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Friday, December 9, 2011

#46: Horned Lark - Fiesta Island, CA

I have to admit, with all this Fiesta Island-bashing I’ve been doing, I actually purposefully chose it as a birding destination. You see, whenever I go somewhere I’ve never been, I always check out eBird first. It’s a great resource that helps me figure out what birds are common to the area and where the best places to find them are. In this case, Fiesta Island turned out to be the one place in the San Diego area where large flocks of Horned Larks had been reported, and so I figured it was a good place to start. We don’t really get larks in the Piedmont of North Carolina, probably because they prefer oddly specific habitat. In Europe, they call them Shore Larks, mostly because they’re common on beachfronts, and I’ve found that more specifically, Horned Larks just like sand. It’s hard to come by out here, but Fiesta Island is nothing but sand, and that makes it perfect Horned Lark habitat.

Which is why I found it odd that after driving around the entire island and subsequently wandering around a good portion of its interior, we hadn’t found any yet. James and I were starting to get pretty bummed about it when I spied movement in one of the few patches of grass that eked out an existence in this sea of sand. They were Horned Larks, and not just a couple, but a whole flock! They blended in surprisingly well to the scrubby brown grass, and we edged closer because the camera was having a tough time picking them up. The flock alighted, but not too far, so we kept trying for that perfect shot. Every time we neared, the flock would flush again, and after a good half mile of this, James and I finally gave up and made our way back to the car. Unfortunately, we took a different path than we did the first time, and we found ourselves exactly one large dune away from our transportation. As we climbed over to the other side, the Horned Lark flock flew in from nowhere, and this beautiful male had the decency to land on top of the dune right in front of James.

I love this shot because you can totally see those namesake tufts of feathers!

After that, I saw a couple Horned Larks here and there around San Diego, always on sand and nearly always on the beach. I glimpsed a couple on Coronado as beachgoers yet again let their dogs run free (has anybody ever heard of a leash law in California?!) and fighter jets flew into the nearby naval base, but never again would I see flocks of them like I did that day. It’s an experience I’ll never forget, and seeing that flock of Horned Larks almost makes me remember Fiesta Island fondly. Almost.


  1. well, we do have leash laws, but we also have too many independent-minded dog owners. Once at San Joaquin I found a man on the trail with a large unleashed hunting-type dog. He got very angry when I objected and went away muttering about "personal freedom."

  2. @me - reminder, delete some of these silly spam posts!

    But yeah, I totally get that - here in NC the dog owners feel like the have the lay of the land (I don't care how "well trained" your dog is, if it jumps on me and its not wearing a leash, it's all your fault!) I've even had people running their dog off-leashed in areas where there are distinct "NO DOGS" signs!