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"Easy Birder" Driving Routes

Pamo Valley

Please note: this area was severely damaged by the 2007 Witch Creek Fire; however, the central riparian area along Temescal Creek was spared.  A survey one week after the fire showed the area to be very birdy despite the devastation, so it's still worth visiting.  Click here for pictures of the damage.

    Pamo Road is paved for the first few miles, then turns to good graded dirt road.

[ Optional side roads up into the National Forest (when open) can be very lumpy and rutted in spots.]

Approximate Length: 5.5 miles.  Forest Road 11S03 is 6 miles to the gate.

Approximate Birding Time: 4 hours with the side roads and hike

Traffic: Very light (usually local ranch traffic only)

Facilities: None; closest potties would be in Ramona

Directions: Take I-8 east towards El Cajon, and take highway 67 north to Ramona.  Turn left on Seventh Street (light), and veer right at the arrow.  Follow this road until it Ts at Hereford Road and turn right.  Follow this road to the entrance to the valley (don't go up to the landfill by mistake!). 

Pamo Valley is often toted as one of San Diego County's best kept secrets: even the road going in gives you the feeling of passing through a secret door surrounded by thick oak woodland, then opening up into a spectacular vista (usually--it can also be quite hazy...)!  Pull over before starting the drop to get up close and personal with the oak riparian woodland here, looking for Oak Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wrens, Orange-crowned Warblers, and Hutton's Vireos year round; Black-chinned Hummingbird in summer; and Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Hermit Thrush in winter.

Oaks before the drop


View into the valley

Stop at one of the many pulloffs coming down the hill to listen for chaparral birds such as Rufous-crowned and Sage Sparrow, Wrentit, Western Scrub Jays, Bewick's Wren, Ash-throated Flycatcher (summer), California Thrasher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and both towhees, as well as more oak birds from the creek.  Down at the bottom, Santa Ysabel Creek crosses the road and you're surrounded by deciduous riparian habitat near the entrance to Orosco Road, good for Nuttall's Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, American Goldfinch, and Black Phoebe year-round; Black-headed Grosbeak, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, and Yellow Warbler in summer; and Yellow-rumped Warbler and Dark-eyed Junco in winter.  Occasionally Red-breasted Sapsucker (winter) and even Belted Kingfisher can be seen in here, and in migration look for additional warblers and vireos.  This road is usually closed (the gate's big enough to stop a tank), but you can walk in; the road is paved and easy and gives you the opportunity to enjoy a rare lush deciduous riparian area.  Occasionally Common Ground Doves can be found feeding in the open area on the right on your way in.   Be careful to stick to the main road and not trespass onto private property, which is clearly posted.

Riparian area at the bottom of the hill


Riparian areas along Orosco Road

Chaparral area past the creek

Continuing on, the habitat is primarily oak savannah, although terribly overgrazed over most of it.  This has become a hot spot for Lewis' Woodpeckers some winters (partial to telephone poles, as are American Kestrels).  Look also for Wild Turkey, Horned Lark, Western Bluebirds and Meadowlarks, Cassin's Kingbirds, Say's Phoebes, Loggerhead Shrike, Lesser and Lawrence's Goldfinches, and Lark Sparrows year round; Western Kingbird, Lazuli Bunting, and Grasshopper Sparrow in summer; and American Pipit and White-crowned, Savannah, and Vesper Sparrows in the winter.  In the raptor department, look for Golden Eagles year round (beware that at present there's at least one dark morph Red-tailed Hawk hanging around) and Ferruginous Hawks in winterSmaller creeks cross the road at various intervals; check these for more riparian-related birds, including the occasional Great Egret or Green Heron.  There remains enough deciduous wetland in Temescal Creek (which parallels the road off to the left) to house Yellow-breasted Chat and Blue Grosbeak in the summer; listen also for Song Sparrow and Common Yellowthroat.  When there's water in the creek, look for puddle ducks and even Wilson's Snipe and other potential shorebirds.  Watch for swallows (particularly Trees) feeding over the creek.  The patches of oak woodland can be attractive to American Robins and Phainopeplas, and support lots of Acorn Woodpeckers.  Listen also for Red-shouldered Hawks, and besides the eagles, scan the treetops for White-tailed Kite as well. 

