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RFI California Birding Trip Mar 7-18 (Long)

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  • John Coveney
    Hi California Birders Three of us (Denis O Sullivan, Ger Walsh & John Coveney) will visiting California from Ireland on a birding only trip from 7 to 18 March.
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 23, 2007
      Hi California Birders

      Three of us (Denis O'Sullivan, Ger Walsh & John Coveney) will visiting
      California from Ireland on a birding only trip from 7 to 18 March. We will
      fly into Los Angeles we have planned a clockwise route via Ventura,
      Monterey, Yosemite, the eastern Mojave, Kofa NWR in western Arizona, the
      Imperial Dam, the Salton Sea, San Diego, and western Riverside. Our
      itinerary is below.

      We would appreciate any information to the questions below. I have tried to
      frame the questions to allow for yes/no or brief answers. Species have also
      been grouped according to season & status. The route has been researched
      with Google Earth and we will have maps [1-4], a Sat Nav and a GPS in the
      car, so directions to locations are not needed.

      Our questions were compiled, according to the CALBIRDS guidelines, [5] from
      extensive research of sources such as Kemper, Schram, Sibley and others
      [6-10], local bird lists [11-20], some trip and other reports [21-26] -
      links to any other ones would be appreciated, the transcripts of California
      Rare Bird Alerts at
      http://www.virtualbirder.com/vbirder/realbirds/rbas/CA.html , and other
      sources on the internet.

      Queries in this post mainly concern the less common or difficult to get
      species that are not rarities. We are monitoring the continued presence of
      rarities of interest to us - these are listed at end. As our trip is in
      mid-March, we are also looking for information on possible sites for early
      arrivals of some common migrants that usually do not get in until April and
      May. Negative information such as "Records of "species" in California in mid
      March are very rare" would also be very useful.

      I may have been in touch with some of you in relation to my birding trip in
      July 2003 to California. I have an incomplete trip report from that journey.
      I will add the details of our 2007 trip to it and circulate it to anyone

      We appreciate that is a long RFI but replies on even one species would be
      gratefully received. Unless you feel your reply would be of general interest
      to the CALBIRDS list, please reply privately to johnc1816@... NOT
      johnc@... (the address from which this message is being sent)
      PLEASE, as I want to be able access replies on the road. All replies will be

      Many Thanks, John C.

      John Coveney, Dublin, Ireland johnc1816@...


      1. Wed 7 March: Arrive LOS ANGELES Intl. Airport 14.50 local time and
      travel to VENTURA. Subject to clearing the airport quickly we may try for
      California Gnatcatcher at PALOS VERDES and a few LA rarities, Rock Sandpiper
      in particular.

      2. Thurs 11 Mar: To SANTA CRUZ IS. with Island Packers for Island
      Scrub Jay, endemic subspecies and seabirds. Possible extension to Santa
      Barbara for rarities if time allows.

      3. Fri 9 Mar: To McPHERSON PEAK. for Condors and CARRIZO PLAIN for
      Mountain Plover, Prairie Falcons, other birds of prey, and wintering
      species. Stay Morro Bay.

      4. Sat 10 Mar: To MONTEREY via BIG SUR or PINNACLES (WEST) for
      Condors/Prairie Falcons depending on how we get on the previous day. We will
      do a short pelagic with Monterey Bay Whale Watch and then travel onto

      5. Sun 11 Mar: To MERCED NWR for geese & swans with possible side
      trips to PINNACLES (east) and the PANOCHE VALLEY or perhaps to Modesto for
      Clay-coloured Sparrow. Stay MARIPOSA.

      6. Mon 12 Mar YOSEMITE NP North & South Rim (subject to snow) for
      Blue Grouse, Great Owl, Pine Grosbeak & Evening Grosbeak etc. Return to

      7. Tues 13 Mar: YOSEMITE to BAKER with possible extensions via KING'S
      and the eastern KERN COUNTY sites for woodland and desert species.

      8. Wed 14 Mar: Eastern MOJAVE DESERT for Juniper Titmouse & Bendire's
      Thrasher etc.. Stay Blythe. Possible extension to CLARK MOUNTAIN.

      9. Thurs 15 Mar: BLYTHE and then on KOFA NWR in southwestern Arizona
      for Elf Owl?, Curve-billed Thrasher & Canyon Towhee etc. Onto IMPERIAL DAM
      for Black Rail? Vermilion Flycatcher?, Gilded Flicker? Etc.. Stay El Centro.

