Monterey, Big Sur,
and Southern California
- 4 Oct 2006
A awesome week of desert, pelagic, and coastal birding with Julie and
Dennis in beautiful California.
species--bird list is at the bottom of the page
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.