Memories of Agua Dulce Creek

Olive-Sided Flycatcher - Contopus cooperiBecause habitats in San Diego County include the coast, the valleys, the coastal slopes, the mountains and the desert, its biodiversity exceeds most places in North America and the rest of the world. Some of San Diego County’s higher elevations can render some surprising bird encounters. Agua Dulce Creek is a location that has provided many local birders with meetings of rare or uncommon species.

The Peninsular Range runs parallel to the Pacific Coast, extending 930 miles south from the San Andreas Fault at Mount San Jacinto in Riverside County, to the southern tip of Baja California. Where this range passes through San Diego County the peaks are less than 6700 feet elevation, but to the north and south there are peaks exceeding 10,000 feet.

Like the rest of Southern California, San Diego County is relatively arid. But these mountains squeeze as much moisture from passing weather systems as possible, starving the Anza-Borrego Desert in its eastern shadow. Conifers dominate the highest elevations of these mountains, giving way to Oak woodlands and chaparral as the slopes descend westward. As one would expect, the eastern slopes, being in the rain-shadow, are relatively rocky, dry and barren.

Travel south along the Sunrise Highway (S1) for 1.6 miles from the community of Laguna Mountain and you will find a dirt road called Wooded Hill Road that leads west for 0.6 miles to the trailhead for Agua Dulce Creek. From here you can follow footpaths a third of a mile to a pump house. Alternatively, you could hike or bike the road ¾ mile to reach the pump house. There are worthwhile birding opportunities all along either route as well as along the trails radiating from the pump house. Excepting droughts, a slow running stream may persist in the creek, which in an arid region is attractive to most birds. Migration is an especially promising time to meet birds in this area.

The gallery below displays some of the birds I’ve met while visiting this “destination”.

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