      10. Fri 16 Mar & Sat 17 Mar: SALTON SEA, RAMAR & FINNEY LAKES, BRAWLEY
      etc. for all the specialities of this area with extensions to BORREGO
      SPRINGS and the LAGUNA MONTAINS on the way to San Diego.

      11. Sun 18 Mar, OTAY LAKE, TIJUANA R. for California Gnatcatcher &
      migrants & LAKE PERRIS (sparrows & longspurs) prior to return LOS ANGELES
      Intl. Airport for flight at 18.00 local time. Possible extension for LA
      rarities if time allows.

      If we are short of time, we may cut the trip into Arizona and do Joshua Tree
      NP and Big Morongo instead.

      GULF OF CALIFORNIA: We also considered a short extension to the northernmost
      Gulf of California but due to time constraints we probably won't do this.
      Nonetheless information on the following queries would be welcome. Our
      target species would be boobies, frigatebirds, tropicbirds, some herons and
      hawks & waders etc. and list was compiled from Sibley. However, he only
      deals with species that occur in the US. Are there additional Mexican
      species within 100miles of Mexicali? Which side of the northern Gulf is
      better? 1. Southeast to Golfo de Santa Clara and perhaps onto Puerto Pensaco
      (is there a driveable track between two towns?) in Sonora province or 2.
      Southwest to San Felipe in Baja California del Norte province? Any links to
      trip reports or checklists for these areas would appreciated - I found very
      little for this area on the internet.

      CLARK MOUNTAIN: Is it worth climbing in mid March? (Is it ever worth
      climbing?? ). It appears that most its specialities do not arrive until May.

      WEATHER: Currently, the weather forecast for southern and central California
      looks pretty normal (a little cold perhaps?). Has the current El Nino had
      any noticeable effects of bird distributions this winter - perhaps due to
      more rain in the deserts or more snow in the mountains?

      California Condor: We plan to try for them at Lion Canyon (from McPherson
      Peak) as in Schram, with Big Sur as a backup up site. Are these two sites
      better than Castle Crags or Mt. Pinos? Are there any other good areas that
      have become reliable in the last few years?
      Black Rail: Any sites around the Salton Sea or Imperial Dam additional to
      those in Schram.
      Great Grey Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, Pine Grosbeak & Evening Grosbeak:
      Any current information on good sites at Yosemite would be welcome. Due to
      winter road closures we can't get to Tioga Pass from Yosemite. Are there any
      sites for Grey-crowned Rosy Finches in the western Sierra.
      Owls: Information on any good sites owls would be useful, preferably to see
      Lewis's Woodpecker: Any good current sites?
      Pinyon Jay: Good sites for these would be appreciated because I did not see
      them in 2003, depite much looking.
      Townsend's Solitaire: Can we expect to come across this in e.g. Bates
      canyon, Monterey/Big Sur and Mariposa or do we need specific sites.
      Bendire's Thrasher: Any current information on sites in the eastern Mojave
      or Joshua Tree NP and Anza-Borrego SP.
      Cassin's Finch - a good site for these would be appreciated.

      Are Tundra Swan, Sandhill Crane, Mountain Plover and Mountain Bluebird
      likely to be still present at least in northern (for us) sites such as
      Carrizo and Merced?
      Despite researching them, I am still a bit confused as to which of Cackling,
      Aleutian (lots at Merced NWR??) & Lesser Canada Geese occur regularly in
      California and where.
      Are we likely to come across Townsend's Warbler while birding suitable

      Black Scoter, White-winged Scoter & Harlequin: Any around Morro or Monterey
      Broad-winged Hawk: Any wintering bird around?
      Ancient Murrelet: Any wintering in Morro or Monterey Bays and visible from
      Varied Thrush: Can we expect to come across them in e.g. at Bates Canyon,
      Monterey or Mariposa or do we need information for specific sites on our
      route? (preferably ones we don't need to fight through LA traffic to get
      Gray Flycatcher & Grey Vireo & Cassin's Vireo: Any wintering bird around? -
      additional to rarities listed below.
      Sites (other than those listed in the rarities section below) would be very
      welcome for any of: Tennessee & Palm Warblers, Green-tailed Towhee, Swamp
      Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Black-chinned Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow,
      Clay-colored Sparrow, Lark Bunting, Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Rusty
      Blackbird and Orchard Oriole.
      McCown's & Chestnut-collared Longspurs: Are they at Lake Perris this year?
      If not any other sites? Whats the nearest road junction to the "longspur
      fields" near Calipatria and are there any there this year?

