San Diego Pinyon Jay, American Dipper, Lewis's & WH Woodpecker
- It was a dark and stormy superbowl sunday in Love Valley, 3 miles
west of Lake Henshaw. At 3900 feet elevation we were in the clouds
when 15 birders arrived at 8:30 a.m. at the property of our host
Jerry Lapetsky. He greeted us with a smile and showed us the
boundaries of his acreage as Red-winged Blackbirds scolded.
The rain began almost immediately. The temperature: 42 degrees and
falling. The live oaks were full of Acorn Woodpeckers, White-
breasted Nuthatches, house finches, lesser goldfinches and juncos.
During the first hour, a male White-headed Woodpecker and two
Lewis's Woodpeckers were found.
The sky darkened at about 10 a.m. and it rained harder, at times
coming horizontal. Reminded me of 10 days I spent on the moors of
Scotland in February, 1990 searching for old castle ruins and
standing stone circles. It was hard to see anything through the
fog/clouds and our dripping wet, fogged-up binoculars.
By now, we were all totally soaked. We continued to slog up and
down the hills through the wind and rain, shoes and socks squishing,
straining to hear the calls of the Pinyon Jay. Then there were only
11 of us then 7 (Mark Billings, Michelle Mattson, Barb Carlson,
Drew and Pam Pallette, Jim Beckman and me) as the rain came even
Finally, at 10:30 a.m., we bid our host goodbye and made our way to
the cars when Mark came running up from the valley. He had heard
their raucous calls, then saw the Pinyon Jays fly back down valley.
It took us an hour to relocate a group of 15 of them in a live oak,
eating acorns. They were pretty quiet, their presence only revealed
by an occasional call. We got good looks through the fog and rain
as they remained, hopping through the live oak, snacking on acorns
20 minutes later as finally we departed.
Mark, Barb, Michelle and I felt that since we were already soaking
wet we may as well try for the American Dipper. So we headed for
Doane Pond at the top of Mount Palomar. The fog/clouds were thicker
than ever at 12:30. Temperature 34 degrees at a mile elevation.
The rain continued as we put our wet jackets and shoes back on and
checked the pond, guarded by a lone kingfisher. The water flowing
from the pond was high and rushing, with many small rapids and falls
downstream. We headed downhill along the creek, stopping at likely
The rained had just turned to sleet when Mark, a bit ahead, flushed
a dipper. It flew downstream. We crept quietly forward and refound
it 10 minutes later, bobbing on a rock. The sleet turned back into
rain. The dipper disappeared into the fog.
Our day was complete. We slogged back to Doane Pond and the car,
wet yet happy, at 3:30 p.m.
Terry Hunefeld, Leucadia