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January 13, 2012

Birding Hot-Spot at The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve

Imperial Beach birding opportunities abundant!
Endangered Light-footed Clapper Rail in the National Estuarine Research Reserve in Imperial Beach, CA - Photos © A.J. Schneller

During your visit to Imperial Beach, CA don’t forget to stop by the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve at 301 Caspian Way. At the Reserve you’ll have the opportunity to stop by the visitor center and walk easy trails to view the more than 370 species of birds. Of these species, 320 are migratory and 50 are residents. Here are some suggested things to do:

 Take a guided nature walk.
Check calendar for current schedule.
Discover the native plants of the Tijuana Estuary on this tour led by a very knowledgeable docent. Docents will be happy to answer your questions as well as give you an overview description of an estuary. Meet at the reception desk in the Visitor Center to begin your tour. There is no fee.

Take a guided bird walk.

Check calendar for current schedule.
Take a leisurely walk along the North McCoy trail to see and identify the many birds of the estuary. The North McCoy Trail is 1/3 mile long and is an excellent place to find the Light-Footed Clapper Rail, a marsh hen that is on the endangered species list. Usually where you see the Clapper Rail, you have a chance of seeing the Yellow Crown Night Heron not found listed in Western Bird books because it is not normally found in California. Pick up the pamphlet Birds of Southern California’s Coastal Bays and Estuaries from the rack inside the Visitor Center. It will help you identify the local shore birds. The tour is led by informed docents and binoculars are provided free of charge. There is no fee for this tour and it is for all ages. Please meet at the Visitor Center reception area.

Attend a Free Talk.
Check calendar for current schedule.
Come meet estuary experts at our Saturday Speaker Series. At the Saturday Speaker Series, invited guest speakers engage the community in a variety of topics related to the Tijuana Estuary and its watershed. Talks take place in the Training Center building is located near the Visitor Center entrance. You are free to ask questions on the subject being discussed. All are welcome, coffee is hot.

 Join the Junior Rangers.
Check calendar for current schedule.
Discover the rich natural and cultural heritage preserved in parks during this FREE program for children from 7 through 12 years of age. These hands-on classes are led by our education department. Download a pamphlet on the weekly topics or pick one up in the visitor center. One time visitors can pick up a copy of the California State Parks Junior Ranger Adventure Guide in the visitor center. Children with special needs or large groups should be coordinated in advance with education staff, (619) 575-3613 ext. 305/306.

 Get Involved!
Volunteer at the Reserve, there are several ways to get involved whether you have a day to give or would like to volunteer long-term in programs such as the Shorebird Stewards, Docent Program, and more. Our Monthly Community Volunteer Events are a great way to accumulate community service hours or to just give back to the land (check calendar for current schedule). Read more about our Volunteer Program.

 Come to one of our Festivals and Celebrations.
Check calendar for current schedule.
Whether we are celebrating the Fiesta del Río, International Migratory Bird Day, or another special event, your family is sure to enjoy it!

Hike the trails

We have several very navigable trails, the North McCoy Trail, the South McCoy Trail, the River Mouth Trail, and the Beach Trail. Recently, the trails were resigned, many have new names. The names used below correspond to the trail map on this website and in the Visitor Center, however the new names are also indicated below. Stop by the Visitor Center before heading out on the trails to get wildlife updates or to borrow a pair of binoculars from the Visitor Center Park Aide (you will need to leave an identification card until your return). Please do not venture off the trails. The trails are free for your enjoyment.

  • North McCoy Trail
    The North McCoy Trail is probably the best for those who are unable to walk very far because it is relatively short (see above). It is also a trail that would be easiest for the use of wheel chairs or strollers. This trail dead-ends where you are able to see across to the South McCoy Trail but there is no way to cross at this point.
  • South McCoy Trail
    To get across to the South McCoy Trail and to the River Mouth, upon leaving the parking area turn left. Caspian Way will turn into 3rd Street. Turn right onto Imperial Beach Boulevard for two blocks, make a right turn onto 5th Street, and drive to the end of the street. There is parking directly across from the trail. Be sure to stop and sit at the bench at the Brackish Ponds which is a favorite hangout of visiting waterfowl.
  • River Mouth Trail
    Marked as River Mouth Loop. By way of a trail fenced on one side by the Navy Outlying Landing Field, this will take you to the river mouth (the last trail to the right ), a peaceful and calming spot, where a lone bench is there for you to rest, listen to the waves, and wait for the birds to come to you. Binoculars will be helpful. Usually you will see an abundance of brown pelicans, curlews, least terns (in summer), etc. Dogs on leash are permitted on this trail as they also are on the Beach Trail (Seacoast Trail). Bike riding is also permitted. You can also access this trail by walking around the apartments next to the Visitor Center where you will see a dirt bike path which leads onto the trail which runs along the fence of the Navy Training Field.
  • North Beach Trail
    Marked as Seacoast Trail. This trail can be accessed by driving to the south end of Seacoast Drive. Read the San Diego Reader’s Roam-O-Rama about Jerry Schad’s hike along this trail.
  • South Beach Trail
    Marked as Coast Trail North and South. If you like to walk along a secluded beach, this hike is for you. To access this trail you will need to drive to Border Field State Park. From the entrance gate, walk west until you reach the beach, do not turn with the road. Once you reach the beach you can head south to Monument Mesa or north to the Tijuana Rivermouth. Be sure to bring your binoculars – dolphins can be spotted in the ocean; pelicans, terns, and various shorebirds can be spotted at the rivermouth; and the view from Monument Mesa is amazing! Dogs are NOT permitted on this trail, please respect the boundary signs that mark the nesting habitat for the endangered California Least Tern and the threatened Western Snowy Plover.
If that's not enough nature-based excitement for you, don't forget to visit the newly established 

Tijuana River Mouth State Marine Conservation Area

Located at the end of Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach, CA

AND mark your calendars!

Join us to celebrate California's new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Saturday February 4th from 10 AM – 1 PM at the Tijuana River Estuary Visitor Center -- 301 Caspian Way, Imperial Beach, CA 91932.

Join WiLDCOAST and The Tijuana River Estuary to learn more about our new Marine Protected Areas in San Diego, and take a guided nature walk through the estuary to better understand its connection to the ocean. Special guest speaker Dr. Octavio Aburto from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography will discuss “Cabo Pulmo: Marine Protected Area Success Story.”

10 AM- San Diego Marine Protected Areas 101

11 AM - Cabo Pulmo: Marine Protected Area Success Story.

12 PM - Tijuana River Estuary Nature Walk. Learn about the importance of the estuary to ocean connection.

FREE EVENT. Tell your friends and family.