Escondido, California and the Trip Home

Wednesday, April 20
This morning we drove to Lake Hodges to see the grebes. When we arrived we unpacked the tripods and long lenses and made the short hike down to the lake. It was early enough that the birds weren’t quite active yet, so we settled in and waited. There were maybe six grebes scattered in front of us – no parings. This did not bode well, and after about an hour we realized that this would not be our morning for rushing grebes. We broke down our gear and hiked back up to the truck and decided to visit Kitt Carson Park. We had a bit more luck there with birds, spying a pair of ring-necked ducks, a variety of small birds, and some cute California ground squirrels. I had read about San Elijo Lagoon yesterday, so we drove west to check that out. It was a great location – best of the day. We saw Anna’s hummingbirds, and both the rufous and Allen’s hummingbirds – both new to our list. We also added a wimberel, Western sandpipers, gadwall, California gull, and surfbirds. The surfbirds we saw on the Pacific beach, across the street from the lagoon. Alan hiked closer to the surfbirds and got some great flight shots of them when a hiker’s dog spooked them up. I also had a little fun taking pictures of surfers. Our next stop was for lunch at a roadside taco joint, then we headed on to Tajuana Slough. Unfortunately, I had picked the wrong location on the map and we wound up on the border of Mexico. Once we realized where we were, we course corrected and made our way to the slough. On the way we came across Tajuana River Valley Regional Park Butterfly & Hummingbird Gardens, so we pulled in there and walked around. It was a pretty place, but in need of some maintenance. We saw Anna’s hummingbirds, butterflies and some common ground doves. Finally we made it to Tajuana Slough NWR. I got a stamp in our book, and talked to the employee behind the desk. She gave us another lake to try out for grebes before we hiked some of the shorted paths at the NWR. One of the more remarkable behaviors we witnessed was a yellow-crowned night heron catching and eating a crab. He really worked at it, but finally managed to break it down enough to swallow it in pieces. Other than a few Anna’s hummingbirds, we didn’t see much else. From the slough we decided to check out the lake we were told about, but the part of Otay Lake we could access didn’t have anything except boaters. Our last stop of the day was back at Lake Hodges. We saw more grebes, and one rushing off in the distance, but nothing else remarkable. There were some terns (we still aren’t sure about the species) flying back and forth, and diving, across the lake, so we practiced following them with our cameras. Back at the hotel, Alan wasn’t interested in dinner because his stomach was upset, so I walked over to one of the fast food restaurants and grabbed a bite before calling it a day. An item of note: both Lake Hodges and Otay Lake are only open on Wednesdays, and weekends. Lake Hodges is also closed the third Wednesday of each month. Guess which Wednesday we we were there.

Thursday, April 21
Today we took it easy. The ONLY thing we did was drive down to Coronado Island so I could do a night shoot of the San Diego skyline. It was a pleasant evening. We ate Subway sandwiches for dinner in Centennial Park, then I set up and spent about an hour waiting for the sun to set. The skyline is so pretty.

Friday, April 22
We’d planned on sleeping in before starting our trip home, but we were up and ready to go by 5:45, so, what the heck. Somewhere near Pine Valley, Alan saw multiple police car and border patrol vehicle lights on the westbound part of the highway. They had pulled over a tractor trailer. Next thing we saw were two men dressed all in black running through the scrub down the highway median embankment and across the eastbound road with border patrol in pursuit. No idea what the deal was, but we’re pretty sure they will get caught. We stopped in Tucson to gas up at Costco, have lunch at the Texas Burrito Company, then get an oil change at Jiffy Lube. We ran into several sandstorms, making visibility almost impossible at moments, and in one there was the added danger of a wildfire near the highway. Finally, after a 12 hour day, we arrived in Las Cruces, had dinner at Cracker Barrel, then checked into our hotel. Tomorrow we will head toward San Antonio.
Comfort Inn, Escondido. 4.0. Definitely run down and the walls were thin. But we were comfortable enough.

Saturday, April 23
We slept in until 7:00 and got on the road by 7:30. It will be a long drive again today. For lunch we stopped at a very nice Texas rest stop where we had, what else? PBJs. We passed through a security check point that had a very enthusiastic drug dog working with his handler. We passed a scary looking burned out semi too. Dinner was microwaved soup. We split a pack of Pop Tarts for dessert.
Holiday Inn Las Cruces, 4.8.

Sunday, April 24
Today was all about driving to Baton Rouge.
Sure stay Plus Hotel Airport, San Antonio. 4.2

Monday, April 25
No alarm this morning, and still we were up and out the door by 7:50. We drove to Bayou Savage NWR and walked the 1/2 Mike boardwalk. It was a pretty and pleasant walk. We got a nice picture of a painted bunting along the way. Next we drove into New Orleans for lunch at Three B’s restaurant for a delicious veggie burger (made with caramelized onions, jalapeno slices, and sauteed mushrooms), and a regular burger for Alan. Afterward we visited the City Gardens and Café Du Monde for a treat of some beignets. It’s a beautiful park and it was nice to relax in that atmosphere. From the park we drove out to Biloxi. We checked in at our hotel and Alan took a nap. We walked down the street for dinner at The Reef. The crab queso dip was outstanding. Great food and good service – we highly recommend this restaurant on the beach. After dinner we went for a walk along the beach boardwalk until it ran out, then we walked on the sidewalk. It was a nice evening out, the walk was pleasant in the late evening hours.
Springhill Suites by Marriot, Baton Rouge 4.9

Tuesday, April 26
Today we went to the Gulf Islands National Seashore. We went on two hikes, saw a moth and a lizard who were very good at camouflage, then drove to Mississippi Sandhill Cranes NWR and hiked a one-mile trail near the visitor center.

Wednesday, April 27- Thursday, April 28

We stayed a few nights with our good friends Helaine and Ted in Alabama, then headed home.