Oak woodland at the 2-mile mark

Oak savannah habitat on a foggy morning


Wetland habitat of Temescal Creek

One of the swampy creek crossings

When the rough dirt roads going off into the National Forest are open (both are on the right, a couple of miles from the end of Pamo Valley Road), a quick jaunt about a mile up can get you closer to habitat supporting Black-chinned (summer), Sage, Golden-crowned (winter) and Rufous-crowned Sparrows, California and Mountain Quail, Costa's Hummingbird, Rock and Canyon Wrens, Greater Roadrunner, and even (occasionally) California Gnatcatcher.  Check the skies overhead for White-throated Swift as well.  The southernmost road (12S07) eventually connects with Black Canyon Road (although I've never ventured that far) but gives you a great view of the valley about a mile up.  The northernmost road (11S03 - Lusardi Truck Trail) may have a closed rancher's gate, but if the only thing holding it closed is a loose chain (i.e., no key or combination lock), then it's permissible to drive through the gate and on up into Carney Canyon.  There is some wonderful woodland a half mile up the road; don't attempt to go any further if there's water across the road!  If the creek bed is dry, you can continue on another five miles (this road is actually not too bad overall) and enjoy the lovely wooded area and vistas.  (You may opt to turn around at about the four mile mark, as the habitat beyond this point was severely devastated by the Cedar Fire of 2003.) 

Forest Road 12S07 (the Forest Adventure Pass Sign is no longer there, so apparently you no longer need one...)

Same road, looking back towards Pamo Valley

Above the fog a mile up the road

View at the beginning of the Carney Canyon road

Carney Canyon

View from inside the woods

Devastated area and surviving oak woodland

Back down on the main road, at the farm entrance at road's end, check the buildings and surrounding vegetation (from OUTSIDE their property, please) for Brewer's, Tricolored, and Red-winged Blackbirds, Bullock's and Hooded Oriole (summer), Northern Mockingbird, and (hold your breath) the only House Sparrows and Rock Pigeons you're likely to get on the route!  Although normally a high-altitude bird, sometimes Steller's Jays can be heard from the hills.

End of the road

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 out of place, vagrant, or irruptive species and should not be expected.

  J F M A M J J A S O N D
Great Egret                      
Green Heron                      
Cinnamon Teal                      
Turkey Vulture            
White-tailed Kite                  
Sharp-shinned Hawk                      
Cooper's Hawk                
Red-shouldered Hawk    
Red-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk                      
Golden Eagle          
American Kestrel
Prairie Falcon                      
California Quail              
Mountain Quail                      
Wild Turkey          
Wilson's Snipe                      
Mourning Dove  
White-winged Dove                      
Common Ground Dove                      
Rock Pigeon                    
Greater Roadrunner                      
White-throated Swift                    
Anna's Hummingbird    
Costa's Hummingbird                      
Black-chinned Hummingbird            
Selasphorus Hummingbird                      
Belted Kingfisher                      
Northern Flicker
Acorn Woodpecker
Lewis' Woodpecker                    
Red-breasted Sapsucker                      
Nuttall's Woodpecker    
Ash-throated Flycatcher                
Black Phoebe    
Say's Phoebe          
Pacific-slope Flycatcher              
Olive-sided Flycatcher                      
Western Wood Pewee                    
Cassin's Kingbird            
Western Kingbird              
Loggerhead Shrike                  
Warbling Vireo                      
Hutton's Vireo        
American Crow
Common Raven
Steller's Jay                      
Western Scrub Jay
Horned Lark                      
Northern Rough-winged Swallow                    
Tree Swallow                      
Cliff Swallow                      
Oak Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren            
Bewick's Wren  
Rock Wren                    
Canyon Wren                  
Ruby-crowned Kinglet            
California Gnatcatcher                      
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
Western Bluebird
American Robin                    
Hermit Thrush                
Northern Mockingbird          
California Thrasher      
European Starling  
American Pipit                      
Orange-crowned Warbler      
Yellow Warbler                
Yellow-rumped Warbler        
Black-throated Gray Warbler                      
Townsend's Warbler                      
Common Yellowthroat            
Wilson's Warbler                    
Yellow-breasted Chat                      
Black-headed Grosbeak                
Blue Grosbeak                  
Lazuli Bunting                
Spotted Towhee  
California Towhee
Rufous-crowned Sparrow    
"Bell's" Sage Sparrow                    
Black-chinned Sparrow                    
Grasshopper Sparrow                      
Savannah Sparrow                
Vesper Sparrow                      
Lark Sparrow    
Golden-crowned Sparrow                      
White-crowned Sparrow          
Song Sparrow      
Dark-eyed Junco              
Western Meadowlark      
Brown-headed Cowbird            
Tricolored Blackbird                    
Red-winged Blackbird        
Brewer's Blackbird        
Bullock's Oriole                
Pine Siskin                      
Lawrence's Goldfinch              
Lesser Goldfinch  
American Goldfinch                      
House Finch
House Sparrow              

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