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PA Birders' Report on SoCal and a Huge Thanks! (LONG)

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  • Jeffery Davis
    Amy and I just wanted to say thank you to all the very nice people who were sohelpful in providing the information that made our first ever birding trip to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 16, 2009
      Amy and I just wanted to say thank you to all the very nice people

      who were sohelpful in providing the information that made our first

      ever birding trip to California so much fun and such a great success.

      I thought we should report on how our trip went. I apologize in

      advance for itslength. I should also mention in advance that we made

      a conscious effort to keep moving and not spend too much time

      getting the �perfect� shot, especially since the majority of the bird

      photos are digiscoped. Needless to say the quality of the photos

      and one audio recording (actually video) vary greatly (mostly from

      pretty bad to awful ;).

      Tuesday 7/7- We woke up late due to our late Monday night flight
      and stopped at the Zzyzx Reasearch facility on our way to Placentia. It
      was already late enough to be a toasty 105 degrees and the birds were
      really not that active but then neither were we. We managed a few birds
      including our first Lifer of the trip, a juvenile BLACK-THROATED
      we also found that yes, even your eyeballs can sweat at 105 degrees. Or
      maybe I was just crying. From there it was on to Placentia to visit
      family. We all decided to visit Laguna Beach for the sunset where we
      found a much anticipated bird, a gorgeous HEERMANN�S GULL (Photos)
      which not only confirmed Amy�s opinion that it is the most beautiful
      large Gull in North America but also gave her life bird number 400! In
      an apparent attempt to show us who's the boss here on the left coast,
      the Pacific Ocean attempted to swallow both our scope and Nat Geo Guide
      with a rogue wave while we were taking pics on the beach. Happily,
      although it soaked our book (It was new so it needed some character
      anyway), it did not succeed in engulfing the scope. My decision to carry
      around a 30 pound tripod is again vindicated!

      Wednesday was going to be a busy. Coastal Orange Co. and an
      afternoon trip to the Salton Sea were on tap. We started at sunrise at
      Back Bay blvd looking for our main target the California Gnatcatcher. We
      didn�t find it there but we did have great looks at 3 LONG-BILLED
      CURLEWS enjoying breakfast and a SPOTTED TOWHEE. We were off to
      Crystal Cove State Park. A walk to Pelican Point yielded a Cali trifecta:
      One of the other new birds to us included the coastal subspecies of BUSHTIT
      (Photo). Next stop Bolsa Chica where we found that the
      ELEGANT TERNS (Photo) were indeed �Abundant� as the checklist states and
      we also enjoyed fantasticlooks at SNOWY PLOVER (Photo) and LEAST TERNS.
      Least terns chicks are ridiculously cute, btw. They ranged from tiny fluff balls
      to beautifully marked little Proto-terns (Photo). We struck out on Red-crowned
      Parrots near the �Block� and vicinity and headed out for the Salton Sea.
      East of the sea and en route to the South end we saw a WHITE-WINGED DOVE
      flying along the road. At the Wister unit we found LESSER NIGHTHAWKS
      (Photo) which were active and a search around the dikes yielded our
      first look at a COMMON MOORHEN, previously a �heard only� bird for
      us. Having read that Wood Storks are no longer as common a summer
      visitor as they once were, we feared we may miss out on our short visit.
      That is until we checked out a flock of WHITE-FACED IBIS, CALIFORNIA
      GULLS and RING-BILLED GULLS (Photo) and a stork flew by, sending us
      running to the car, actually it was 110 degrees so I ran like 10 feet
      and walked, cursing the rest of the way. Once my eyes cleared from the
      sweat (or tears) we drove to the end of McDonald road and found at least
      a dozen WOOD STORKS (photo) VERY far away. Happy as clams at even a
      distant view, we began the long drive Backwards to Davis road. About
      twenty yards from the end Amy, whose head was hanging out the passenger
      window keeping me from driving off the dike, calmly remarked, �Jeff,
      the storks are right here.� There were now two Wood Storks (Photos) in
      the water right next to the car. We got great looks at this lifer and
      some decent photos to boot. From there we headed to Garst Road with
      brief stops to check out one of the 4 GREATER ROAD RUNNERS (Photo) we
      would see and the first of the many BURROWING OWLS (Photo) we would also
      come across. It was a very nice birthday present for me especially since
      this bird completed my list of owl species of Eastern North America for
      the year (Photo)! Even though it didn�t come in the east I will take
      it! At Garst rd. we found More close in Wood Storks (Photo) and the bird
      that makes the sea a must for any birder, YELLOW-FOOTED GULL (Photo).
      There were also plenty of RUDDY DUCKS and CINNAMON TEAL to be seen. A
      quick drive down to the �Pig Farm� area (we couldn't find any pigs,
      just a vicious pack of roving Miniature Doberman Pinschers, whose
      ferocity was matched only be their tinyness!) yielded a COMMON GROUND
      DOVE drinking in the water on the berm next to the road and an ABERT�S
      TOWHEE on a line in a backyard. The sun was setting (photos) and we
      still had to drive the Oxnard so out we headed.

