The Fremont Cottonwoods along the San Diego River in Mission Gorge are now showing their best tawny foliage. You can park at the Old Mission Dam historic site or the Mission Trails Regional Park visitor center and explore the riparian area by way of riverside trails, or by walking, bike riding, or skating along the bike path high above the river’s south and east banks. Large cottonwoods can be seen along other watercourses throughout the San Diego County backcountry, including along the Sweetwater River near Cottonwood Golf Course, and in Cottonwood Valley, east of Pine Valley along Interstate 8.
Terns. Migrant and resident birds share common winter grounds.
Shorebird-Watching enters its most agreeable season this month, with migrant and resident birds sharing common winter grounds. Egrets, herons, terns, and other species provide endless entertainment as they go about the business of fishing and feeding in San Diego County’s remaining coastal wetlands. Publicly accessible wetlands include the following (listed north to south): San Luis Rey River mouth, Buena Vista Lagoon, Agua Hedionda Lagoon, Batiquitos Lagoon, San Elijo Lagoon, San Dieguito Lagoon, Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, San Diego River flood channel (south of Sea World Drive), Sweetwater River marsh, southwest San Diego Bay, and Tijuana River Estuary. The same birds can be seen on the shores of inland reservoirs such as Lake Murray and Lake Miramar.
The Early Thanksgiving Sunset. Does the Sun already seem to be setting about as early as it ever will? You're right! We're still nearly a month from the winter solstice on December 21st — but the Sun sets its earliest around December 7th if you live near latitude 40° north. And already the Sun sets within only two minutes of that time.
A surprising result of this: The Sun actually sets a trace earlier on Thanksgiving than on Christmas — even though Christmas is around solstice time!
December sunset in Ocean Beach
This offset from the solstice date is balanced out by the opposite happening at sunrise: the Sun doesn't come up its latest until January 4th. Blame the tilt of Earth's axis and the eccentricity of Earth's orbit.
The above comes from the Outdoors listings in the Reader compiled by Jerry Schad, author of Afoot & Afield in San Diego County. Schad died in 2011. Planet information from SkyandTelescope.org.