California

14th December 1986 - 4th January 1987.

14th December.

I had been in Claremont for a few days, a city on the eastern edge of Los Angeles, which we would call a district, visiting a friend, Zenobia Walji, for Christmas and New Year, and today I was able to use her car to explore the local area.

The first area was the Padua Hills to the east of Claremont, where I saw lots of American Robins and Western Bluebirds, a few House Finches, an Audubon's Warbler, 2 Band-tailed Pigeons, a few Cedar Waxwings, 2 White-crowned Sparrows, a Northern Mockingbird, several Lesser Goldfinches, 2 Dark-eyed Juncos, a Western Scrub Jay, a few Purple Finches and a western coastal form of Brown Towhee, which has now been split and is called California Towhee.

From there I drove along Mt. Baldy Road, the foothills of the San Gabriel Mts., seeing another Western Scrub Jay, a Black Phoebe and a Red-tailed Hawk.

 

Photo: Red-tailed Hawk.

15th December.

As Zenobia was busy with college work, I took the opportunity to visit another friend, Jon Dunn, in Santa Barbara.

I boarded the train at Glendale and during the journey to Santa Barbara I saw 3 American Kestrels, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, a White-tailed Kite, 5 Cattle Egrets, a Great Blue Heron, lots of Starlings, several Northern Mockingbirds, California and Western Gulls, lots of American Coot and 2 Brown Pelicans.

Jon met me in Santa Barbara and took me to the nearby Andree Clark Bird Refuge, where I immediately saw my first new bird of the day, a Ross's Goose. There were hundreds of gulls, mainly Western, Heermann's and Ring-billed with one Bonaparte's and 2 Mew Gulls, at this time considered a race of Common Gull, but has since been split.

We also saw 6+ Forster's Terns, a Greater Yellowlegs, a Spotted Sandpiper, female Wood Duck, Mallard, Teal and lots of Ruddy Ducks, a Red-breasted Merganser, 4 Snowy Egrets, a Red-tailed Hawk, lots of White-crowned Sparrows, a Double-crested Cormorant, Pied-billed Grebes, 20+ Black-necked Grebes, Lesser Scaup, a Green Heron, a Cinnamon Teal, a White-fronted Goose, 5 Killdeers, a Great Blue Heron, a Golden-crowned Sparrow, a Belted Kingfisher and 5 Night Herons.

In the trees in a nearby cemetery there were lots of Audubon's Warblers, a Townsend's Warbler, an Acorn Woodpecker and an Anna's Hummingbird.

We then visited Santa Barbara Harbour, seeing 5 Western Grebes, about 20 Black-necked Grebes, 20+ Willets, 20+ Sanderling, 15+ Brown Pelicans, 3 Double-crested Cormorants, 5 Surf Scoters, 10+ Marbled Godwits, 4 Grey Plovers, a Caspian Tern, around 30 Forster's Terns, 2 Wandering Tattlers, a Glaucous-winged Gull, 2 Herring Gulls, a Hudsonian Whimbrel, a Harbour Seal, a Pelagic Cormorant, 2 Great Northern Divers and lots of other gulls.

Our last stop was Goleta Beach, seeing 100's of gulls, 2 Royal Terns, several Pintail, about 20 Least Sandpipers, 2 Caspian Terns and 2 Belted Kingfishers.

Photos: Mew Gull, 1st winter Western Gull, Heermann's Gull adult & 2nd winter. 

16th December.

A day in the Santa Barbara area, starting at Rocky Nook Park, where we saw American Robins, Purple Finches, Western Scrub Jays, Acorn Woodpeckers, Cedar Waxwings, 2 Hutton's Vireos, a Townsend's Warbler, 2 Western Tanagers, Dark-eyed Juncos, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, an Anna's Hummingbird, Audubon's Warblers, a Hairy and a Downy Woodpecker.

At Museum Woods we saw Plain (now called Oak) Titmouse, Audubon's Warbler, Purple and House Finches, a Townsend's Warbler, 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Wrentit, a Hutton's Vireo and a Spotted Towhee.

From there we went to Goleta Beach were there was a Red-throated Diver, a Black Phoebe, Marbled Godwits, Willets, Sanderling, 2 Caspian Terns, 6 Royal Terns, Bonaparte's, Mew, Ring-billed, Western, California and Heermann's Gulls, a Spotted Sandpiper, Hudsonian Whimbrels, Brown Pelicans, Forster's Terns, Grey Plovers, Monarch Butterflies, Brewer's Blackbirds, 3 Tricolored Blackbirds, 6 Pied-billed Grebes, California Ground Squirrels, lots of American Coot, a Black-necked Grebe, a Snowy Egret, 2 Surf Scoters, a Belted Kingfisher, 2 Greater Yellowlegs, White-crowned Sparrows, an Anna's Hummingbird, 2 Northern Mockingbirds, a Song Sparrow, a Slavonian Grebe and 4 Western Grebes.

