California Sea Lions


Orange County to the Salton Sea
16-17 Jan 2004, 45-70 degrees
Led by Vic Leipzig and Bruce Aird

Another fine birding adventure, beginning on the Pacific Coast and ending at the Salton Sea
170 total!  100
species per day

Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized shots.

In Orange County, we started the day with a 1st-year Thayer's Gull. We found an unexpected Summer Tanager in Laguna Niguel Park and got great looks at an Aleutian Canada Goose there. We successfully located a small flock of Tricolored Blackbirds at a local shopping center (thanks to Peyton Cook for that tip!) along with a columbarius Merlin. Crescent Bay Overlook got us Pelagic and Brandt's Cormorants at close range, and literally thousands of Black-vented Shearwaters.

Western Gull & Brandt's Cormorants

At Crystal Cove State Park, we did quite well with some of Roger's target species for Orange County: California Thrasher singing 6 feet out the car window, California Towhee and California Gnatcatcher, as well as a distant male Allen's Hummingbird.

At Mason Park, we found Nuttall's and Downy Woodpeckers, a Black-throated Gray Warbler, more Allen's Hummingbirds, and heard a distant Bullock's Oriole. A walk around the lake yielded some eye-popping Western Bluebirds, and the vagrant female Vermilion Flycatcher. Also there was a large flock of Long-billed Curlews, Whimbrels and Marbled Godwits, foraging on the manicured lawns! After a quick lunch stop, Vic found the Palm Warbler along San Diego Creek, and some Common Moorhens and a Black-crowned Night-Heron.

Bruce and Roger

Pelagic Cormorant

The major stop of the day was at Seal Beach NWR, where we found many new birds, including the specialties: 6 Pacific Golden-Plover, 21 Mountain Plover, a half dozen or so Loggerhead Shrikes, and great looks at three different sub-species of Savannah Sparrow, including Belding's and Large-billed. We also saw amazing numbers of Osprey and innumerable Red-tailed Hawks, along with Horned Grebe, Surf Scoters, Red-breasted Merganser, Dunlin and many other birds. Thanks to John Bradley of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the US Navy for allowing us access, this portion of the trip was quite successful.

We could only find Lilac-crowned Parrots and an unidentifiable parakeet at the Santa Ana parrot roost, but the sound and spectacle in the fading evening light were worth the trip. Our last stop was at Upper Newport Bay, where we coaxed Light-footed Clapper Rails, Virginia Rails and Soras to talk to us.

The Salton Sea day trip from Orange County was exhausting but quite successful. We stopped at the Wister Unit after dawn, and had Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Verdin and Abert's Towhee right out of the car. A flock of 12 Common Ground-Doves on the Nature Trail were nice for Roger. After watching Snow and Ross' Geese flying by, we saw various species of ducks and grebes, and heard a Yuma Clapper Rail. Then we were startled by the American Redstart from 10 feet away on the way back to the car. We'll take it!

Reddish Egret at Salton Sea

The longspurs at the prison eluded us, but we found the female Hooded and Common Mergansers on the pond in front. The Common Goldeneyes there were lovely too. 

On the way to the Harris' Sparrow spot, we logged Greater Roadrunner, Prairie Falcon, and an adult male Sharp-shinned Hawk perched in a tree in a Niland yard. We ran into Bob Miller's group at the sparrow spot, and while the sparrow gave us the slip, we got great looks at Horned Larks, Vesper and Brewer's Sparrows, the saltonis subspecies of Song Sparrow and several White-tailed Kites at close range. We joined Bob's group for the rest of the day. 

It took a while to get everyone good views, but eventually, we all saw the Sprague's Pipit in the field at Sinclair Road. Lunch at the Salton Sea NWR main unit netted us close views of Ross' Geese in the nearby field, more Common Ground Doves, and for a lucky few, a glimpse of the White-throated Sparrow there. 
Obsidian Butte did not yield a Yellow-footed Gull, but we did find an unreported adult Mew Gull, Lesser Yellowlegs and a vocal pair of Rock Wrens. We drove south along the sea wall looking in vain for the Yellow-footed Gull, but did find a Peregrine Falcon and the Reddish Egret. We returned to Redhill to look for YFGU, but had no luck, though we did find American White Pelicans, Dunlin, and 3 distant Lesser Flamingos!  From there we went to the dove spot in Calipatria--
Obsidian Butte

And located White-winged, Mourning, Eurasian Collared, Inca, Ringed Turtle- and Ruddy Ground-Doves. When you add Rock Pigeon to that, we had 8 species of columbiiformes in a single day!

Our next stop was Cattle Call Park in Brawley, where we logged a number of new species, including Phainopepla, Gila Woodpecker, Cactus Wren, and two very obliging flycatchers: a brilliant male Vermilion, and a skittish but charming Gray. In the fading light, we pressed on to the New River Marsh Project area, and as the sun set, managed to tick off the local populations of Marsh Wren, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, Least Bittern, Sora, Virginia Rail, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and a single male Great Horned Owl, who obligingly landed on top of a telephone pole and allowed us to spotlight him. The local coyotes serenaded us, and a spectacular view of rising Saturn through Bob's scope was a particularly lovely end to the day.

Orange County to Imperial County, 16-17 Jan 2004

Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Black-vented Shearwater
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brandt's Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Reddish Egret
Cattle Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Snow Goose
Ross' Goose
Canada Goose
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Surf Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Prairie Falcon
Clapper Rail
Virginia Rail
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Pacific Golden-Plover
Mountain Plover
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Black Turnstone
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Heermann's Gull
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull


More Birds
Glaucous-winged Gull
Caspian Tern
Forster's Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Barn Owl
Great Horned Owl
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Acorn Woodpecker
Gila Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Gray Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Vermilion Flycatcher
Cassin's Kingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
Hutton's Vireo
Western Scrub-Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Barn Swallow
Cactus Wren
Rock Wren
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
California Gnatcatcher
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
Western Bluebird
Northern Mockingbird
California Thrasher
European Starling
American Pipit
Sprague's Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbl
Palm Warbler
American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat
Summer Tanager
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Abert's Towhee
Brewer's Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Belding's Savannah Sparro
Large-billed Savannah Spa
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Bullock's Oriole
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Photos Bruce Aird