California, San Diego to Sierras 
June 23 - July 2, 2001
110 degrees at the Salton Sea, and only 45 degrees one morning at Lake Tahoe

A nine-day trip through California led by Henry Detwiler to see as many western species of birds as we could.  
213 species total (bird list at bottom of page)

Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized shots.

The birding adventure started at 6:30AM on Saturday morning when I picked up David at his motel.  Our first stop was in the Tijuana Valley, where we found a pair of Blue Grosbeaks and lots of Bullock's Orioles.  The Black-vented Oriole never appeared at Smuggler's Gulch, but we did get awesome looks at Wrentits, California Towhees and White-tailed Kites.  At San Elijo Lagoon we tracked down the California Gnatcatchers and a most cooperative California Thrasher.  And then it was east over the Laguna Mountains.

THE SALTON SEA


Burrowing Owl

We made a short stop to visit Joe Morlan and his bird sanctuary in Jacumba.  While talking to Joe and Lonna, we watched Lawrence's Goldfinches and Tricolored Blackbirds feeding and flitting about.  Once we hit the Imperial Valley, it wasn't long before we found our first Burrowing Owls, including some youngsters.  We spent a while looking for a Fulvous Whistling Duck before we retired to the Calipatria Inn and dinner.

 

On Sunday morning we again searched in vain for the Fulvous Whistling Duck, but did find Bronzed Cowbird, a Barn and a Horned  Owl,  Yellow-footed Gulls,  Wood Stork, and Lesser Nighthawks.  We explored the bubbling mud pots before heading north along the seashore.  The heat was becoming pretty oppressive by the time we reached the north end of the sea (110 degrees).


Caspian Tern & Black-necked Stilts


Snowy Plover at Salton Sea

Off of Ave 76 we saw thousands of stilts, avocets, gulls, and waders.  A pair of Snowy Plovers and several Brant rounded out the collection.

After stocking up on camping grub we drove up into the San Jacinto Mountains, where we added to our montane bird list:  California Quail, Pinyon Jays, Pygmy Nuthatches, Oak Titmice, and Black-headed Grosbeaks.  At our campground up at the top of Black Mountain we heard a band of Common Ravens carrying on, and soon saw what was exciting them--a Golden Eagle.  The next morning we awoke to a chorus of birds, and among others, David located White-headed Woodpeckers.

MONTEREY AREA

On the way north to Monterey we spotted a pronghorn antelope with a giant rack.  We pulled into Monterey in rainfall and failing light, so our coastal birding had to wait a day.  Early on Tuesday morning we got excellent looks at the Black Oystercatcher and Western Gulls off Point Pinos.


Black Oystercatcher at Monterey


Red Fox at Point Pinos

The oystercatchers got really riled up when a red fox came trotting by.  Offshore we watched Sooty Shearwaters skimming the wave tops.  A Pacific Loon was an unexpected surprise for this date in June.  Low tide afforded us excellent looks at anemones, sea urchins, and a starfish.
Off of Fisherman's Wharf we had beautiful looks at Pigeon Guillemot, Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorant, and California Sea Lions.  At the Carmel River we picked up Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Swainson's Thrush.


Young/female California Sea Lion

 


Redwoods--Andrew Molera St Park

We headed south along the beautiful coastline to Big Sur, and at Andrew Molera State Park saw our first California Redwoods, and our only Hutton's Vireo.  Further south still, we spotted both Vaux's and White-throated Swifts, a Peregrine Falcon, Purple Finches, and more White-tailed Kites.
Late in the afternoon we hiked to the mouth of the Big Sur River, where it empties into the Pacific Ocean.  A small raft of Surf Scoters bobbed in the swells.  The chilly  afternoon air encouraged me to move quickly, and we headed back 'home' for a late dinner.  On the way to the Sierra Nevada Mountains the next day, we got excellent looks at a Loggerhead Shrike and  Yellow-billed Magpies in the Sacramento Valley.


