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"Easy Birder" Driving Routes

Corral Canyon

, Corral Canyon Road starts off as a good graded dirt road, but turns to pavement after the first couple of miles.  The road stays paved up to Four Corners and beyond to both campgrounds and up Los Pinos Road, but past the campgrounds the road turns to a rough dirt loop road which is sometimes closed due to poor conditions or fire damage.  With the exception of July and September, the data displayed in the personal checklist reflects the paved portion of the road only.

Approximate Length: The paved portion is about 22 miles round trip, including Los Pinos Road and visits to both the campgrounds on either side of Four Corners.  If you include the back road the trip is 28 miles round trip.

Approximate Birding Time: 4 to 5 hours (paved portion only), including the optional hike.

Traffic: Light (at least during the week; on weekends it may be overrun with ORVers)

Facilities: There are pit toilets at both the campgrounds.

Directions:  Take I-8 east into the back country and exit on Buckman Springs Road.  Turn right, and follow Buckman Springs for approximately 3.5 miles.  There is a large brown sign indicating Corral Canyon Rec Area on your right; turn right here and start birding.

Beware of occasional illegal alien traffic along this road.

This is perhaps one of the most scenic of San Diego County's back roads, provided you bird it during the week!  It begins in oak woodland next to open boulder-strewn sage and grassland areas that can have Loggerhead Shrike, Western Meadowlark, Red-winged Blackbirds, Lark Sparrows, White-tailed Kite, and American Kestrel year round; in summer look for Lazuli Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, and Western Kingbird.  Listen for Canyon and Rock Wrens singing from the huge rock faces.  Common oak-related species include Red-shouldered and Cooper's Hawks, California Quail, Band-tailed Pigeon (especially up at the campgrounds), Anna's Hummingbird, Acorn and Nuttall's Woodpeckers, Flicker, House Wren, Western Bluebird, Oak Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Scrub Jay, Hutton's Vireo, Phainopepla, both Lesser and Lawrence's Goldfinch, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Spotted Towhee year round; in summer look for Western Wood Pewee, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Bullock's Oriole.  In winter higher elevation species such as Steller's Jay and Purple Finch may show up.  A small stretch of willow riparian along the north side of the road can have Yellow Warbler in summer, Black Phoebe and Song Sparrow year-round, and any number of interesting migrants during spring and fall; in winter this appears to be a popular gathering place for both Lesser and Lawrence's Goldfinches.  A quick walk down the ATV trail (during the week) to the creek could be worthwhile. 

 

   

Open scrub dotted with oak trees

Driving through the "woods"

The road eventually climbs into the chaparral, where you can find Costa's Hummingbird, Bewick's Wren, California Thrasher, Wrentit, Bushtit, California Towhee, and Sage Sparrow year round; in winter look for White-crowned, Golden-crowned, and Fox Sparrows (including the rarer "Thick-billed" race).  In summer Ash-throated Flycatchers and Black-chinned Sparrows can be quite common, and in spring, listen for Mountain Quail "quarking" from the hillsides (in the fall they tend to wander down into the oak woodland areas).  Starting in February, listen for the sad "song" of the Greater Roadrunner.  Interestingly, Black-headed Grosbeak can be quite numerous in this stuff in summer, especially around the campgrounds!  The lure of the rough back road is the possibility of Gray Vireo amongst the more boulder-strewn chaparral, Scott's Oriole in the yuccas, and you get a marvelous overview of Lake Morena.  The campgrounds are lush, isolated oak woodlands that are well worth lingering at; in fall and winter this is where the Dark-eyed Juncos tend to hang out, and Acorn Woodpecker is easy to get here.

 

   

Hillside chaparral

Overlooking the Four Corners intersection from the back loop

ORV parking area along the back loop

Chaparral area favored by Gray Vireos

Lake Morena overlook

Bobcat Meadows Campground

Los Pinos Road has just recently been paved, and is well worth checking out; from Four Corners it doesn't look like much more than more heavy chaparral, but the road curves around the mountain where you are treated to some sparse pine woodland and some spectacular views!  I've only been able to get up here a few times, but it has proven attractive to Gray Vireo, and it's starting to look like a somewhat reliable area for Bell's Sage Sparrows year-round (in summer look for Black-chinned as well).  This is the one area along the route I've actually seen Mountain Quail!

