Monday, September 27, 2021

San Elijo Lagoon - Cardiff State Beach

San Elijo Lagoon is the terminus of Escondido Creek and a coastal wetland in San Diego County. It is in the southern part of the city of Encinitas and bordered by Solana Beach on the south, Rancho Santa Fe inland, and the Pacific Ocean (Cardiff State Beach) on the west. The mouth of the lagoon at Cardiff State Beach is dredged each year to ensure the tidal circulation between the lagoon and the ocean. It consists of more than 54,000 acres and includes salt marsh, mud flats, fresh water marsh, riparian scrub, coastal sage scrub and maritime chaparral. It is also part of an IBA (Important Bird Area) known as North San Diego Lagoons
A map of the Lagoon. The I-5 cuts through it in the middle. The inland portion is to the right. Cardiff State Beach, Hwy 101 and the Amtrack Train track are at or near the coast on the left. 

The Lagoon Nature Center is to the upper left. A bridge crosses over what I assume is Escondido Creek which goes to the ocean. I saw a harbor seal swimming up the creek, near the bridge, one morning. 

Hwy 101, and beyond it, Cardiff State Beach, are to the right. 

Looking to the east, inland. 

Near Hwy 101, looking back toward Escondido Creek and the Nature Center. 

Looking toward the mouth where Escondido Creek reaches the Pacific Ocean. 

Escondido Creek, just east of the bridge over it (I'm standing on the bridge). 
We visited the bottom of the lagoon between Hwy 101 on the west and I-5 on the east. This area gets flooded by tides twice daily which covers it with salt water. As the tide ebbs mud flats are exposed which provide food for shorebirds and ducks. Fresh water from rain fed creeks and storm drains also mix with the salt water. I visited several times, each at low tide, when the mud flats and grass were exposed. 

I saw several bird firsts there: Ridway's rail, white-tailed kite, marbled godwit, semipalmated plover and Belding's sparrow, a subspecies of the savannah sparrow. I also got my best looks of Hudsonian whimbrel, long-billed curlew and western willet, birds I'd seen before, but in less ideal circumstances. 

Photos follow:
Ridgway's rail

A white-tailed kite that hovered in the air. A poor photo taken in low-light. 

Marbled godwit - looks a lot like the long-billed curlew, except for a much straighter bill. 

Semipalmated plover. It looks a lot like a killdeer. 

Belding's savannah sparrow

Hudsonian whimbrel

Long-billed curlew

Western willet

Western sandpiper

Least sandpiper

Long-billed dowitcher

Short-billed dowitcher

Western gull


Great blue heron

Cooper's hawk

Great egret

Snowy egret