Humpback Whale Fin


Monterey, Big Sur, and Southern California
26 Sep - 4 Oct 2006
Tour Guide: Henry Detwiler

A awesome week of desert, pelagic, and coastal birding with Julie and Dennis in beautiful California.

215 species--bird list is at the bottom of the page
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized shots.


  Julie & Dennis at the Salton Sea

We left Yuma before dawn in a new Chrysler 3000, our bird mobile for the next week.  Our first goal in the Imperial Valley was Ruddy Ground-Dove, and after a short search of Inca & Common Ground-Doves, we found two of them west of Calipatria.

At Obsidian Butte were hundreds of gulls, terns, and Black Skimmers. Among them was another target for Dennis and Julie, that handsome post-breeding visitor to the Salton Sea, the Yellow-footed Gull.  Although the Sea was chock-full of birds, we had to depart at noon to drive north. 

Black Skimmer

Prairie Falcon

We made it to Silver Saddle Ranch, west of California City, just before sun down.  The road in to the resort provided a beautiful Prairie Falcon, and on the grounds we saw Vermilion & Gray Flycatchers, plus scads of rabbits.

Black-tailed Jackrabbit




We spent the morning on the beautiful grounds, searching for Chukars and eastern vagrants.  Among numerous sparrows were Sage and a Clay-colored.  Several Red-naped Sapsuckers were in the cottonwoods, and this engaging roadrunner posed along the entry road.

Greater Roadrunner

Turkey Vultures

Before rising on their thermals, we caught sight of this band of vultures surveying their domain from the hillside.  Dennis spotted the Chukars wandering down from Galileo Hill around 11:00, and we eventually got some killer looks. 
As California City we found the two northern visitors that had taken up residence:  this Ross' Goose and its larger distant cousin the Tundra Swan.

Tundra Swan

Ross' Goose

All too soon it was time to drive on towards Monterey.  When we stopped for a burger in Mohave it was pushing 100 degrees; at our next stop for gas in Salinas, it was 60degrees, cloudy, and breezy--what a shock!  

As the sun set we added some coastal birds and ate a less-than-fantastic seafood restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf.  We renamed it Crabby Dennis' -- in honor of Dennis' meager meal.


Checkmate at dawn, Monterey

Humpback Whale - note barnacles on tail

We reported to the Checkmate right on time, and at 0730 headed out to sea with Debra Shearwater.  Harbor waterfowl included a Harlequin Duck and Common Murre.  We were fortunate to have calm seas and warm weather, two factors that greatly added to our enjoyment of the 8-hour trip.  As we started to pick up numerous pelagics, we also started to see the real stars of the day, the hump-backed whales.  One of the leviathans breached a couple of hundred yards from the stern, and came crashing down with a resounding splash.  Shortly thereafter, we saw another giant breach ahead of the boat--too much fun!

In addition to the 30-odd whales, we found Pacific White-sided, Risso's, and Northern Right Whale Dolphins, as well as Dall's Porpoise.  Also out at sea were Elephant Seals and Northern Sea Lions.  It was a fine day for marine mammals!  The birds were pretty darn good, too, with four species of shearwaters, two jaegers, two auklets, a skua, a fulmar, and a storm-petrel.

White-sided Dolphin

Pink-footed Shearwater
chased by South Polar Skua


We were fortunate to see two South Polar Skuas, one of which was in hot pursuit of a Pink-footed Shearwater.  Buller's Shearwaters cut fine swaths as they glided over the light chop.  Sooty Shearwaters were floating everywhere, floating around like so many corks in a tub--so well fed that they could barely move out of the way of our boat.

