California 2006, Continued
27th – It was now necessary for very early starts as the high
daytime temperatures resulted in low bird activity for most of the day. A drive
up Kelso Valley Road started with grassland where we encountered Burrowing Owls
and 13 Greater Roadrunner. Further up
the road the habitat changed to Joshua Trees, which are loved by the noisy and
smart Cactus Wrens.
Greater Roadrunner & Cactus Wren
present in the Joshua Trees were Black-throated
Sparrow and a Ladder-backed
Woodpecker. After a siesta we spent the evening on Fay Ranch Road and had
brief views of a Phainopepla. Sat
near the open grassland we waited for dusk and just as the light was going a Lesser
Nighthawk was spotted flying very low up the road straight towards us. Two
flew around the car for a few minutes before disappearing off over the fields.
Black-throated Sparrow & Ladder-backed Woodpecker
July 28th – another very early start saw us heading into the Mojave Desert stopping first at Red Rock Canyon, where the only birds of note were a pair of nest building Cactus Wren with a rather more obliging White-tailed Antelope Squirrel.
White-tailed Antelope Squirrel
Heading south we turned onto
Jawbone Canyon Road and soon came across a Desert Tortoise in the middle of the
Nicola with her new friend we crossed the road and explored the sandy wash
between the water pipes. First we came across a male Sage Sparrow, to our surprise a thrasher started calling from a bush
nearby. Just what we were looking for, a Le Conte’s Thrasher, after showing briefly it dropped to the floor
and started running around the sage bushes.
Sage Sparrow & Le Conte's Thrasher
We then headed for California City and on the way spotted a Prairie Falcon eating prey on a pylon on Neuralia Road. Further down the road we found a great pair of Burrowing Owls that showed well.
the golf course at California City the only new birds for the holiday were Great-tailed
Grackle and Horned Larks.
29th – On a walk around the nature trail at Kern River Preserve we
were rewarded with views of a female Summer
Tanager and two Barn Owls.
Further up the valley we stopped at Scodie Park and located a wonderful feeding
pair of Hooded Orioles in one of the
Fan Palms. Acorn Woodpeckers were
abundant around the park, and feeding amongst the Red-winged Blackbirds were six of the endemic Tricolored Blackbird.
another siesta we visited the Trail of 100 Giants, whilst walking around the
massive Redwood trees we managed to find a couple of Golden-crowned Kinglets. On the way back down the scenic valley we
had a Golden Eagle fly overhead and a
tarantula scurried across the road with Nicola in hot pursuit.
30th – We left Kern Valley, heading west we came across a flooded
field near Taft with approximately one thousand feeding White-faced Ibis and two Cattle
Egrets. Whilst we were admiring the spectacle a Green Heron flew from an irrigation pond and Nicola found a Grasshopper
Sparrow down the dirt track.
White-faced Ibis & Green Heron
Double-crested Cormorant & Pelagic Cormorant
at the Pacific coast we soon saw the very common Heermann’s Gull,
Brant's, Pelagic and Double-creasted Cormorant at Shell Beach. Moving north along the coast we stopped at Montana de Oro State
Park and found on the rocky coast three Wandering
Tattlers amongst a small flock of Black
Wandering Tattler & Sea Otter
our destination, Morro Bay we checked in at our motel and spent the afternoon at
Morro Rock watching the adorable Sea Otters in the harbour mouth, also present
were 2 drake Surf Scoters, Common Loon
and a smart Canyon Wren was found in
the sea wall. A stroll at dusk overlooking the bay produced nine early returning
Royal Terns with the numerous Caspian
and Elegant Terns.
Caspian Tern & Elegant Tern
July 31st – Another look back at the Sea Otters when Margaret saw a distant Black Skimmer flying over the bay and out to sea. Leaving Morro Bay we had seven Snowy Plover (Kentish) at San Simeon State Park before stopping on the coast north of San Simeon seeing a Surfbird and 24 Hudsonian Whimbrel.
Hudsonian Whimbrel & Snowy Plover
Surfbird & Hudsonian Whimbrel
main attraction here was the 50+ massive Elephant Seals lying on the beach these
were young males which argued frequently, whilst out to sea a Humpback Whale was
tail slapping. Our next four nights were at Watsonville.
Northern Elephant Seal
1st – Meeting Sanctuary Cruises at 10.30am in Moss Landing harbour
we departed in search of whales. The sea conditions were rougher than expected
but once we were over the continental shelf we started to see hundreds of Sooty
Shearwaters, one South Polar, two
Pomarine and two Arctic Skuas.
When the captain spotted a pod of 10+ Pacific White-sided Dolphins and these
smart animals rode the bow briefly before continuing with their hunt.