      Thursday we did a family trip to Santa Cruz Island. We hadn�t
      even left the harbor and we already had our life BRANDT�S CORMORANT
      sitting on a pier. On the way to the island we saw several SOOTY
      SHEARWATERS, PIDGEON GUILLEMOT (Distant Photo) and at least one, maybe
      2, XANTU�S MURRELET went flying by. There was even a crew member that
      used to do pelagics and he was very helpful in spotting birds and with
      IDs. When we landed at Prisoner�s Cove we prepared ourselves for a
      hike having heard from the crew that recently they had to do
      considerable searching to find the island�s star, the Island Scrub
      Jay. The guide had no more than started her orientation speech when we
      heard the ISLAND SCRUB JAY�S (Photos) noisy squawk from right over
      head. Down it flew, perching in the low branches of the tree. It was too
      close to digiscope! It put on a fantastic show and even hung around
      while we ate our lunch. Also near the beach were both PACIFIC-SLOPE and
      ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS.A short hike up the hill to the nearest
      overlook yielded a gorgeous view but few birds of note except for a
      HOODED ORIOLE which certainly surprised us. On the trip back we saw our
      lovely dinner at the pier we headed to the Santa Ynez valley to see if
      we could get lucky with a Yellow-billed Magpie on Happy Canyon road. We
      didn�t! So off we drove to Lake Isabella to spend the night and get up
      and bird the Kern River Valley area early in the morning.
      On Friday we were in bed by 1:00am and up at 4:30am ready to enjoy
      our only day with a guide. We had the good fortune to be
      birding the Kern River Valley and surroundings with Bob Barnes, who as
      many of you know wrote the chapter on the KRV in Brad Schram�s
      wonderful SoCal Birding book. The excitement carried us though the tired
      (5 hour energy drinks helped too). Anyway, we were in great hands and
      lifers came fast and furious the whole day. From the CLARK�S GREBES
      (Photos) on Isabella Lake to CALIFORNIA QUAIL (Photo), BLACK-CHINNED
      HUMMINGBIRD, and NUTTAL�S WOODPECKER at the Kern River Valley Preserve
      we were starting off great. Things really heated up as we followed the
      Chimney Peak Nat'l Backcountry By-way up into the mountains where we had
      CACTUS (Photo), CANYON (Photo), ROCK (Photo), and BEWICK'S WRENS all calling at
      one place. A little further on we had MOUNTAIN QUAIL put on a great show
      with at least a half dozen calling up a storm and strutting through the
      brush in the valley below us giving tantalizingly brief looks. At the
      Chimney Peak Campground, Amy and I were lucky enough to get great looks
      BLUEBIRDS (Photo), on Kennedy Meadow rd. and STELLER�S JAY (Photo).
      Down Nine Mile Canyon rd. we missed Chukar but we did have an amazing
      look at a GOLDEN EAGLE (Photo) perched on boulder over the canyon! Now
      THAT is Birding in the West! We also had great luck with woodpeckers,
      finding WHITE-HEADED and ACORN WOODPECKERS (Photo). At Fish Creek
      Campground (We think. It was definitely somewhere!) we had both
      WILLIAMSON�S (Photo) and RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKERS (Photo). I even got a
      (not a very good) photo with both Sapsuckers on the same tree. Very
      cool! We also did well with Vireos getting HUTTON�S, PLUMBEOUS, and
      CASSIN�S VIREOS. It took some effort but we were rewarded with
      outstanding looks at MACGILLIVRAY�S WARBLER at Holey Meadow and OAK
      TITMOUSE at a Campground near Isabella Reservoir. A nice surprise for
      the day was a pair of BAND-TAILED PIDGEONS (Photo) perched on a
      broken tree on Sierra Way. A non-birding surprise came while we were
      approaching the river past the Main Dam to look for Dippers, which we
      didn�t find. Standing along the river, not far from some California
      Quail, was a BOBCAT (Photo). It saw us too and stared us down as it
      walked slowly away. To finish off the day, we got to enjoy a family of
      Acorn Woodpeckers (Photo) storing food and coming in and out of their
      hole in a High-voltage electricity pole. Nice. All in all it was a
      wonderful day and Bob was a wonderful guide! I couldn�t recommend him
      highly enough to anyone looking to get the most out of a visit to the
      Kern River Valley. A big Thanks to Bob!