We returned to Jon's house and met up with two of his friends, Albert and Curtis, then the four of us set off on the drive to Los Angeles, as we passed the airport we saw 2 Turkey Vultures, 4 Red-tailed Hawks, a Great Egret, a Black Phoebe, House Finches, a Northern Mockingbird, Red-winged Blackbirds and Mourning Doves.

On the outskirts of Santa Barbara we saw 2 Red-shouldered Hawks.

We continued to Los Angeles to stay overnight at Jon's parents house.

 

 

 

 

 

Photos: Marbled Godwits, Greater Yellowlegs.

17th December.

In the morning we drove east to Moreno Valley and then south on Gilman Springs Road where we stopped for anything interesting.

2 Ferruginous Hawks were my first new bird of the day, along the road there were 100's of Horned Larks in total we must have seen over 3000, also 2 American or Buff-bellied Pipits, a Northern Harrier, a Red-tailed Hawk, a Prairie Falcon, a Merlin, a Western Meadowlark, an American Kestrel and several California Ground Squirrels.

Returning to the main highway we continued southeast towards the Salton Sea, on this part of the journey we saw 2 Prairie Falcons, several Loggerhead Shrikes, 2 Northern Harriers, a Northern Rough-winged Swallow, lots of American Wigeon, several Ruddy Ducks and Great Blue Herons, an Osprey, a California Gnatcatcher, a Cactus Wren, an American Kestrel and 3 Abert's Towhees

We stopped at the northern end of the Salton Sea, where there was a flock of 60+ American White Pelicans, Great Egrets, Forster's Terns and a real Californian inland rarity an Arctic Skua.

We also saw 2 Tree Swallows, Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets, Snowy Plovers, Least Sandpipers, Long-billed Curlews, Marbled Godwits, Western Sandpipers, Double-crested Cormorants, lots of Black-necked Grebes, a Black Skimmer, Dunlin, a White-faced Ibis, 2 American Bitterns, Snowy Egrets, Pied-billed Grebes, Moorhens, Willets, Herring Gulls, 2 Bald Eagles, Shoveler, Canada Geese, a Greater Yellowlegs, lots of Grey Plovers and Night Herons.

We continued south and stopped at Fillmore Street where we saw a Ferruginous Hawk, 2 American Kestrels and 4 Red-tailed Hawks, one of them appeared to be a variant known as Krider's Hawk.

Our next stop was at the Fish Hatchery, where there were Redheads, Lesser Scaups, Pintails, Shovelers, American Coot, 2 Canvasbacks, Green-winged Teals, Mallards, 3 Greater Yellowlegs, Great Blue Herons, Herring Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, a Killdeer, 2 Northern Harriers, Canada Geese, a Spotted Sandpiper, a White-faced Ibis, a Forster's Tern, American Avocets, 2 Ring-necked Ducks, American Wigeon, Ruddy Ducks, 14 Buffleheads, Black-necked Grebes and a male Cinnamon Teal.

At the southern end of the lake, our final stop was at the Salton Sea Wildlife Refuge, where there were lots of Cattle Egrets, Mountain Bluebirds, 3 American Kestrels, Great-tailed Grackles, a Say's Phoebe, Audubon's Warblers, 4 Yellow-footed Gulls ( an adult, a 1st winter and 2 2nd winter birds ), there were 100's of Snow Geese, Red-winged Blackbirds, Long-billed Dowitchers, a Turnstone, 2 Slavonian Grebes, a Glaucous-winged Gull, a Ross's Goose, a flock of Canada Geese containing one Lesser Canada Goose, Caspian Terns and a brief view of a Stilt Sandpiper.

 

 

Photos: Jon, Albert and Curtis at the Salton Sea.

             American White Pelicans.

             Arctic Skua.

             Least and Western Sandpipers.

             Canada Geese.

             Salton Sea sunset.

18th December.

A dawn start as today we were doing the Christmas Bird Count at the Salton Sea, recording as many birds and their numbers as we could within a 15 mile radius of the lake.

It was all quite frantic with little time to spend on each species, and while I looked at new birds for me, I missed some birds that the others saw and wasn't so bothered about the numbers.