      Black-footed Albatross: Are any possible in Monterey Bay by 10 March?
      Are any of the following are likely to be in the south by mid-March? Least
      Tern, Vaux's Swift, Lesser Nighthawk, Western Wood-pewee, Hammond's,
      Olive-sided & Willow Flycatchers, McGillivray's Warbler, Nashville Warbler,
      Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak.

      Essentially the same questions apply here as for the common migrant but we
      know that there are less likely to be early arrivals of these species. The
      species of interest to us are:
      Marbled Murrelet: Any around Monterey Bay?
      Swainson's Hawk: I presume our best chance is for an early migrant in the
      Salton Sea Area?
      Vermilion Flycatcher: Will they be back at Imperial Dam or Big Morongo in
      Will Lucy's Warblers be in at desert sites?
      In addition, it would be nice to get Calliope Hummingbird, Brown-crested &
      Dusky Flycatchers, Purple Martin, Plumbeous Vireo, Summer Tanager, Fox
      Sparrow (Thick-billed) & Bronzed Cowbird.

      Any good sites, not listed in Schram, would be useful for the following
      species Red-naped Sapsucker & Gilded Flicker, LeConte's Thrasher, Lucy's
      Warbler & Lawrence's Goldfinch

      Is Gila Woodpecker reliable around Brawley?
      Ruddy Ground Dove & Inca Dove: Any good sites as a backup for Sperry & W
      Eddins near Calipatria?

      Are Curve-billed Thrasher & Canyon Towhee reliable at Kofa NWR. Is mid-March
      to early for any chance of Elf Owl there?

      "Wild" Turkey: Kemper gives the Pinnacles National Monument as good site.
      Any other good sites in case we don't get there?
      Solitary Sandpiper: Any around at the moment?
      Spotted Dove: Any good sites in LA or Orange County (not already mentioned
      in the rarities section?)
      Northern Cardinal: Any good sites in LA or Orange County

      RARITIES: We are aware of the following current or recent rarities and we
      may try to squeeze in a few, especially those more restricted to western or
      southwestern North America. Information on the definite departure of
      individual over-wintering rarities would be very useful. For the Rare Bird
      Alerts with no recent transcripts, does this mean they are not currently
      operational or simply that transcripts are not being posted? Also, are the
      RBA numbers ordinary ones that can be dialled from any phone or are they
      premium charge lines?

      Laysan Albatross at Point Arena . . . too far north for us :-(
      Reddish Egret at Bolsa Chica.
      Cackling Geese at Blythe.
      Velvet Scoter at reservoir near Foulds Rd, Salton Sea.
      Zone-tailed Hawk at Santa Barbara & in Imperial.
      Bald Eagles at Big Bear.
      Crested Caracara at Hansen Dam LA & Pt. Joe, Monterey.
      Clapper Rail at Wister.
      Piping Plover at Salton Sea.
      Rock Sandpiper at Marina del Reyes, LA . . . so close to the Airport. . .
      hope it stays!
      Yellow-footed Gull at Obsidian Butte.
      Slaty-backed Gull at Salinas R. Mouth & Doheny State Beach Orange County
      Great Horned Owl at Mayflower, Blythe.
      Northern Saw-whet Owl at Living Desert.
      Lewis' Woodpecker, Black Star Canyon in Orange County.
      Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Village Green Condos & at Ed. Vincent Park, LA.
      Red-naped Sapsucker at Ed. Vincent Park, LA.
      Thick-billed Kingbird at Banning Park in Wilmington, LA.
      Tropical Kingbird at Lincoln Park in east LA, at Devereux Slough in Santa
      Barbara & Fig Lagoon near El Centro.
      Hammond's Flycatcher at Bohnett Park in Santa Barbara.
      Sprague's Pipits at 111 & Sinclair, Imperial County.
      Varied Thrushes at Decanso Park LA.
      Plumbeous Vireo Craig Regional Park, Orange County.
      Lucy's Warbler at UCSB, Santa Barbara.
      Tennessee Warbler at Biltmore Hotel, Santa Barbara.
      Black-throated Green Warbler at Stow Grove Park in Santa Barbara.
      Yellow-throated Warbler at Tewinkle Park, Orange County.
      Black & White Warblers at Ed. Vincent Park, LA & Harbour View Orange County.
      Painted Redstart at Elysian Park, LA & at UCSB.
      Summer Tanager was at El Dorado, Long Beach & at Stow House and UCSB in
      Santa Barbara.
      Green-tailed Towhee at Tequesquite in Riverside.
      Clay-coloured Sparrow at Beckwith Rd., Modesto.
      Swamp Sparrow, Laguna Niguel Park, Orange County
      Harris's Sparrows at El Dorado, Long Beach & at Sperry & W Eddins, Salton
      Orchard Orioles at Biltmore Hotel, Santa Barbara.


