Tijuana River Valley … Plenty to See!

My usual leisurely morning routine of cold cereal, yogurt, blackberries and coffee while reading emails and the NY Times was hurried along as the weather looked good and I wanted to visit the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park which includes a Bird and Butterfly Park about 10 miles south of here. Many horse properties and riding opportunities for anyone who is interested. I even saw a young lady riding her horse in this small town, waiting for the traffic signal to change, then rode her horse on the pedestrian crosswalk to cross the street. Hours later I see her again in an area further down the road where I was.

The Tijuana Bird and Butterfly Park has a few trails. In some areas you’ll see pipes dripping water for the wildlife to enjoy. It is a small park so I decided to avoid people and walk a nearby area. As I mentioned my plan, one woman did suggest I stay on the trail or road and that she would not walk alone. I had no idea what her concern was with that comment. About 1/4 mile away I bumped into a guy and asked him about the trail. He’s been a local since the 1970’s, worked Border Patrol, and truly knew the area. He warned me of rattlesnakes especially where the grasses along side the trail are dense. His recommendation was what he does: puts spit on the end of his hiking stick and then waves it along the sides of the trail. He understands if the rattlesnake sniffs the spit they are not so keen to bother you. I am not sure this is accurate info, but I do know if you provide enough vibration then the snake knows someone is in the area, are not startled, and will remain where they are. Anyway, he and I walked and talked all the way back to the park where I spent more time. I did not see many birds, but 2 new to me: the common ground dove and the Pacific-slope flycatcher are now added to my life list. Not many butterflies, but I did capture one in a photo!

I decided since no one else was around at this park I would sit on the car’s tailgate and have my lunch: cheddar cheese, crackers and Granny Smith apple. Can you believe it? A squirrel sitting on a railing! This is definitely my year for seeing squirrels in trees and on railings!

I drove further south to Border Fields State Park. Although I knew it was closed I would pass a new campground being constructed that was to include yurts and I wanted to see them. The road was not in the best shape, but I saw the yurts, plenty of Border Patrol people, and stopped at the end of the road where the Border Field State Park is supposed to be when open … but has not been for sometime. Within a half mile I could see the border wall. Actually in this area there are 3 fences according to the guy I met this morning. Two walls are substantial and the third is chain link fence, all visible from where I stood. We also talked about the constant helicopters flying over the area. He explained they each do 6 hours of “touch and go” drills and you’ll know when they pass their test they fly to the mountains.

At the end of this road I met another guy who was just walking out of a restricted area. I asked where he had been. The road is through the closed state park and ends at the Pacific Ocean. According to him he has walked the road and Border Patrol only say, “technically sir, this road is closed”. A guy on a bicyclist comes down another path which is clearly part of the refuge, so I ask him where he came from. He also went to a point beyond and said no one has ever stopped him. These guys got arguing about which path I should take and finally I said, “I am not in the mood to deal with Border Patrol when clearly I am in the wrong walking past a no trespassing sign, no matter what you both say”. The one guy thought I was missing the best part of California. Oh well. Seeing that abandoned bicycle also made me wonder where is that person!?!

Next I drove to the Tijuana River Valley National Estuarine Research area. It is huge with a few paths to follow and most the area protected for the birds. Walkers, joggers, dog walkers all enjoyed the area too. I walked a couple of trails and drove around to the other side of it about a mile away, where the town is, to look back on the area for birds from that angle. Two new birds from this area: Ridgway’s rail and yellow-crowned night heron.

It’s been great to see colorful flowers, butterflies, lizards and squirrels! While I have spent most of my time focused on birds, the goal of this adventure, I cannot help but notice what a beautiful country we live in. I was fortunate to have parents who traveled the world and also took our family various places in the USA. I hope more people are able to get out and see what a beautiful world we live in and is worth protecting.

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