 

The front of Los Pinos Road...

...and the back of Los Pinos Road!

 

 

Optional Hike: North Lake Morena Park      On the way out, look for the entrance to Lake Morena County Park, across from the Correctional Facility.  This portion of the park is now closed to vehicles, but you can still walk in and hike around the old campgrounds and down to the lake bed.  The main road forks after about a five minute walk; the right fork parallels Corral Canyon Road, but the best hike is along the left fork.  At the campground the road forks again; take the right fork all the way to the "cul-de-sac", where there are several short stumps.  Take the make-shift trail through the mustard down towards the big rocks where you'll have an overlook of what's left of the north shore of Lake Morena (at least at this writing)!   This is your best chance at any waterbirds, shorebirds, or lake-related passerines such as Tree Swallow and Red-winged Blackbird, and the lake bed can have more open-country birds such as Horned Lark, Western Meadowlarks, and Say's Phoebes along with open-area raptors such as Northern Harrier, Prairie Falcon, and on rare occasions in winter, Bald Eagle.  Also in winter, look for sparrows such as Chipping and Vesper (rare).

 

Road to the abandoned campground

What used to be the north shore of Lake Morena...

What is now the north shore of Lake Morena!

Personal Checklist  ●=small numbers  █ = large numbers (10+) 

Please keep in mind that these lists are NOT comprehensive, and that some months may have had poor overall coverage.  Species in red are vagrant, out-of-place, or irruptive species and are not to be expected.

  J F M A M J J A S O N D
Eared Grebe                      
Western Grebe                      
American White Pelican                      
Double-crested Cormorant                      
Great Blue Heron                      
Great Egret                    
Canada Goose                      
Mallard                      
Gadwall                      
Northern Shoveler                      
Turkey Vulture        
Northern Harrier                    
White-tailed Kite                  
Sharp-shinned Hawk                      
Cooper's Hawk              
Red-shouldered Hawk              
Red-tailed Hawk
Bald Eagle                    
Merlin                      
American Kestrel                    
Prairie Falcon                      
California Quail    
Mountain Quail          
American Coot                    
Killdeer                  
Black-necked Stilt                    
Greater Yellowlegs                      
Long-billed Dowitcher                    
Mourning Dove        
Band-tailed Pigeon                      
Greater Roadrunner                    
White-throated Swift                    
Anna's Hummingbird          
Costa's Hummingbird                    
Northern Flicker
Acorn Woodpecker  
Nuttall's Woodpecker  
Ash-throated Flycatcher                
Black Phoebe            
Say's Phoebe                
Pacific-slope Flycatcher                
Hammond's Flycatcher                      
Western Wood Pewee                
Western Kingbird                
Loggerhead Shrike                      
Gray Vireo                    
Hutton's Vireo    
American Crow          
Common Raven
Steller's Jay                      
Western Scrub Jay
Horned Lark                    
Violet-green Swallow                      
Tree Swallow                    
Cliff Swallow                
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
White-breasted Nuthatch  
House Wren    
Bewick's Wren
Rock Wren                    
Canyon Wren              
Wrentit
Ruby-crowned Kinglet            
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher              
Western Bluebird    
American Robin                  
Hermit Thrush              
Northern Mockingbird                      
California Thrasher  
European Starling  
Phainopepla        
Orange-crowned Warbler    
Yellow Warbler                    
Yellow-rumped Warbler                
Black-throated Gray Warbler                      
Western Tanager                    
Black-headed Grosbeak                
Blue Grosbeak                    
Lazuli Bunting                  
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Sage Sparrow                
Black-chinned Sparrow                  
Chipping Sparrow                    
Vesper Sparrow                      
Lark Sparrow                  
Golden-crowned Sparrow                    
White-crowned Sparrow              
"Slate-colored" Fox Sparrow            
"Thick-billed" Fox Sparrow                      
Song Sparrow        
Dark-eyed Junco ("Oregon")            
Pink-sided Junco                      
Western Meadowlark        
Brown-headed Cowbird                
Red-winged Blackbird                
Brewer's Blackbird                    
Bullock's Oriole                
Scott's Oriole                      
Pine Siskin                      
Lawrence's Goldfinch  
Lesser Goldfinch  
Purple Finch                      
House Finch

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