Local offers tips on birdwatching in Rancho Santa Fe


The Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild’s monthly Coffee and Conversation series attracted a flock of both fledgling and experienced bird watchers on July 20 who were interested in learning more about Rancho Santa Fe’s local feathered friends.

Rancho Santa Fe’s Sandy Yayanos, who has a master’s degree in botany and taught AP biology at Torrey Pines High School for almost 30 years, shared seeds of knowledge about what local residents will see in their own backyards or out stomping farther afield.

“Go birding, whether you’re sitting in your garden or out on the trails or out in some exotic place,” said Yayanos, who shared scenes from her own exotic birding adventure in Botswana among many photos of local birds taken by her husband Art, president of the RSF Library Guild board.

Yayanos said beginning birders can start out by learning about the most common birds in the area and build a knowledge base from there, taking cues from free apps such as eBird, Merlin and Audubon Birds.

Rancho Santa Fe is home to the “gorgeous” black-headed grosbeck and the spotted towhee is the most popular sparrow. The song sparrow is the “lovely voice you will find in your garden” and the American Pipit is often seen on the golf course. Red Tail Hawks are also common in the Ranch, “you hear these guys all the time, they make a sound like someone is pulling out their tail feathers,” Yayanos said.

If people look a little harder, Yayanos said one might see the distinctive scaley-breasted munia or a colorful hooded oriole. If they’re really lucky they might spot a dark-eyed junco in the winter.

One of her best “surprise” bird sightings was on Christmas Day near the golf course when she spotted two common mergansers.

To attract birds to the home, Yayanos said it’s important to have a water source, food source and nesting source. Yayanos suggested a variety of bird feeders from hummingbird feeders to owl boxes and places for birds to nest — one of the most popular places in her gardens is a gourd she put out.

She said to plant native things for bedding and food sources such as toyon, rosemary or manzanita. Experience will help inform what the wildlife is attracted to.

“Wrentits are my favorite bird. I’ve learned that they like peanuts,” said Yayanos, noting that you will hear the bird’s rattling call more than you will see them as they are often hidden away in the brush.

Yayanos said her backyard water feature is the “gem” of her garden, luring many different birds to her yard, including once a flock of 14 cedar waxwings. She’s even spotted a Cooper’s hawk going for a splash in her bird bath.

Yayanos encouraged birders to keep records if they can, “you are being a citizen scientist.” She said the app eBird is a useful resource for keeping track.

She also encouraged people to take advantage of free local birding walks with organizations such as the Buena Vista Audubon Society, San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy and the Escondido Creek Conservancy.

“The best way you learn is by going out and birding with somebody,” Yayanos said.

Coffee and Conversation is presented by the RSF Library Guild on the third Thursday of every month on a wide range of informative topics. The series is sponsored by Deana Ingalls of Carter Financial. To learn more, visit the