      Saturday we had to catch a flight out of Vegas at 10:20 pm so we
      decided to bird the Kern River Valley in the morning to try pick up a
      few more lifers. We stopped and took photos of
      the Grebes at Lake Isabella with their babies riding on their backs. On
      the way to the Preserve we spotted a TRICOLORED BLACKBIRD at a ranch
      near the road. Then at the Preserve we got our best Hummingbird photos
      of both ANNA�S and Black-Chinned (Photos) and found what appeared to
      be a �Bicolored� RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD under the feeder with some
      LARK SPARROWS. On our drive out we met a group of birders who pointed
      out one of the federally endangered Southwestern subspecies of WILLOW
      FLYCATCHER. The leader also mentioned that there was a breeding pair of
      Brown-crested Flycatchers in the preserve. That was a big miss so we
      drove out of the Preserve intending to turn around and head right back
      in to look for these birds. We pulled out of the wooded area and there,
      not 10 yards from the car perched on the fence
      between the woods and the field, was a BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Photo)
      and then another. Unfortunately, I couldn�t get a close shot but I did
      manage a more distant one as we watched the two birds hunting bugs in
      the field. I should also say much to our relief we heard the birds
      calling numerous times to confirm our ID! From there we headed up to
      the mountains and to the Chimney Creek Campground where we struck out
      again on Gray Flycatcher but this time we did find a female
      BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER. Further on we picked up another bird that
      had Amy, our resident Corvid Lover, particularly excited, PINYON JAY
      (Photo). A flock of at least 50 flew over the road in fits and starts
      and we pulled over to enjoy the view. The last bird that we had time to
      try for was down Nine Mile Canyon road. Amy, who is extremely afraid of
      heights, could barely take going down it yesterday with an experienced
      local driver at the helm. It took every ounce of courage that she
      possesses to let this mountain driving rookie chauffeur her down the
      twisting road that hangs over huge drops and barely fits two cars side
      by side in places. But her great courage was rewarded with a great bird.
      This time around we picked up a group of CHUKAR (Audio. Unfortunately
      the wind ruined all the sound recordings (videos) except this one and it
      nearly ruined this one.) calling from a cut in the Canyon above the
      road. Despite our best efforts we couldn�t see them but their
      Chuck-Chuck-Chuck call was music to our ears. This was our last stop
      before we lit out for Las Vegas and our flight home.

      This being my first trip west of PA I was expecting there would
      be ample opportunity for new birds but the 77 Lifers I gained exceeded
      even my most optimistic expectations.

      Thanks to everyone and we cannot wait for our next visit.

      Checkout our bird photos at the link below:

      The California Photos start on the bottom of Page 6:

      Here is our Lifer list:
      Cinnamon Teal, Chukar, California Quail, Mountain Quail, Clark's Grebe,
      Pink-footed Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Brandt's Cormorant, Pelagic
      Cormorant, Wood Stork, Snowy Plover, Black Oystercatcher, Long-billed
      Curlew, Western Gull, California Gull, Heermann's Gull, Yellow-footed Gull, Elegant Tern,
      Pigeon Guillemot, Xantus's Murrelet, Band-tailed Pigeon, White-winged
      Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Burrowing Owl, Lesser
      Nighthawk, White-throated Swift, Allen's Hummingbird, Black-chinned
      Hummingbird, Anna's Hummingbird, Nuttall's Woodpecker, White-headed
      Woodpecker, Acorn Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Williamson's
      Sapsucker, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Western Wood-pewee, Black Phoebe,
      Brown-crested Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike,
      Hutton's Vireo, Plumbeous Vireo, Cassin's Vireo, Steller's Jay, Western
      Scrub-Jay, Island Scrub-Jay, Pinyon Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Oak
      Titmouse, Bushtit, Bewick's Wren, Rock Wren, Canyon Wren, Cactus Wren,
      California Gnatcatcher, Western Bluebird, Wrentit, California Thrasher,
      Phainopepla, Hermit Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, MacGillivray's
      Warbler, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, California Towhee, Abert's
      Towhee, Black-throated Sparrow, Sage Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Black-headed
      Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Brewer's Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle,
      Tricolored Blackbird, Hooded Oriole, Lesser Goldfinch.


      Downingtown, PA

      Checkout our bird photos at the link below:

      "Birding Like I Have Six Months To Live"

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