Back in December when my family and I were in southern California we planned a day trip out to Crystal Cove State Park in southern Orange County. After all, what better way to take advantage of southern California’s sunshine than to spend some time on the beach? And Crystal Cove is the perfect beach for a birder with family in tow. Rocky shoreline and sandy beaches  sit side-by-side and at low tide there are tidal pools in which you can look for Hermit Crabs and other interesting organisms. We had a great time playing in the sand, exploring the tidal pools, and just enjoying being on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

The shorebirds appreciate Crystal Cove State Park as well and because they are relatively used to people in close proximity I managed to get some decent shots of shorebirds that as a New Yorker I don’t often see this well.

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Black Turnstone Arenaria melanocephala

Black Turnstone Arenaria melanocephala

Marbled Godwit Limosa fedoa

Marbled Godwit Limosa fedoa

Snowy Plover Charadrius alexandrinus

Snowy Plover Charadrius alexandrinus

Sanderlings Calidris alba

Sanderlings Calidris alba

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Though Brown Pelicans were in the air, gulls wheeled and wheedled, and the shorebirds continued to forage I did manage to tear myself away from the birds and have some quality family time. Desi found a tennis ball that had washed up on the beach and we had a grand old time playing catch and goofing around in the sand. Think he was having fun?

Desi

As the day wore on we got hungry and eventually we headed up to zpizza in Laguna Beach for a delicious lunch before heading back down to the beach for more enjoyment of the coast.

Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus

Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola

Black Turnstone Arenaria melanocephala

Black Turnstone Arenaria melanocephala

Not a bad shorebird haul, right? And I didn’t even include pictures of Ruddy Turnstone and Willet, both of which were at Crystal Cove State Park as well. But, honestly, the best bird of the day was spotted as we walked back to the car through the coastal scrub. This little gal popped up and let me appreciate a decent look and even get Desi and Daisy on it before it disappeared back into cover.

California Gnatcatcher Polioptila californica

California Gnatcatcher Polioptila californica

Should you find yourself in southern California there are many options for outdoor enjoyment. If you are a birder with a non-birding family you might want to consider Crystal Cove State Park as you can manage to bird without leaving your family’s side and they just might appreciate some of the up close and personal birds!

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.