Memories of Border Field

Elegant Tern - Thalasseus elegans
Disturbed by the patrolling Border Agent, these loafing birds picked up from the sandy beach and flew past me. Our beach at the border with Mexico can be a productive place to meet bird-life. Imperial Beach, California in San Diego County.

Border Field State Park occupies the extreme southwestern corner of the USA. What is not part of the floodplain of the Tijuana River is sandy beaches and dunes. The low dunes above the high tide line are critical habitat for nesting of endangered or threatened species like the Western Snowy Plover and the California Least Tern. The beach extends from the fence at the Mexican border north to Imperial Beach. The mouth of the Tijuana River divides the beach to its northern and southern sections. The marshes along the Tijuana River Channel host the threatened Light-Footed Ridgway’s Rail (Clapper Rail). I prefer to spend time south of the river mouth, where it is more difficult to get to, and therefore more secluded.

As with most locations, the encounters one might expect depend on the season. Migration time can provide a wealth of shorebirds. Post nesting dispersal can provide encounters with many of the terns found nesting at the Saltworks. The Snowy Plovers and Least Terns that nest on the nearby dunes bring their fledgling and juvenile young to the beach to learn to fly and to watch and wait while their parents gather food to bring back and feed them. Belding’s Savannah Sparrows sometimes forage on kelp flies and other insects along the sandy shore.

Surveying protected nesting sites on the beach at Border Field, south of Imperial Beach, California. San Diego County.

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