Birds I saw were 9 Say's Phoebes, American White Pelicans, 18 Red-shafted Flickers, lots of Audubon's Warblers, 16 American Kestrels, 3 Cedar Waxwings, masses of White-crowned Sparrows, Lesser Goldfinches, a male Vermilion Flycatcher, 39+ American Robins, a Great Horned Owl which was a good bird for this area, a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 14 Common Ground Doves, Great Egrets, lots of Cattle Egrets, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 7 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 Orange-crowned Warblers, 4 Verdins, 2 Lincoln's Sparrows, about 200 Red-winged Blackbirds, 7 Savannah Sparrows, 11 Loggerhead Shrikes, 5 House Finches, a Dark-eyed Junco, 4 Abert's Towhees, a male Red-naped Sapsucker, 2 Northern Mockingbirds, a Cactus Wren, a Brewer's Sparrow, a Phainopepla, a Prairie Falcon, 6 American Pipits, an Anna's Hummingbird, around 30 Sage Sparrows, a Song Sparrow, a California Gnatcatcher, 7 Turkey Vultures, 11 Mountain Bluebirds, 2 Great-tailed Grackles, a Lark Bunting, 2 Vesper Sparrows, around 500 Horned Larks, 6 Black Phoebes, 24 Western Meadowlarks, 1000+ Ring-billed Gulls, about 140 Long-billed Curlew, 2 Roadrunners, a Merlin, 5 Northern Harriers, Snow Geese 100's, 7 Caspian Terns, American Coot, Herring Gulls, Great Blue Herons, Night Herons, Pied-billed Grebes, Lesser Scaups, lots of Ruddy Ducks, Black-necked Stilts, we heard 2 Marsh Wrens but didn't see them, Black-necked Grebes, Double-crested Cormorants, 5 Gambel's Quails, Willets, Mallards, Canada Geese, American Avocets, 3 Killdeer, Snowy Egrets, Shovelers, a Lesser Black-backed Gull a rarity in California, Least Sandpipers, 3 Burrowing Owls, 2 Spotted Sandpipers, Ross's Geese, 3 Yellow-footed Gulls, Western Sandpipers, Grey Plovers, Long-billed Dowitchers, Marbled Godwits, 2 Belted Kingfishers, a Semipalmated Plover, a Snowy Plover, a Pacific Golden Plover, Green-winged Teals, Forster's Terns, Dunlin, a Stilt Sandpiper (had a much better view today), a Western Grebe and a Clark's Grebe

Photos: Sage Sparrow, Snow Geese, Caspian Tern, Burrowing Owl, Western Sandpiper, Salton Sea sunset.

20th December.

A trip to San Francisco, Zenobia and I drove north, firstly on hwy 101, then onto hwy 1 to Morro Bay, on the way seeing around 20 Turkey Vultures, about 10 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 Red-shouldered Hawks and around 15 American Kestrels.

We stopped at Morro Bay where there were around 50 Marbled Godwits, about 100 Sanderlings, Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, a Glaucous-winged Gull, 14 Black Turnstones, 2 Surfbirds, 2 Audubon's Warblers and a Black Phoebe.

We continued to Monterey, on the way seeing a Red-shouldered Hawk, 2 Red-tailed Hawks and a Western Meadowlark.

 

Photos: Sanderling, Black Turnstone.

21st December.

Overnight in Monterey, in the morning we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we were given a full tour by one of the staff, a great place. Outside, overlooking the bay, we saw 3 Sea Otters, a California Sea Lion and several Double-crested Cormorants.

Later, we went to Point Lobos, unfortunately it was windy and the sea rough, but we still saw 6 Harbour Seals, 2 Belted Kingfishers, 7 Audubon's Warblers, Western Gulls, around 50 California Sea Lions, Pelagic Cormorants, 7 Surf Scoters, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Goosanders, a Sea Otter, a Great Blue Heron, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 10+ Black-necked Grebes, Brown Pelicans, lots of Brandt's Cormorants, Double-crested Cormorants, 2 Black Phoebes, 5 Black Oystercatchers, 2 Black Turnstones, Ring-billed Gulls, a Mew Gull, a Snowy Egret, 2 Chestnut-backed Chickadees, 4 Pygmy Nuthatches, a Downy Woodpecker and 4 Townsend's Warblers.

On the way back to Monterey we drove along the 17-mile Road, seeing around 20 Mule or Black-tailed Deers, 20 Black Turnstones, a California Ground Squirrel, 3 Brewer's Blackbirds, 3 Surfbirds, Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorants, a Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Surf Scoters, 5 Black Oystercatchers, 5 Grey Plovers, Marbled Godwits, a Willet, several Harbour Seals and California Sea Lions.

 

Photos: Point Lobos.

