Sunday, November 2, 2014

Beach Birds of Mission Bay

In May of 2013, I wrote this article about the birds I see around Mission Bay, an easy place for people to visit here in San Diego.  Now that it's fall, it's a great time to go see these birds.

Assorted shorebirds

Godwits and Willets
I don't know how many people go to the beach or bay not to hang out, but to check out the local wildlife. In San Diego, there is a recreational area called Mission Bay where people don't usually sunbathe or swim (though a few can be seen doing so). This bay was dredged out so people can use jet skis, boats, fly kites, row or kayak, run their dogs loose (on Fiesta Island only), or play a game call "Over the Line" among other activities and events. But, Mission Bay is also a place for the birds-literally. 

Thousands of birds call the bay their home as they have done for thousands of years.
Before the bay was dredged for human use, it was more marsh-like and many birds populated and bred in it. There are still pockets of these marshes preserved throughout the bay and one of them, the Kendall-Frost Marsh, is fenced off from people. However, a good variety of birds can be found on the beach just outside the marsh. Other areas that are fenced off include several least tern nesting sites which are managed by the city of San Diego and the San Diego Audubon Society. Each year, the nesting sites have to be weeded because the disturbance of the soil from dredging allowed many invasive plants to take root. The California subspecies of least tern is endangered mostly due to loss of breeding habitat.  
Even in more disturbed areas, birds are abundant. Despite the fact that loose dogs run all over Fiesta Island, many birds don't seem too bothered by them. In the water, brant geese, ducks, and grebes continue to feed among the speeding watercraft. Willets and marbled godwits seem to be the most common type of shorebird along the beaches. Killdeer often nest in the least tern nesting habitats, usually well before the terns arrive.

Horned larks
When visiting the bay, be mindful of the birds around and don't intentionally harass them. Winter is the best time to see the most variety of birds with just about every type of shorebird that usually visits the San Diego area can be seen. In the summer, most of the birds seen are terns, gulls, raptors, sparrows, horned larks, and other small birds.
While I based this article on my own experiences, here's a few links that might be of interest to readers:

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