Based on my pre-trip research, Huntington Beach State Park was my highest priority birding site for the trip. Only 24 miles from the hotel, it was not a quick drive because of all the heavy traffic; traffic that I did not expect at this time of year. The weather was sunny, and the park was jammed with holiday visitors. The Harlequin Duck had been spotted most frequently off the jetty from the north end of the beach. And as the park ranger told me when I got there, the 1.3 mile beach hike each way was a long walk!
As soon as I arrived, I headed straight for the jetty to look for the Harlequin Duck. Along the way, I saw a few Sanderlings, Willets, Brown Pelicans, and Ring-billed Gulls. I also saw a rare and local plant - a shell tree!
Along the way to the jetty, I talked with a local birder on his way back. He didn't see the Harlequin Duck, and didn't think that it had been seen for a couple of weeks. Bummers! But he did share some good information. One of my possible birding sites for the trip was Santee Coastal Reserve, a 65 miled drive each way from the hotel. He told me that another local birder had just told him that large portions of the reserve were closed because of flooding, so that saved me a long and unnecessary drive. It took me about 45 minutes to hime to the jetty, and I stayed there for two hours. Although I didn't see the Harlequin Duck, there were some good avian species there.
Female Black Scoter
Female Black Scoter
Juvenile Red-throated Loon
Male Red-breasted Merganser
There were a few Bonaparte's Gulls (pink legs), and another gull of similar size and markings, but with yellowish orange legs. I couldn't figure out what species this was, but upon my return home, other birders thought that it was not uncommon for a Bonaparte's Gull to have this leg color.
While at the jetty, I spotted something that looked different along the rocks across from the jetty, and am not sure what it was. I did get a few photos where its appearance was different, but don't know it the differences were because of view direction or changing sun angle. I don't know if was a living creature or merely a shadow.
On my hike back from the jetty, I found an unfortunate Horseshoe Crab.
I did a quick hike on the Marsh Boardwalk where I saw Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons, and then did my only hike of the trip to the Sandpiper Pond where I saw Gadwalls and a few White Ibises.
There were more Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons visible from the causeway along the park entrance road, and a Snowy Egret flew in and close to me.
The long and straight path between the Mullet and Mallard Ponds was always crowded with people. but offered some of the best birding in the park each day I was there.
Female Hooded Merganser
Female Hooded Merganser and Common Gallinule
Click here to continue to birding on January 1