Big Sur - south of Monterey



Henry Detwiler
Fearless Birding Guide

   
Otter at Monterey

THE SIERRAS

We met a fellow birder, Cheri Pillsbury, in Foresthill for dinner, and then followed her high up along Mosquito Ridge Road for a night of owling, finally reaching the Big Trees State Park.  David and I walked along a beautiful trail with towering firs and pines.  The melodic flute-like notes of Hermit Thrushes serenaded us as the darkness settled around us.   


Spotted Owl

A loud dog-like hooting & barking shattered the silence and was repeated several times.  David glimpsed one of the Spotted Owls as it  flew into a fir quite close-by, and we all got very nice looks at it.  Then, perhaps in response to our pygmy owl whistles, it flew to a tree directly overhead.  Excellent looks!  We camped at Live Oak Flats, and listened to the faint, low hoots of the Flammulated Owl before drifting off to sleep.

 


Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, at about 8500', was abloom with yellow coneflowers and these fine blue types.  Bird life was typical of the high alpine country, and included White-crowned Sparrow, Green-tailed Towhee, Mountain Chickadee, and Clark's Nutcracker.
But the target bird for this trip was the Gray-crowned Rosy Finch, which we finally spotted close to the ridge seen in this picture.  Other really nice surprises were a Rock Wren, Mountain Bluebirds, Pine Siskins, Cassin's Finches, and a Pine Grosbeak. By the time we descended 2000' on our cable-car ride, it was late afternoon.  


Dave at Squaw Valley

At 9:00PM we finally found a camping area not overrun by mosquitoes south of Lake Tahoe.  The next morning when we packed up and left it was 45 degrees!  In the vicinity of Kit Carson Pass, David got really excellent looks at the Townsend's Solitaire, and we enjoyed the first Aspen groves of our trip.


Avocet & California Gulls at Mono Lake

We continued on to Lee Vining and Mono Lake, where we watched the first of the returning Wilson's Phalaropes snapping up brine flies in mid-air.  California Gulls were also there by the thousands. Northeast of  Mono Lake we found our only Juniper Titmice.
Sage is a predominant feature in the Owens Valley, which lies east of the Sierra Nevada Range.  Three of the specialty birds here are Sage Sparrow, Sage Thrasher, and Sage Grouse.  After a bit of scouting, we were able to turn up all three of them!


Sage and the Sierra Nevada Range


American Avocet - Crowley Lake

Crowley Lake provided us with a number of fine birds.  Brewer's and Vesper Sparrows were abundant, and after a couple of hours of searching, we met up with a Sage Grouse hen and two of her "grouselets".  In the lake and along the shore were Ruddy Ducks, Redheads, early Buffleheads, and this American Avocet.

 

A detour up to the Kern Valley Nature Conservancy Preserve provided more excellent looks at Lawrence's Goldfinches and a beautiful male Black-chinned Hummingbird.  The shedding cottonwoods had lined all the trees in this grove with a fuzzy white fur.

 


White-tailed Kite at Smuggler's Gulch
Our final day ended  where we started--in San Diego.  We heard the Bell's Vireo, got fine looks at Elegant Terns, and watched this beautiful White-tailed Kite through the scope.
We missed a few birds, but overall it was a most productive and excellent whirlwind trip. Congratulations David!

     

 

