Southern California: From Santa Cruz Island to the Salton Sea
September 21-27, 2011
Joppa Flats Education Center, Mass Audubon

Dave Larson and Steve Grinley led a group on this birding trip to some of Southern California's
best birding locations, including Santa Cruz Island, the San Jacinto Mountains, the Salton Sea, the
Anza-Borrego Desert, the Laguna Mountains, and coastal San Diego County.

At Sycamore Canyon in Mugu State Park, we saw

California Quail,

California Towhee, and other great birds.

There was also this beautiful Castor Bean plant (Ricin).

We boarded the Island Packers boat for Santa Cruz Island the next morning. Just outside the harbor,

these California Sealions were battling over buoy space. Sooty Shearwaters and Red-necked
Phalaropes dominated on the way over (along with lots of gulls and cormorants).

But we also had Pacific White-sided Dolphins

and Royal Terns escorting us.

It was a little foggy on the island

but we managed to see quite a bit.

One of the reasons to go to Santa Cruz Island is to see the endemic Island Scrub Jay.

They apparently like the acorns from scrub oaks.

While on the island, Donna Hollinger took this great shot of the endemic Island Gray Fox.

wicked cute!

Larry found this Lark Sparrow.

Plenty of Anna's Hummingbirds in various plumages scooting about.

There were lots of these little lizards (Island Fence Lizard?) around...

Common Buckeye.

We bade Santa Cruz Island goodbye.

Back in Ventura, we birded on a beach before dinner for

lots of Willets and Marbled Godwits.

and the attractive Heermann's Gull.

The next day we ventured up into the San Jacinto Mountains northeast of Los Angeles.

Nuttall's Woodpecker

and White-headed Woodpeckers were target birds.

Here's a western Hairy Woodpecker for comparison.

There were plenty of Western Bluebirds around.

Mountain Chickadees were common

as were Western Gray Squirrels.

We had a nearby kettle of over 100 American Ravens.

A campground had hummingbird feeders

with lots of Anna's Hummingbirds and a few Allen's.


Our next birding destination was the Salton Sea area. We arrived pre-dawn

greeted by Sandhill Cranes,

Burrowing Owls,

and Loggerhead Shrikes.

Shorebirds were plentiful,

as were terns and both pelicans,

though people (even crazy birders) were scarce.

American Avocet in winter plumage

Most of the terns were Caspian,

but we also had Black

and Forster's.

The quails here were


For a while we watched this standoff

between an Osprey and a Peregrine Falcon.

We also saw Wilson's and

Red-necked Phalaropes spinning.

Nearby, there were dozens of

Yellow-footed Gulls hanging around and lots of

dead Tilapia.

Near the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center we saw

this roosting Barn Owl,

Desert Cottontail,

and Lesser Nighthawks.

We were in the desert and our next stop was in the Anza-Borrego
Desert State Park.

Got cactus?

How about cactus flowers,


or ocotillo?

Plus this well-adapted Common Zebra-tailed Lizard (hey, it was 103F)

and this (maybe Sonoran) Tiger Whiptail.

We stayed in Borrego Springs and got up the next morning early

for some predawn listening to a Great Horned Owl and watching a fly-by Barn Owl.

We did a pre-breakfast walk in the desert and saw

Black-throated Sparrows.

Back at the hotel, this

Greater Roadrunner was hanging around.

An after-breakfast walk at Yaqui Wells produced

Black-tailed Jackrabbit - very shy, perhaps because of

the presence of at least 3 Golden Eagles.

California Thrasher has one heck of a beak!

Here we also found both Black-tailed and California (no photo) Gnatcatchers.

As we left the Anza-Borrego Desert, we drove through the Laguna Mountains,
enjoying the scenery and birds,

including lots of Acorn Woodpeckers

and Phainopeplas.

Our last full day was spent along coastal San Diego County. At La Jolla,

we saw Brandt's Cormorants

and California Sea Lions. The Torrey Pines Natural Reserve produced


beldingi race of Savannah Sparrow,

and cooperative Wrentits.

Oh, and a partial group photo op

Our last stops were at the San Diego River, in San Diego,

looking for shorebirds and waders and at

Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, looking for more rockpipers.

We had a great time, with 179 species of birds and 13 species of mammals.

Return to Birding in Massachusetts.