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DANA POINT : This Wilderness ‘Hotel’ Is Really One for the Birds

The mouth of the San Juan Creek is a wilderness hotel for migratory birds during the winter. Although recent heavy rains made the winged visitors fly for other cover, they are now flocking back to the prime spot in full force.

Such a sight pleases bird-watchers from the South Coast Audubon Society, whose volunteers in past years have cleared away reeds that choke out native creek-side vegetation along a portion of the waterway.

“After rains, the birds come right out and, boy, do they get busy,” said Marie Patterson, one of the Audubon Society’s members.

Patterson, who lives nearby in Capistrano Beach, said migratory birds, such as ducks from as far north as Canada, make the annual trip to the creek to escape chilly weather.

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The birds normally arrive in late fall, and stay until March, April or May, Patterson said.

“Somehow they know when it’s warm enough at home to go back,” Patterson said.

The creek is a good spot to see scrub jays, hawks, grosbeaks and at least two varieties of swallows, one of which makes the Mission San Juan Capistrano famous every March 19.

Dozens of bird species and other wildlife live year-round in a small avian oasis, nestled between a residential community and two schools in east San Juan Capistrano. Fed by runoff from the rugged hills of Cleveland National Forest, the San Juan Creek flows for about 20 miles past large stretches of grassland before emptying into the Pacific Ocean.

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