If I were a “big year” birder, this would be one heck of a way to start off the year; New Year’s Day flight to San Diego and then a drive to some of the best birding areas in southern California. Our ultimate destination was Joshua Tree National Park but, we had planned for a day and a half of unrelenting birding. We started at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area. (A) Normally, we’re not huge fans of birding by car but, this place was extraordinary. A series of gravel roads elevated on dikes created wetland habitat that was loaded with birds. Aly called the spot a “bird zoo.” The birds were so tame in this area that at one point I was nervous that I would run over a Wilson’s Snipe. Within the first half-hour, I had added 13 birds to my life list. Among those I was most excited for were the shorebirds. American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, and Long-billed Dowitcher were all observed with looks no further than 20-30 feet away (often closer!) Other highlights were our first Greater Roadrunner, Cattle & Snowy Egrets, and Cinnamon Teal. We stayed for about 3 hours and then we had to get moving to our hotel in Palm Desert.
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