San Diego seemed nice, and my wife enjoyed exploring it during the days, but I was pretty covered up with the conference and a bought of what I can only conclude was some sort of food poisoning that laid me out for a day or two or three. I have to say that having the digestive system running on fast forward and reverse simultaneously is a pretty rotten way to go through life. Fortunately I was able to participate in my panel discussion and represent the company despite the GI woes and was feeling better by the weekend.
After San Diego, we shot up to La Jolla to see the very rare Torrey Pine trees in Torry Pines State Reserve and then headed about 2 hours east of San Diego to Anza Barrego Desert State Park, in eastern San Diego County. Anza Barrego is the largest state park in the U.S., and it promised some good birding and desert hiking possibilities, both of which sounded good to our late-winter sensibilities.
Molly did quite a bit of research and concluded that our destination should be the Barrego Valley Inn in Barrego Springs. The place was fantastic; nice room, private patio, heated pools and hot tubs (including the "clothing optional" variety if you are so inclined) and the owners were very friendly and fun. Barrego Springs is no great shakes, but it's about the only town around and hands-down better than most of the other very small and very depressed towns in rural Southern California. There's a reason Stephen King set his novel Desperation in this region.
On Saturday we set sail for the Salton Sea, figuratively speaking, and were treated to some excellent bird watching. The Salton Sea is 300 feet below sea-level and is the largest lake in California. It's a brackish flat expanse that's a bird magnet with generally good access. The southern end of the lake receives fresh water from a river and is better for waterfowl, but the remainder of the lake holds all kinds of interesting stuff, including Black-necked Stilts, American Avocet, Eared grebes, American White Pelicans, Dowitchers and a possible Sprague's Pipit.
The real treat for me were my long-awaited Burrowing owls. I have wanted to see Avocets forever and scored those early in the day, but I have wanted a Burrowing owl for as long as I have been interested in owls. Molly gets the credit for scouring the bird reports and finding some choice locations to prowl through, but I was really skeptical that we'd come up with an owl. We ended up seeing several, just as easy as pie. That never happens to me, so I am always very appreciative when things work out like this. In addition to the BOs, we also picked up California quail, White-tailed Kite (2) and a few other new birds as well, so it was the best day afield that I have had in a long time.
More photos on the Flickr site located here.