Location

Species

1

Monterey

Pacific Loon

2

Salton Sea

Clark's Grebe

3

San Diego

Western Grebe

4

Salton Sea

Eared Grebe

5

San Diego

Pied-billed Grebe

6

Monterey

Sooty Shearwater

7

San Diego

Brown Pelican

8

Salton Sea

White Pelican

9

Monterey

Brandt's Cormorant

10

San Diego

Double-crested Cormorant

11

Monterey

Pelagic Cormorant

12

Monterey

Belted Kingfisher

13

San Diego

Black-crowned Night Heron

14

San Diego

Cattle Egret

15

San Diego

Great Egret

16

San Diego

Great Blue Heron

17

San Diego

Green Heron

18

San Diego

Little Blue Heron

19

San Diego

Snowy Egret

20

Salton Sea

Wood Stork

21

San Diego

White-faced Ibis

22

Monterey

Canada Goose

23

Salton Sea

Brant

24

Sierras

American Wigeon

25

San Diego

Blue-winged Teal

26

San Diego

Cinnamon Teal

27

San Diego

Mallard

28

San Diego

Ruddy Duck

29

Salton Sea

Northern Shoveler

30

Monterey

Surf Scoter

31

Kern Preserve

Wood Duck

32

Sierras

Virginia Rail

33

San Diego

Common Moorhen

34

San Diego

American Coot

35

Sierras

Sora

36

Monterey

Black Oystercatcher

37

San Diego

American Avocet

38

San Diego

Black-necked Stilt

39

San Diego

Black-bellied Plover

40

San Diego

Killdeer

41

Salton Sea

Snowy Plover

42

San Diego

Marbled Godwit

43

San Diego

Long-billed Curlew

44

San Diego

Greater Yellowlegs

45

San Diego

Whimbrel

46

San Diego

Willet

47

Sierras

Wilson's Phalarope

48

Salton Sea

California Gull

49

San Diego

Heerman's Gull

50

San Diego

Western Gull

51

Salton Sea

Laughing Gull

52

San Diego

Ring-billed Gull

53

Salton Sea

Yellow-footed Gull

54

San Diego

Caspian Tern

55

San Diego

Forster's Tern

56

San Diego

Royal Tern

57

San Diego

Elegant Tern

58

San Diego

Black Skimmer

59

Salton Sea

Black Tern

60

Salton Sea

Gull-Billed Tern

61

San Diego

Least Tern

62

Monterey

Common Murre

63

Monterey

Pigeon Guillemot

64

San Diego

Turkey Vulture

65

San Diego

Cooper's Hawk

66

San Jacinto Mts.

Golden Eagle

67

San Diego

Northern Harrier

68

San Diego

Red-shouldered Hawk

69

San Diego

Red-tailed Hawk

70

San Diego

White-tailed Kite

71

San Diego

American Kestrel

72

Monterey

Peregrine Falcon

73

San Jacinto Mts.

California Quail

74

San Diego

Gambel's Quail

75

Sierras

Sage Grouse

76

Salton Sea

Inca Dove

77

San Jacinto Mts.

Band-tailed Pigeon

78

Salton Sea

Common Ground Dove

79

San Diego

Mourning Dove

80

San Diego

Rock Dove

81

San Bernardino

Spotted Dove

82

San Diego

White-winged Dove

83

San Diego

Greater Roadrunner

84

Salton Sea

Barn Owl

85

Sierras

Spotted Owl

86

San Diego

Burrowing Owl

87

Sierras

Flammulated Owl

88

Salton Sea

Great Horned Owl

89

Sierras

Common Nighthawk

90

Salton Sea

Lesser Nighthawk

91

Monterey

Vaux's Swift

92

Monterey

White-throated Swift

93

San Diego

Anna's Hummingbird

94

Sierras

Calliope Hummingbird

95

Kern Preserve

Black-chinned Hummingbird

96

San Jacinto Mts.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

97

Sierras

Rufous Hummingbird

98

San Diego

Nuttal's Woodpecker

99

San Diego

Acorn Woodpecker

100

Monterey

Downy Woodpecker

101

San Jacinto Mts.

Hairy Woodpecker

102

San Jacinto Mts.

Northern Flicker

103

San Jacinto Mts.

Red-breasted Sapsucker

104

San Jacinto Mts.

White-headed Woodpecker

105

San Diego

Pacific Slope Flycatcher

106

Laguna Mts.

Say's Phoebe

 


    

 

Location

Species

107

San Diego

Ash-throated Flycatcher

108

San Diego

Black Phoebe

109

Sierras

Dusky Flycatcher

110

San Jacinto Mts.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

111

San Jacinto Mts.

W. Wood Pewee

112

San Diego

Western Kingbird

113

San Diego

Horned Lark

114

Monterey

Barn Swallow

115

San Diego

Cliff Swallow

116

Monterey

Purple Martin

117

San Diego

N. Rough-Winged Swallow

118

Monterey

Tree Swallow

119

San Jacinto Mts.

