Brown Pelican


Southern California with Geoff & Kitty
Oct 20 thru 24, 2003 
Guides: Bob Miller and Henry Detwiler

A marathon birding adventure beginning with two days with Bob on a full day around the Salton Sea then a day over the top through Garner Valley to La Jolla and San Elijo Lagoon.  Then Henry took the reigns and shared the Santa Catalina Islands, San Gabriel Mts and more!  

species (list follows at end of page)

Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized shots.

Rambur's Forktail 
Monday began at 0600 with a splendid red sky as morning broke over the desert and a fantastic bit of good fortune.  A trucker began honking and flashing his lights as we passed so we pulled over to find we had left some important cargo on our bumper and it was still there!  Just as the sun peaked over the horizon we were filling our coffee cups when a young boy and his Aunt needed assistance with a flat tire.  It took all of seven minutes to "pay it forward" and we were back to birding!

Phainopepla was the first of many lifers for Geoff on his first visit to the West Coast. --- was attending a medical convention so we were on our own for the first two days.  Johnson Road was our first look at the Salton Sea and the bird list was really running up already.  With over a hundred Western Grebes there, we were amazed to find only one Clark's Grebe in the whole bunch! The dragonflies and damselflies proved to be numerous throughout the day too.  Bombay Beach gave us our first of several looks at Yellow-footed Gull with an immature and an adult together.  The birding was hot and the day was proving to be even hotter as records fell all across the Southwest on what proved to be a real late season scorcher.  

We practically ran through the nature trail at Wister as I had left the mosquito repellent in my vehicle and the warm days brought out a strong late hatch of seriously hungry bugs.  American Redstart was the rarest bird at that stop although it is practically a yard bird for Geoff!  A true Salton Sea adventure, with astounding numbers of birds, also has to include bubbling mud volcanoes and mud pots, crumbling adobe bath houses falling into sink holes, pumice and obsidian rock, old trailer courts claimed by the Salton Sea, their bottom halves literally rusted away.  

With the thermometer now reading 108, we made a quick stop at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR and then continued on to Obsidian Butte in our "air-conditioned bird-blind"!  At stop at "the" dove spot at midday worked out very well as we had two Ruddy Ground-Dove in close plus every dove possible in the Imperial Valley!  

We picked up a couple sandwiches at Mike's and stopped at the house to enjoy them as we watched Anna's and Costa's Hummingbirds and Abert's Towhees at our feeders.  On to Brawley for great looks at Gambel's Quail and Gila Woodpecker.  Unit One was a bit slow but we picked up a few calling rails as the sun set.  

Poe Road was awesome as darkness came on and this Burrowing Owl greeted us from his unusual perch.   Black-crowned Night Herons barked in the distance as we watched a Peregrine Falcon, Brown Pelicans and a lone Ruddy Shell-Duck escaped from who knows where.  Our last stop was in the dunes as we searched for Sidewinders and desert creatures with a little MagLight on a moonless night.  The silence was as sharp as the stars! A Coyote and a Black-tailed Jackrabbit were caught in our headlights as we came out of the dunes.

Burrowing Owl bus driver

Thousand Palms, Coachella Valley

San Jacinto and San Gorgonio

Day two started just as early with an amazingly clear sky as we climbed out of the desert and up Hwy 74 from Thousand Palms. A Rock Wren greeted us at the view point as we watched the sunlight race down from the peaks. The two highest peaks in Southern California can be seen in the distance with San Gorgonio the farthest out to the right at 11,000+.  The Palm Springs Arial Tramway climbs the eastern face of San Jacinto which sits right above Palm Springs.  The chaparral above Pinyon Crest gave us Western Scrub-Jay, Bushtit and Oak Titmouse among others.  

Coyote Canyon

Pinyon Jays
The Jeffery Pines in Garner Valley held Ban-tailed Pigeon, Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatch and a raucous flock of Pinyon Jays!  Hemet Lake had a few American White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants but very few waterfowl.  
This is a view back up Garner Valley from near Hurkey Creek Campground.  The highway comes through behind the pines in the distance and Hemet Lake is off to the right in the lower part of the valley.  While I was busy soaking in this view Geoff found his first Steller's Jay in the pines behind us.  He then pulled the rabbit out of the hat with a lone White-headed Woodpecker in a distant pine that we were able to get the scope on for a nice look!  

