)                                Killdeer
Black-Necked Stilt                     American Avocet                         Least Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper                     Solitary Sandpiper                      Ring-Billed Gull
Herring Gull                               Bonaparte's Gull                          California Gull
Least Tern                                   Forster's Tern                              Mourning Dove
Rock Dove                                   Anna's Hummingbird                 Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker (heard)         Black Phoebe                                Say's Phoebe
Cassin's Kingbird                       American Crow                            Common Raven
Horned Lark                               Bushtit                                           Marsh Wren
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher             American Pipit                            Starling
Common Yellowthroat              Yellow-Rumped Warbler         Ruby-Crowned Kinglet 
White-Crowned Sparrow          Song Sparrow                             Red-Winged Blackbird
Great-Tailed Grackle                 Western Meadowlark               Brewer's Blackbird
House Finch                                 Lesser Goldfinch                       Greater Yellowlegs
Prairie Falcon


  1. Big fan of the Kingfisher. Well done; that photo of Elsinore is really something.

  2. What a fabulous outing, and gorgeous photos too! I'm actually more impressed to see kestrels these days, than peregrines. 15 years ago kestrels seemed almost commonplace over the open fields here, but now it seems I rarely see one. How bold is that coyote? I'm always amazed to see them out during the day, nonchalantly browsing for a tasty morsel.

  3. Altadena Hiker, Kingfishers are small but feisty. Kinda like Yorkie Terriers, but of the avian persuasion.

    Clare, it was hilarious watching that coyote. A bunch of us stood there for awhile with binocs trained on him, but in the end he sauntered back into the willows, apparently not wanting to get his feet too wet - lol!

  4. I'm impressed! The peregrine falcons I've seen have always been well overhead so it's really cool to see one right at water's edge. And your photo of the gulls and pelicans across the water from each other is a really gorgeous picture with the subtle autumn colors all around. Thanks for the trip. I'm sure it was even more impressive in person!

  5. Thanks, James - I was thrilled to see the Peregrine along the water's edge because, as you say, they're more commonly seen overhead. I can't over-extol the virtues of digital photography - you can take a gazillion pictures and, chances are, a couple of them will come out looking fairly decent!

  6. Wonderful pictures. Thank you.