Tucked between the Mexican border and Imperial Beach is a small, well hidden, County park called the ‘Bird and Butterfly Garden’. It’s part of the huge Tijuana River Valley Regional Park.
It’s only a “park” in the broadest sense of the word; the few amenities are picnic benches and walking trails. But, it has all sorts of blooming plants and trees selected to attract, as the name implies, birds and butterflies!
It’s only a few steps from the parking area to the park itself, so you can keep all your photo gear in your car and return for whichever set-up you want: long lens for the fauna, or macro lens and tripod for the flora. Whatever you are shooting, keep looking-up, when I was last there, I saw three different hawk species inside of ten minutes! Of course, you need to keep looking down at the flowers to spot the occasional insect which will make your shot much more interesting!
Currently, there are Tiger Swallowtails flitting about, but that can change anytime, just as the blooms change constantly. But no matter, you can catch them all because it’s easy to get there and there is no fee; it makes for a relaxing 2-3 hour outing from anywhere south of I-8.
It is a bit dicey to find the first time because direction signs are lacking. Take 1-5 south to Rte 905/Tocayo and follow Tocayo Ave west to Hollister St. Turn south (left) on Hollister. Pass the Community Gardens on the right and cross a narrow bridge. At the end of the bridge is a Stop sign; look carefully for a direction sign, but turn right even if you don’t see it!
If it’s your lucky day, you’ll get shots of the Magpie Jays, an exotic long-tailed species from deep in Mexico and much prized by collectors for their feathers. They will be in the trees, but keep your eyes on the ground looking for Roadrunners!