Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge

San Diego Metro KOA

Chula Vista, CA

January 18, 2022 

Tijuana Slough NWR is a 1,072 acre wetland located where the Tijuana River meets the ocean.  

Tijuana, Mexico is on the left and Imperial Beach in San Diego is on the right

The refuge was established in 1980 and is part of the 2,800 acre Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve.  There are only 28 of these reserves in the United States.

The slough's habitats include open water, tidal salt marsh, beach dune, riparian, vernal pool and coastal sage scrub habitats.  Just as we turned a corner to walk the McCoy Trail we saw a huge wing span in the pine tree.  This Black-crowned Night Heron, a new to us bird, was settling in for the day after an active night of foraging for food.  There were two of them which is not uncommon.

We had no idea what to expect and todays visit was  to check things out.  Already, I know we have to return...we barely scratched the surface.  A huge thank you to Jeff and Fran for suggesting we visit there. 


The highlight for the morning was to see another new to us bird. 

This beauty, a Yellow Crowned Night Heron, was so focused on breakfast that he didn't even notice us.  It was a great opportunity to capture some photos. 

What a smart and elegant looking bird.  They are discribed as not as slender as most herons with smooth purple-gray colors and a sharp black and white face. 

Unlike the Black-crowned Night Heron, they forage at all hours of the day and night stalking crustaceans in shallow wetlands. 

Their diet mostly consists of crabs and crayfish which they catch with a lunge...

...and a shake.

We could hear the shell cracking for a few minutes.  He even dropped the crab twice and caught it before he swallowed it whole.

What an absolute treat it was to spend a few minutes among the birds this morning.  The Yellow Crowned Night Heron wasn't the only hungry bird we saw.  These cute little Sparrows were hopping around all over the place.

We enjoyed a nice steady rain last night. I had forgotten how nice the sound of rain is in the MH.  It was still cloudy and a wee bit chilly this morning when we headed out to the refuge.  The flowers enjoyed the rain as much as we did.   

Hummingbird Sage

Tijuana Slough NWR is definitely a beautiful place to spend a few hours.  

Up next Sunset Cliffs.  Until then,



  1. WOW! Nice great bird sightings on your visit to the Tijuana Slough. I have to admit I do not know the birds but enjoy watching them as they forage along the slough. A very nice capture of the crab lunch. Did you see any of the plovers? It's not the right season, but the chicks are a hoot to watch.
    Sunset Cliffs? Keep an eye out for the whales. Used my 'Forever Young' senior pass to enter the monument last week. But alas no whale sightings. The 'rangerette' said there are a couple a day.

    1. We kept looking for the whales at Torrey Pines the other day. Talk about a “make your day moment” if/when that happens. So, what is the monument? I was beyond excited to see the Yellow crowned Night Heron. I got tons of photos. No plovers yesterday...Always a favorite shore bird for us.

  2. WOW and WOW! Your photos are so cool--loved the heron eating the crab! You guys are having so much fun!

    1. Thank you Janna. I love birding! The photos are not as sharp when they are downloaded to the blog. It’s disappointing…especially with the birds. Example, you can’t see the beautiful teal and purple colors in the ducks wings as they are flying over the marsh.

  3. You really captured some great birds. NWRs are some of our favorite exploring spots. How fun to spend some time with the hungry heron :-) and wonderful that you shared him with us!

    1. Thank you Jodee! I agree about the NWRs. I sure hope to get back out there before we leave…a sunny, warmer day would be nice!

  4. Wow, Gay! Your Night Heron photos are spectacular! I love the close ups of the feather. Very different looking. Great job photographing the birds.