22nd December.

A drive from Monterey to San Francisco, we stopped at Moss Landing where there was a Pacific Diver, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Forster's Tern, Sanderlings, a Marbled Godwit, 8 Western Grebes, 2 Clark's Grebes, 3 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Goldeneyes, 5 Surf Scoters, a few Dunlin and Least Sandpipers and around 12 Lesser Yellowlegs.

24th December.

A drive from San Francisco back to Los Angeles, on the first part of the journey we took the coast road, hwy 1. One of the stops was at Ano Nuevo State Park, which was closed, so we had to view the 40+ Northern Elephant Seals though my telescope from the road.

Birds we saw from the car and during stops south were Brewer's Blackbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, 11 American Kestrels, 9 Red-tailed Hawks, Marbled Godwits, Sanderlings, a Hudsonian Whimbrel, Western Meadowlarks, 20+ Killdeers, a Grey Plover, House Finches, Starlings,

2 Black Oystercatchers, 2 Willets, 3 Turkey Vultures, 2 Mourning Doves, a Black Phoebe and a Red-shouldered Hawk.

 

Photos: Brewer's Blackbird.

27th December.

A visit to Newport Beach, south of Los Angeles, where in the harbour there were lots of grebes and ducks, including Surf Scoters. Later, on the beach, we saw a large flock of gulls of several different species.

 

Photos: Newport Beach harbour and beach.

28th December.

Staying in La Jolla, north of San Diego, where we spent a couple of hours watching the gulls and waders on the beach.

 

Photos: Marbled Godwit, Heermann's Gull 2nd winter, Heermann's Gull adults, Ring-billed Gull adult, Western Gull adult.

29th December.

At Sea World in San Diego, where we spent the day, a lot of the enclosures were really well done, giving the animals room, I especially liked the penguin area. But, although we watched, I did not enjoy the Orca display, not what I call entertainment.

30th December.

At San Diego Harbour before boarding a boat for a trip out to find whales, but not the best time of year.

In the harbour we saw a Hudsonian Whimbrel, 2 Grey Plovers, 6+ Sanderling, 6+ Black Turnstones, a Spotted Sandpiper, a Wandering Tattler, Audubon's Warblers, Heermann's, Ring-billed and Western Gulls.

On the boat trip, which lasted a couple of hours or more and went out of the harbour into open water, we saw 8 Western Grebes, 8 Black-necked Grebes, around 30 Buffleheads, quite a few gulls including Bonaparte's and Mew, Forster's Terns, lots of Pelagic Cormorants, around 60 Grey Phalaropes, 2 Great Northern Divers, a Red-throated Diver, a Black-vented Shearwater, a Grey Whale which was the only whale we saw, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 4 Surf Scoters and several Brown Pelicans.

 

 

 

Photo: Grey Whale.

 

3rd January 1987.

Zenobia and I had driven to Santa Barbara the previous day and stayed with Jon Dunn overnight. It was the day of the Christmas Bird Count for Santa Barbara, so, an early start to meet up with quite a large group of local birdwatchers, who were eager to get going to see and count as many species, during daylight, in and around the town as possible.  I managed to see 69 species, Jon and others saw quite a few more.

Some of my highlights were: 2 Hermit Thrushes, 2 Plain now called Oak Titmice, several Western Scrub-Jays, 9 Brown now called California Towhees, 1 Rufous-sided now called Spotted Towhee, 1 Fox Sparrow, 7 Townsend's Warblers, 2 Nuttall's Woodpeckers, around 25 Bushtits, 12 Killdeers, 2 Western Tanagers, 1 Black Phoebe, 2 Wrentits, 3 Hutton's Vireos, 1 Ross's Goose, 1 Night Heron, a female Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Cinnamon Teal, 1 Clark's Grebe, 5 Lesser Scaup, around 10 Ring-necked Ducks, 2 Hooded Merganser a new bird for me, and a Grace's Warbler which was a good find for the region.

4th January.

Overnight in Santa Barbara, but before leaving for Los Angeles Zenobia and I went to look for a couple of birds, which were seen on yesterdays Bird Count and would be new for me. First stop was Rocky Nook Park, where we saw around 25 Bushtits, Townsend's Warbler, 2 Orange-crowned Warblers, 8 Acorn Woodpeckers, 2 Western Scrub-Jays, 4 California Towhees, Western Tanager and a male Hepatic Tanager. By the lake at the Bird Refuge another new bird, in amongst the other gulls was a 1st winter Thayer's Gull.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos: 1st winter Thayer's Gull.

© 2014  Nigel Tucker. All rights reserved.

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