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
At Sycamore Canyon in
Mugu State Park, we saw
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
these California Sealions were battling over buoy space. Sooty
Shearwaters and Red-necked
Phalaropes dominated on the way over (along with lots of gulls
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.
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?)
We bade Santa Cruz Island
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.
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
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,
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
The quails here were
For a while we watched
between an Osprey and a Peregrine Falcon.
We also saw Wilson's and
Red-necked Phalaropes spinning.
Nearby, there were dozens
Yellow-footed Gulls hanging around and lots of
Near the Sonny Bono Salton
Sea National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center we saw
this roosting Barn Owl,
and Lesser Nighthawks.
We were in the desert
and our next stop was in the Anza-Borrego
Desert State Park.
How about cactus flowers,
Plus this well-adapted Common Zebra-tailed Lizard (hey, it was
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
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)
As we left the Anza-Borrego
Desert, we drove through the Laguna Mountains,
enjoying the scenery and birds,
including lots of Acorn Woodpeckers
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
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.
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