2014-09-23 At The San Luis Rey River Mouth

Red-Necked Phalarope
Juvenile at the mouth of the San Luis Rey River in Oceanside, California. San Diego County.

The still and brackish waters at the mouth of the San Luis Rey River in Oceanside California can be attractive to migratory birds passing by on their southbound route from the far north. The stream only pours into the sea during heavy rains. Most of the year it stalls at the sand berm that separates the sea from waters that drain from the higher plateaus east of Mount Palomar.

Most days there’s no good way to gain eye-level views with the birds on the water, so gazing from above is the perspective I am relegated to. While eye-level images are my preference, I’d rather take overhead images than bottom up shots against the sky. However, the bridge crossing the river and perimeter pathways provide a means to change positions relative to the water and the light on the birds below.

The highlight for me on this morning was an encounter with a juvenile Red-Necked Phalarope that stopped by as it migrated south from the Arctic. At first I thought the bird was transitioning from ‘alternate’ to ‘basic’ plumage. For those readers not familiar with birding terms, ‘alternate plumage’ means BREEDING plumage. ‘Basic plumage’ means WINTER or non-breeding plumage. While I understand the purpose of this terminology, and recognize the need for precision in science, I wish there could be more poetry merged into the nomenclature. From my perspective, I would have preferred birds such as the Scaly-Breasted Munia to have remained the “Nutmeg Mannikin” and the Northern Harrier to have kept its old name “Marsh Hawk”. I feel these new naming schemes, while being more precise, sacrifice the romance the old names conveyed. I know this is just my right brain rebelling against my left brain.

Birds I met on this morning were Short-Billed Dowitcher, Western Sandpiper, Northern Shoveler, Western Gull, Marbled Godwit, Killdeer, Red-Necked Phalarope, Eared Grebe, Blue-Winged Teal.

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