Pacific White-sided Dolphin
travelled further out seeing two small flocks of adult Sabine’s Gulls when we finally caught up with a travelling
Humpbacked Whale. Unfortunately some of the party were by now feeling a bit
under the weather! As we started to
head back to land we saw 8 Black-footed
Albatross and 20 Pink-footed
Pink-footed Shearwater & Sabine's Gull
Halfway back the captain spotted some activity on the skyline, shortly after there was a pod of six playful Killer Whales around the boat. Everyone soon felt better, as the pod that included a magnificent male performed magically. One female even came spy hoping towards us before swimming directly under our feet, what a fantastic end to a great trip.
2nd – Today we had a look at the coast at Monterey seeing Black
Oystercatcher and more Red-necked
Phalarope, Wandering Tattler, Heermann’s Gulls, Sea Otters and some
California Sea Lions. A visit to Jacks Peak Regional Park produced Pygmy
Nuthatch and Hutton’s Vireo.
Black Oystercatcher & Heermann's Gull
Pygmy Nuthatch & Hutton's Vireo
3rd – Starting at some roadside pools north of Moss Landing we had
2 Redheads, Ruddy Turnstone, Long-billed
Dowitchers with a Red-shouldered Hawk
watching from a tree stump.
we visited Salinas River Wildlife Refuge where the lagoon held a large mixed
flock of Terns that contained three Black
Skimmers. Two of these superb birds gave great views as they flew in low
over the water skimming before settling into the flock.
a walk around Elkhorn Slough the only birds of note were a feeding flock of Forster’s
Tern and two roosting Great-Horned
4th – As we approached the end of the holiday this was our last
move as we headed to Point Reyes. At Santa Cruz we visited the Natural Bridges
and Antonelli Pond seeing 2 Surfbirds,
4 White-tailed Kites, 3
Green Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Wilson’s Warbler and Common
Yellowthroat. After a disappointing walk at Ano Nuevo we then tackled San
Francisco travelling over the famous Golden Gate Bridge.
White-tailed Kite & Common Yellowthroat
5th – The Lighthouse at Point Reyes was a beautiful place to start
the day with thousands of Guillemots
nesting below, Rock Wrens, White-crowned
and Savannah Sparrows singing from the slopes, Peregrine and Turkey Vulture
hiking on the nature trail to Indian Beach the thick wood produced Pacific-sloped Flycatcher and a fly over Osprey.
A lagoon at the beach provided most interest with several male Common Whitetail
dragonflies flying around and a stunning male Widow Skimmer, which appeared and
perched right next to us.
up the dirt track we found a clearing, which was busy with bird activity
including Warbling Vireo, Swainson’s
Thrush and at least four Allen’s
Hummingbirds feeding from flowers.
bird observatory is situated on the south of Point Reyes and is ideal habitat
for Wrentit, which were quite common, also seen were Purple Finch.
6th – Arrived at Sausalito for our trip to the Farallon Islands
with Shearwater Journeys. After two hours sailing on a beautiful sunny and calm
day we arrived at the large seabird and sea lion colony. The main target bird
was spotted straight away flying over one of the islands, a Tufted Puffin. On the sea were several small Cassin’s Auklets in the hundreds of Pigeon Guillemots and Common
Murre (Guillemots). After seeing a few Puffins
flying over two were spotted on the water in front allowing the boat closer we
achieved great views.
Cassin's Auklet & Pigeon Guillemot
to the Continental shelf with some popcorn we searched for shearwaters but only
a couple Pink-footed and Sooty
Shearwaters were seen. However we did have Rhinoceros
Auklet, Northern Fulmar, 7 Humpback Whales, another male Killer Whale (I
thought these were quite rare to see here) and a distant pod of Risso’s
Humpback Whale & Sooty Shearwater
the way back a short stop at Five Brooks resulted in two Olive-sided Flycatchers,
Bushtit and Chestnut-backed Chickadee, back at our cottage after dark a Great
Horned Owl perched in the tree above the door with up to three young heard
Turkey Vulture & Chestnut-backed Chickadee
7th – On the last day we went to Bodega Bay where we had great
views of Northern Harrier and Turkey
Vultures. From Doran Park there was a flock of c500 Elegant
Terns, ten Surfbirds and two Red
Tomalas Bay was a flock of 20 Surf Scoter
and 7 Wild Turkeys on the roadside.
We finished with a visit to Olema Marsh where a fantastic California
Quail kept lookout from a sign. When a noisy flock of five Purple
Martins flew over, these brought the trip list to 220 species of which 79
August 8th – Time to go, a Barn Owl was seen as we drove to the airport for the long journey home.
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All Images taken by Margaret, Nicola and Mark Breaks, Copyright - © Breaks Bird Photography