Violet-green Swallow

120

Sierras

Clark's Nutcracker

121

San Diego

Stellar's Jay

122

Sierras

Black-Billed Magpie

123

San Jacinto Mts.

Pinyon Jay

124

San Diego

Scrub Jay

125

Sacramento

Yellow-billed Magpie

126

San Diego

Common Crow

127

San Diego

Common Raven

128

San Diego

Wrentit

129

Monterey

Chestnut-Bckd Chickadee

130

San Jacinto Mts.

Mountain Chickadee

131

San Diego

Oak Titmouse

132

Sierras

Juniper Titmouse

133

San Diego

Verdin

134

San Diego

Bushtit

135

San Jacinto Mts.

Brown Creeper

136

San Jacinto Mts.

Pygmy Nuthatch

137

Sierras

Red-breasted Nuthatch

138

San Jacinto Mts.

White-breasted Nuthatch

139

San Diego

Bewick's Wren

140

Salton Sea

Cactus Wren

141

San Diego

House Wren

142

San Diego

Marsh Wren

143

Sierras

Rock Wren

144

Sierras

Winter Wren

145

Monterey

Swainson's Thrush

146

Sierras

Townsend's Solitaire

147

San Diego

Western Bluebird

148

Sierras

Hermit Thrush

149

Sierras

Mountain Bluebird

150

San Jacinto Mts.

American Robin

151

San Diego

California Gnatcatcher

152

Salton Sea

Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher

153

San Jacinto Mts.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

154

Sierras

Golden-Crowned Kinglet

155

Sacramento

Loggerhead Shrike

156

San Diego

California Thrasher

157

San Diego

Northern Mockingbird

158

Sierras

Sage Thrasher

159

Sierras

Bufflehead

160

Sierras

American Dipper

161

San Diego

Phainopepla

162

San Diego

European Starling

163

San Diego

Bell's Vireo

164

Sierras

Hutton's Vireo

165

Sierras

Plumbeous Vireo

166

Monterey

Warbling Vireo

167

Sierras

Macgillivray's Warbler

168

Sierras

Nashville Warbler

169

Sierras

Wilson's Warbler

170

Sierras

Bl-Throated Gray Warbler

171

Sierras

Hermit Warbler

172

Sierras

Orange-Crowned Warbler

173

San Diego

Yellow Warbler

174

San Diego

Yellow-breasted Chat

175

San Jacinto Mts.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

176

San Diego

Common Yellowthroat

177

San Diego

Abert's Towhee

178

San Diego

Black-Headed Grosbeak

179

San Diego

Blue Grosbeak

180

Sierras

Green-Tailed Towhee

181

Sierras

Lazuli Bunting

182

San Diego

California Towhee

183

San Diego

Spotted Towhee

184

Sierras

Lincoln's Sparrow

185

Sierras

Chipping Sparrow

186

San Jacinto Mts.

Dark-Eyed Junco

187

Sierras

Fox Sparrow

188

Crowley Lake

Sage Sparrow

189

San Diego

Savannah Sparrow

190

Sierras

Brewer's Sparrow

191

San Diego

Song Sparrow

192

Sierras

Vesper Sparrow

193

Monterey

White-crowned Sparrow

194

San Diego

Brewer's Blackbird

195

Salton Sea

Brown-Headed Cowbird

196

Salton Sea

Bronzed Cowbird

197

San Diego

Great-Tailed Grackle

198

San Diego

Bullock's Oriole

199

San Diego

Red-winged Blackbird

200

San Diego

Tricolored Blackbird

201

San Diego

Western Meadowlark

202

San Jacinto Mts.

Western Tanager

203

San Diego

Yellow-headed Blackbird

204

San Diego

House Sparrow

205

Sierras

Cassin's Finch

206

San Diego

Lawrence's Goldfinch

207

San Diego

House Finch

208

San Diego

Lesser Goldfinch

209

Sierras

Pine Siskin

210

Sierras

Pine Grosbeak

211

Monterey

Purple Finch

212

Sierras

Red Crossbill

213

Sierras

Gray-Crowned Rosy Finch


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Photos Henry D. Detwiler