2017-05-15 South San Diego Bay

Red-Breasted Merganser - Mergus serrator

I obligated myself to providing a ride for a friend to the San Diego airport and thought it might be worthwhile to stick my nose into some of my old South Bay birding haunts. My first stop on this morning was at Chula Vista Bayfront Park off J Street. I arrived at the near minimum tide, and most of the mudflats were exposed in the shallow waters near the southern end of San Diego Bay. I found only a few shorebirds (Yellowlegs, godwits, willets, curlews), terns (Forster’s, Least, Gull-Billed), waders (GB Herons, Snowy and Reddish Egrets) and gulls (California and Western). I thought the Reddish Egret was moving into my near view, but about the time I started organizing my photo gear, the bird shifted to more remote areas of the mudflat shallows <sigh>.

My next move was to the northern terminus of 7th Street in Imperial Beach. There I found Forster’s and Least Terns in better light, and a curious combination of Snowy Egrets shadowing a female Red-Breasted Merganser foraging the shallow margins of the channel. It seemed the merganser was more effective at flushing small fish from their hiding places than were the golden slippers of the egrets. Several times I watched as the merganser flushed it’s prey only to lose it to the quicker egrets. There must have been an upside for the merganser. It seemed to content itself with the company of the egrets. Perhaps the actions of the egrets chased some of the fish back to the merganser.

I ended my South Bay tour with a visit with my friend Brian at the TJ Estuary Visitor Center where I learned that the Elegant Terns failed to nest this spring at the Saltworks. Last year was a record setting nesting season with 54,000 nests. It’s not unheard of for the Elegant Terns to move in and nest, only to have them abandon the area due to a crash in the fishery offshore. I’ll try to join the science team this week at the Saltworks and see what’s kicking there.

More Images Below:

Click map markers to reveal further information