Sooty Shearwater

Western Gull, Monterey Bay

ON to PAGE 2


California, 26 Sep - 4 Oct 2006

1 Red-throated Loon
2 Common Loon
3 Pied-billed Grebe
4 Horned Grebe
5 Red-necked Grebe
6 Eared Grebe
7 Western Grebe
8 Clark's Grebe
9 Flesh-footed Shearwater
10 Sooty Shearwater
11 Pink-footed Shearwater
12 Northern Fulmar
13 Buller's Shearwater
14 Ashy Storm Petrel
15 American White Pelican
16 Brown Pelican
17 Brandt's Cormorant
18 Double-crested Cormorant
19 Pelagic Cormorant
20 Least Bittern
21 Great Blue Heron
22 Great Egret
23 Snowy Egret
24 Little Blue Heron
25 Reddish Egret
26 Cattle Egret
27 Green Heron
28 Black-crowned Night Heron
29 Yellow-crowned Night Heron
30 White-faced Ibis
31 Canada Goose
32 Tundra Swan
33 American Wigeon
34 Blue-winged Teal
35 Mallard
36 Northern Shoveler
37 Northern Pintail
38 Green-winged Teal
39 Redhead
40 Ring-necked Duck
41 Surf Scoter
42 Common Merganser
43 Ruddy Duck
44 Osprey
45 White-tailed Kite
46 Northern Harrier
47 Sharp-shinned Hawk
48 Cooper's Hawk
49 Red-shouldered Hawk
50 Red-tailed Hawk
51 Golden Eagle
52 American Kestrel
53 Merlin
54 Peregrine Falcon
55 Prairie Falcon
56 Chukar
57 California Quail
58 Gambel's Quail
59 Clapper Rail
60 Common Moorhen
61 American Coot
62 Black-bellied Plover
63 Pacific Golden Plover
64 Snowy Plover
65 Semipalmated Plover
66 Killdeer
67 Black Oystercatcher
68 Black-necked Stilt
69 American Avocet
70 Greater Yellowlegs
71 Lesser Yellowlegs
72 Willet
73 Wandering Tattler
74 Spotted Sandpiper
75 Whimbrel
76 Long-billed Curlew
77 Marbled Godwit
78 Ruddy Turnstone
79 Black Turnstone
80 Surfbird
81 Red Knot
82 Sanderling
83 Western Sandpiper
84 Least Sandpiper
85 Dunlin
86 Short-billed Dowitcher
87 Long-billed Dowitcher
88 Wilson's Phalarope
89 Red-necked Phalarope
90 South Polar Skua
91 Turkey Vulture
92 Laughing Gull
93 Pomarine Jaeger
94 Parasitic Jaeger
95 Franklin's Gull
96 Heerman's Gull
97 Ring-billed Gull
98 California Gull
99 Herring Gull
100 Yellow-footed Gull
101 Western Gull
102 Caspian Tern
103 Royal Tern
104 Elegant Tern
105 Common Tern
106 Forster's Tern
107 Black Tern
108 Black Skimmer
109 Common Murre
110 Pigeon Guillemot
111 Cassin's Auklet
112 Rhinoceros Auklet
113 Rock Pigeon
114 Band-tailed Pigeon
115 White-winged Dove
116 Mourning Dove
117 Inca Dove
118 Common Ground-Dove
119 Ruddy Ground-Dove
120 Eurasian Collared Dove
121 Greater Roadrunner
122 Burrowing Owl
123 Lesser Nighthawk
124 Anna's Hummingbird
125 Belted Kingfisher
126 Acorn Woodpecker
127 Red-naped Sapsucker
128 Ladder-backed Woodpecker
129 Downy Woodpecker
130 Hairy Woodpecker
131 White-headed Woodpecker
132 Northern Flicker
133 Western Wood Pewee
134 Gray Flycatcher
135 Pacific Slope Flycatcher
136 Black Phoebe
137 Say's Phoebe
138 Vermilion Flycatcher
139 Cassin's Kingbird
140 Loggerhead Shrike
141 Hutton's Vireo
142 Stellar's Jay
143 Western Scrub Jay
144 Clark's Nutcracker
145 Yellow-billed Magpie
146 American Crow
147 Common Raven
148 Wrentit
149 Horned Lark
150 Tree Swallow
151 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
152 Barn Swallow
153 Mountain Chickadee
154 Chestnut-backed Chickadee
155 Oak Titmouse
156 Verdin
157 Bushtit
158 White-breasted Nuthatch
159 Pygmy Nuthatch
160 Brown Creeper
161 Rock Wren
162 Bewick's Wren
163 House Wren
164 Winter Wren
165 Marsh Wren
166 American Dipper
167 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
168 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
169 California Gnatcatcher
170 Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
171 Western Bluebird
172 Townsend's Solitaire
173 Hermit Thrush
174 American Robin
175 Northern Mockingbird
176 California Thrasher
177 European Starling
178 American Pipit
179 Yellow-rumped Warbler
180 Common Yellowthroat
181 Black-throated Gray Warbler
182 Macgillivray's Warbler
183 Wilson's Warbler
184 Orange-crowned Warbler
185 Western Tanager
186 Spotted Towhee
187 California Towhee
188 Abert's Towhee
189 Chipping Sparrow
190 Clay-Colored Sparrow
191 Brewer's Sparrow
192 Vesper Sparrow
193 Lark Sparrow
194 Sage Sparrow
195 Savannah Sparrow
196 Fox Sparrow
197 Song Sparrow
198 Lincoln's Sparrow
199 White-crowned Sparrow
200 Dark-eyed Junco
201 Red-winged Blackbird
202 Tricolored Blackbird
203 Western Meadowlark
204 Yellow-headed Blackbird
205 Brewer's Blackbird
206 Great-tailed Grackle
207 Brown-headed Cowbird
208 Purple Finch
209 House Finch
210 Lesser Goldfinch
211 Lawrence's Goldfinch
212 House Sparrow
213 Harlequin Duck
214 Sabine's Gull
215 California Condor

Photos Henry D. Detwiler