      1. DeLorme, Southern & Central California Atlas & Gazetteer. 2000,
      Yarmouth, Maine: DeLorme.

      2. DeLorme, Northern California Atlas & Gazetteer. 2000, Yarmouth,
      Maine: DeLorme.

      3. Dickey, J.D., et al., The Rough Guide to California. 2003: Rough

      4. Berndtson & Berndtson GmBH, Insight Flexi Map of California.
      2002, Berndtson & Berndtson GmBH.

      5. Sosensky, S., How to Start Planning Your SoCal Birding Trip.

      6. Roberson, D., Monterey Birds, Second Edition. 2002, Carmel:
      Monterey Peninsula Audobon Society.

      7. Kemper, J., Birding Northern California. 2001, Guildford,
      Connecticut: Globe Pequot Press.

      8. Schram, B., A Birder's Guide to California. 1998: American
      Birding Association.

      9. Sibley, D., The North American Bird Guide. 2000, East Sussex:
      Pica Press.

      10. Alden, P. and F. Heath, National Audubon Society Field Guide to
      California. 1998, New York: Chanticleer Press.

      11. Garret, K.L. and M. San Miguel, Field List of the Birds of Los
      Angeles County. 2006, Los Angeles Audubon Society.

      12. National Parks Service, Channel Islands National Park Bird Species
      List. 2006, US National Parks Service.

      13. Bureau of Land Management, Carrizo Plain Natural Area Plan. 1996,
      US Bureau of Land Management.

      14. US Fish & Wildlife Service, San Luis National Wildlife Refuge
      Complex - Bird List. None given, US Fish & Wildlife Service: Los Banos.

      15. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Bird Checklist of the
      United States - San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex. None given,
      Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center.

      16. Joshua Tree National Park Association, Birds - Joshua Tree
      National Park - A Checklist. None given.

      17. Friends of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, Birds at Big Morongo
      Canyon Preserve & Adjacent Covington Park. 2002, The Nature Conservancy.

      18. McKernan, R.L. and E.A. Carfiff, Birds of the San Bernadino
      National Forest - A Field Checklist. 1995, San Bernadino Co. Museum.

      19. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Bird Checklist of the
      United States - Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge. None given, Northern
      Prairie Wildlife Research Center.

      20. Wright, R., Sightings - early November to early December 2006.
      Birding, 2007(January February 2007).

      21. Preston, K., USA - California (South) 12 - 29 March 1999. 1999.

      22. Bergstom, B., Birds seen in California March 23-29, 1997. 1997.

      23. Healy, S., Southern & Central CA Trip Summary, Imperial, Los
      Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara & Luis Obispo Counties, March 17-24,
      2006. 2006.

      24. Healy, S., Southern & Central CA Trip Summary, Imperial, Los
      Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara & Luis Obispo Counties, March 2003. 2006.

      25. Girdley, J., Southern California: 24th March - 5th April. 2006.

      26. Todd, M., Bird Trip to Southern California Feb 20 - 1 Mar 2006.

      John Coveney, Dublin, Ireland johnc1816@...

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • John Coveney
      Hi California Birders Many thanks to all who replied to our RFI. I think I have acknowledged everyone individually but sorry if I missed anyone. I hope to get
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 5, 2007
        Hi California Birders

        Many thanks to all who replied to our RFI. I think I have acknowledged
        everyone individually but sorry if I missed anyone. I hope to get back to
        few people with longer replies before we leave in 36 hours time.

        I have just two more questions.

        1. Do Prairie Falcons occur on the east side of Pinnacles? Kemper only
        mentions them on the west side around the Balconies cliffs area.
        2. Is there any recent news of the Rock Sandpiper at Marina del Reyes
        in Los Angeles?

        Thanks, John C. Dublin, Ireland. johnc18161@...

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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