American Avocet


Southern California in May 
2-8 May 2004
Narrated by Henry Detwiler

Dennis & June Schwartz and I spent an excellent week of birding in southern California, starting in the southwest deserts and going as far north as Morro Bay.  
198 species -- complete list at end of page
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized shots.

SUNDAY, 2 May 04 

We actually started out on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, where Dennis got to SEE (and not just hear) a Yellow-breasted Chat.  We also got a few desert-loving birds, and then headed back to the car rental office to add me to the contract. 

Dennis & June


Black-necked Stilt on nest

Long-billed Dowitcher

From there it was off to the Salton Sea, to see a fine array of breeding and migrant waders, shorebirds, and a solitary Heerman's Gull.  The Black-necked Stilts were all along the levee roads, and we had to take care where we walked.

Killdeer on nest
(eggs underneath her)

In Palm Desert we started up the "Palms to Pines" highway, finding our first mountain birds before long.  New additions included California Quail, Pinyon Jay, and Tricolored Blackbird.  After a fine dinner in Idyllwild we did some owling and heard a cooperative Western Screech-Owl.


MONDAY, 3 May 04

Dennis and I got an early start while June slept in.  We tried to drive to the top of Black Mt., but the road was still blocked by a gate 1/2 the way up.  So we parked there and hiked around the mountain pines, finding Mountain Quail, Western Tanager, and Olive-sided Flycatcher.  


Back in Idyllwild, we picked up June and enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast.  

Red-crowned Parrot 

Several hours of driving north and east took us to Santa Anita Canyon in the San Gabriel Mts. Half a mile of walking down the canyon led us to Cassin's Vireos, Pacific-slope Flycatchers, and Wrentits.  Unfortunately, we dipped on the Dipper and the Black Swift.  The tough part was returning uphill!  As we left the suburbs, Dennis spotted some parrots, which turned out to be Red-crowneds!


TUESDAY, 4 May 04

 Today we drove farther west and back up into the San Gabriels, in search of the California Condor.  We scored on Oak Titmouse, Sage Sparrow, California Thrasher, and a mini-fallout of western warblers, including many fine Hermit Warblers.  But the Condors remained scarce.

Hermit Warbler

During the late afternoon, we enjoyed birding the coastal lagoons and seashore of Ventura Beach.  A west wind had driven in many of these "By-the-wind Sailor" (Vellela vellela) jellyfish.  And in addition to the common gulls and waders, we spotted a couple of nice surprises: a beautiful breeding-plumage Pacific Loon and a winter-plumaged Long-tailed Duck.

By-the-wind Sailor Jellyfish

Snowy Plover

 WEDNESDAY, 5 May 04

Sea Lion at entrance to Ventura Harbor

After a hearty breakfast, we boarded the Island Packers boat and steamed out to Santa Cruz Island.  There were large flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes, a few Sooty Shearwaters, and in the deeper waters, a few Risso's Dolphins (actually small whales!).

Allen's Hummingbird   

Soon after landing at Prisoner's Harbor, we heard and then saw our prize--the Island Scrub Jay.  Hiking up the main dirt road we saw a striking male Allen's Hummingbird, Spotted Towhees, several warblers, and a Rufous-crowned Sparrow.

Closer to Santa Cruz Island we saw many Pigeon Guillemots and two Xantu's Murrelets--a new bird for both of us.

Island Scrub Jay

Wild Pig

Along the creek leading to Prisoner's Harbor we found one of the many wild pigs that run loose on the island and more California Quail.

California Quail on Santa Cruz Island

THURSDAY, 6 May 04

Our target this morning was one of California's endemic birds, the Yellow-billed Magpie.  Along the wonderfully scenic Alisal Road we found Purple Martins and Western Bluebirds, and then, at the golf course, a flock of the striking magpies. 

Montano de Oro State Park

Great Blue Heron

An hour farther up the road took us to Montana de Oro State Park, where spectacular cliffs and rocks along the Pacific Ocean played host to Pigeon Guillemots, Black Oystercatchers, cormorants, and gulls.  The tide was still out, so we strolled over the exposed rocks, looking at the colorful and various anemones, starfish, and sea urchins.  Along the cliff trail we got within arm's length of this almost-tame heron.

