Southern California – A Mecca Of Bird Photography

by E.J. Peiker | November 1, 2011

© E.J. PeikerThe coastal regions of Southern California offer some of the best winter photographic opportunities in the United States. The areas between Santa Barbara and San Diego are the winter home for many species of waterfowl, shorebirds, waders, pelicans and songbirds. The region offers an abundance of habitats from sea shore, to lakes, to forest, to dessert. Here, there is something for almost every migrating species to make them feel at home in the winter months. Due to the explosion in bird life in the winter, Southern California is a popular region for bird photography from December through April. I have been visiting this region two to four times every winter and early spring for over ten years. Many of the photographs taken in my eBook “Ducks Of North America – The Photographer’s Guide” were taken here.

In February 2012, in conjunction with, I will be offering a bird photography workshop in the target rich environs of La Jolla, Santee, and Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Irvine. These areas compromise the southern half of what is commonly referred to as SoCal. The trip will focus on some of the most beautiful and highly sought after species of the region including the spectacular Pacific race of the Brown Pelican in breeding plumage. This is by far the most colorful variant of this species. We are also likely to see White Pelican in prime plumage as well as a number of duck species including all three North American Teal species (Blue-winged, Cinnamon, and Green-winged Teal), American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, North American Wood Duck, Northern Shoveler, Red-breasted Merganser and Ruddy Duck. There is even the slight possibility of seeing and photographing some free flying exotics that have accidentally migrated to this region. Additionally, we will seek out shorebirds such as Marbled Godwit, Long-billed Curlew, Western Sandpiper, Black Turnstone and much more, and grebe species including Western Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, and Eared Grebe. Many other birds including Kestrel, Phoebe, and other raptors and song birds are possible.

Starting in the south and heading north, our visit will take us to the famous Santee Lakes region, widely known as one of the best areas to photograph Wood Ducks and many other species including, occasionnally, wild Mandarin Ducks. Another stop during our workshop will be the world famous LaJolla Cliffs where we will concentrate on Pelican, both perched and in-flight. Moving north, the world famous meccas of birding and bird photography at Bolsa Chica will give us the opportunity to photograph many species. The stops during the workshop have been timed with the most advantageous tides of the 2012 winter season, and will enable us to visit at least five unique photography environments. Our focus will be on capturing many species in great light with publication quality results.

Black skimmer in flight © E.J. Peiker

About the Author

E.J. was born in 1960 in Augsburg, Germany and moved to Ohio in 1969. He attended Purdue University and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering and completed graduate studies in Microelectronics and Semiconductor Physics. After working for the Intel Corporation for 27 years, he is now retired from the electronics industry and is a professional freelance photographer. E.J. and has formally studied photography at the University of New Mexico and completed courses from The Rocky Mountain School of Photography. E.J. has two sons, and has lived in Chandler, Arizona since 1994. A photographic specialty is artistic images of ducks and E.J. has published the book Ducks of North America - The Photographer's Guide. E.J. is also prolific in landscape photography, his first photographic love. E.J.'s photographs have been published worldwide in books, advertising, magazines, billboards, murals and more. Some of his publishers and clients include The National Geographic Society, World Wildlife Fund, The United States National Parks Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Navy, State Parks Arizona, Barrons, and Dorling Kindersley. New Zealand Post honored E.J. by making one of his penguin images the primary image for their 2014 Commemorative Antarctica Ross Dependency Stamp set. He has also been named one of the top 100 Wildlife Photographers in the world by Eastern Europe's Digital Photographer Magazine. Visit his website at:

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