Garner Valley

Acorn Woodpecker granary tree
A stop at a little known campground in a hidden little valley was a real treat.  This huge Jeffrey Pine was riddled with holes stuffed with acorns by Acorn Woodpeckers.  We saw the Acorn Woodpeckers and a lone Black-throated Gray warbler here. From here we hit the road and covered  a chunk of miles as we headed for the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla near San Diego!

Our second day continues on the next page.  

On to page TWO click here!
On to Henry's portion of the trip click here!
Oct 20-21, 2003
Southern California
  1. Pied-billed Grebe

  2. Eared Grebe

  3. Western Grebe

  4. Clark's Grebe

  5. Pink-footed Shearwater

  6. American White Pelican

  7. Brown Pelican

  8. Brandt's Cormorant

  9. Double-crested Cormorant

  10. Pelagic Cormorant

  11. American Bittern

  12. Least 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. Brant

  21. Gadwall

  22. American Wigeon

  23. Mallard

  24. Cinnamon Teal

  25. Northern Shoveler

  26. Northern Pintail

  27. Green-winged Teal

  28. Redhead

  29. Ruddy Duck

  30. Osprey

  31. Northern Harrier

  32. Sharp-shinned Hawk

  33. Cooper's Hawk

  34. Red-tailed Hawk

  35. American Kestrel

  36. Peregrine Falcon

  37. Gambel's Quail

  38. Virginia Rail

  39. Sora

  40. Common Moorhen

  41. American Coot

  42. Black-bellied Plover

  43. Semipalmated Plover

  44. Killdeer

  45. Black-necked Stilt

  46. American Avocet

  47. Greater Yellowlegs

  48. Lesser Yellowlegs

  49. Willet

  50. Wandering Tattler

  51. Spotted Sandpiper

  52. Long-billed Curlew

  53. Marbled Godwit

  54. Ruddy Turnstone

  55. Black Turnstone

  56. Western Sandpiper

  57. Least Sandpiper

  58. Dunlin

  59. Long-billed Dowitcher

  60. Wilson's Phalarope

  61. Laughing Gull

  62. Heermann's Gull

  63. Ring-billed Gull

  64. California Gull

  1. Herring Gull

  2. Yellow-footed Gull

  3. Western Gull

  4. Caspian Tern

  5. Elegant Tern

  6. Forster's Tern

  7. Rock Pigeon

  8. Eurasian Collared-Dove

  9. Band-tailed Pigeon

  10. White-winged Dove

  11. Mourning Dove

  12. Inca Dove

  13. Common Ground-Dove

  14. Ruddy Ground-Dove

  15. Greater Roadrunner

  16. Great Horned Owl

  17. Burrowing Owl

  18. Lesser Nighthawk

  19. Anna's Hummingbird

  20. Costa's Hummingbird

  21. Belted Kingfisher

  22. Acorn Woodpecker

  23. Gila Woodpecker

  24. Nuttall's Woodpecker

  25. White-headed Woodpecker

  26. Northern Flicker

  27. Black Phoebe

  28. Say's Phoebe

  29. Loggerhead Shrike

  30. Steller's Jay

  31. Western Scrub-Jay

  32. Pinyon Jay

  33. American Crow

  34. Common Raven

  35. Tree Swallow

  36. Oak Titmouse

  37. Verdin

  38. White-breasted Nuthatch

  39. Pygmy Nuthatch

  40. Rock Wren

  41. Bewick's Wren

  42. Marsh Wren

  43. Ruby-crowned Kinglet

  44. Western Bluebird

  45. Wrentit

  46. Northern Mockingbird

  47. European Starling

  48. Phainopepla

  49. Orange-crowned Warbler

  50. Yellow-rumped Warbler

  51. American Redstart

  52. Spotted Towhee

  53. California Towhee

  54. Abert's Towhee

  55. Chipping Sparrow

  56. Savannah Sparrow (+Large-billed)

  57. Song Sparrow

  58. White-crowned Sparrow

  59. Red-winged Blackbird

  60. Western Meadowlark

  61. Brewer's Blackbird

  62. Great-tailed Grackle

  63. House Finch

  64. House Sparrow

Photos Bob Miller