  On to page 2

California, 2-8 May 2004
# Species
1 Pacific Loon
2 Common Loon
3 Pied-billed Grebe
4 Eared Grebe
5 Western Grebe
6 Clark's Grebe
7 American White Pelican
8 Brown Pelican
9 Brandt's Cormorant
10 Double-crested Cormorant
11 Pelagic Cormorant
12 American Bittern
13 Great Blue Heron
14 Great Egret
15 Snowy Egret
16 Cattle Egret
17 Green Heron
18 Black-crowned Night Heron
19 White-faced Ibis
20 Greater White-fronted Goose
21 Brant
22 Gadwall
23 American Wigeon
24 Mallard
25 Blue-winged Teal
26 Cinnamon Teal
27 Redhead
28 Surf Scoter
29 Long-tailed Duck
30 Barrow's Goldeneye
31 Red-breasted Merganser
32 Ruddy Duck
33 Osprey
34 Cooper's Hawk
35 Red-shouldered Hawk
36 Red-tailed Hawk
37 Rough-legged Hawk
38 American Kestrel
39 Mountain Quail
40 California Quail
41 Gambel's Quail
42 Virginia Rail
43 Common Moorhen
44 American Coot
45 Black-bellied Plover
46 Snowy Plover
47 Semipalmated Plover
48 Killdeer
49 Black Oystercatcher
50 Black-necked Stilt
51 American Avocet
52 Greater Yellowlegs
53 Willet
54 Spotted Sandpiper
55 Whimbrel
56 Long-billed Curlew
57 Marbled Godwit
58 Sanderling
59 Western Sandpiper
60 Least Sandpiper
61 Dunlin
62 Long-billed Dowitcher
63 Wilson's Phalarope
64 Red-necked Phalarope
65 Turkey Vulture
66 Franklin's Gull
67 Bonaparte's Gull
68 Heerman's Gull
69 Ring-billed Gull
70 California Gull
71 Herring Gull
72 Western Gull
73 Caspian Tern
74 Royal Tern
75 Forster's Tern
76 Least Tern
77 Black Tern
78 Black Skimmer
79 Pigeon Guillemot
80 Xantu's Murrelet
81 Rock Pigeon
82 Band-tailed Pigeon
83 White-winged Dove
84 Mourning Dove
85 Inca Dove
86 Common Ground-Dove
87 Eurasian Collared Dove
88 Red-crowned Parrot
89 Greater Roadrunner
90 Western Screech Owl
91 Burrowing Owl
92 Lesser Nighthawk
93 Vaux's Swift
94 White-throated Swift
95 Anna's Hummingbird
96 Costa's Hummingbird
97 Allen's Hummingbird
98 Acorn Woodpecker
99 Red-breasted Sapsucker
# Species
100 Ladder-backed Woodpecker
101 Nuttal's Woodpecker
102 Hairy Woodpecker
103 White-headed Woodpecker
104 Northern Flicker
105 Olive-sided Flycatcher
106 Western Wood Pewee
107 Pacific Slope Flycatcher
108 Black Phoebe
109 Say's Phoebe
110 Vermilion Flycatcher
111 Ash-throated Flycatcher
112 Brown-crested Flycatcher
113 Western Kingbird
114 Bell's Vireo
115 Plumbeous Vireo
116 Cassin's Vireo
117 Hutton's Vireo
118 Warbling Vireo
119 Stellar's Jay
120 Western Scrub Jay
121 Island Scrub Jay
122 Pinyon Jay
123 Clark's Nutcracker
124 Yellow-billed Magpie
125 American Crow
126 Common Raven
127 Horned Lark
128 Wrentit
129 Purple Martin
130 Tree Swallow
131 Violet-green Swallow
132 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
133 Cliff Swallow
134 Barn Swallow
135 Mountain Chickadee
136 Chestnut-backed Chickadee
137 Oak Titmouse
138 Verdin
139 Bushtit
140 White-breasted Nuthatch
141 Pygmy Nuthatch
142 Cactus Wren
143 Bewick's Wren
144 House Wren
145 Marsh Wren
146 Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
147 Western Bluebird
148 Swainson's Thrush
149 American Robin
150 Northern Mockingbird
151 California Thrasher
152 European Starling
153 Cedar Waxwing
154 Phainopepla
155 Common Yellowthroat
156 Yellow-rumped Warbler
157 Orange-crowned Warbler
158 Hermit Warbler
159 Wilson's Warbler
160 Yellow-breasted Chat
161 Townsend's Warbler
162 Yellow Warbler
163 Summer Tanager
164 Western Tanager
165 Green-tailed Towhee
166 Spotted Towhee
167 California Towhee
168 Abert's Towhee
169 Rufous-crowned Sparrow
170 Chipping Sparrow
171 Black-chinned Sparrow
172 Lark Sparrow
173 Black-throated Sparrow
174 Sage Sparrow
175 Fox Sparrow
176 Song Sparrow
177 White-crowned Sparrow
178 Dark-eyed Junco
179 Black-headed Grosbeak
180 Lazuli Bunting
181 Red-winged Blackbird
182 Tricolored Blackbird
183 Western Meadowlark
184 Yellow-headed Blackbird
185 Brewer's Blackbird
186 Great-tailed Grackle
187 Brown-headed Cowbird
188 Hooded Oriole
189 Bullock's Oriole
190 Purple Finch
191 Cassin's Finch
192 House Finch
193 Pine Siskin
194 Lesser Goldfinch
195 Lawrence's Goldfinch
196 American Goldfinch
197 House Sparrow
198 Sooty Shearwater

Photos Henry D. Detwiler