We left the afternoon of the 20th of July for an eight day vacation to California. The trip was geared to see family so I knew I wouldn't get much birding in but planned to make the most of what time I had. The good birds started shortly after we left Westminster. A flock of Band-tailed Pigeons made an appearance in the mountains outside of Glenwood Springs, just a taste of the good birds that were yet to come. Those were the best birds of the first day and we bunked down in Green River, Utah for the night. The next day we headed out before sunup and were off, hoping to get to California by mid to late evening. While driving through Richfield, UT, a brown bird all-of-a-sudden flew out in front of the vehicle and I hit it. I caught enough of a glimpse of it to be able to identify it as a California Quail when I got my bird book out at our breakfast stop. First bird to add to my "hit with car" list. The rest of the drive out was pretty uneventful birdwise, save for the rather large flock of House Sparrows that gathered around us as we shared our In-N-Out french fries with them in Las Vegas.
Once we got to our first destination in Oceanside, CA, all I was able to add to the list was American Goldfinch, Anna's Hummingbird, and my all-time favorite, the Bushtit. Birding proceeded rather slow for the next day, even when we visited Oceanside Beach. Heerman's Gulls were out in force though, as well as some Western Gulls and a handful of Brown Pelicans. The next day we left Oceanside for the likes of Disneyland, but just outside of Oceanside I picked up the one and only White-tailed Kite of the trip. I was very happy to see this bird of prey as it is my all time favorite raptor. Brown Pelicans floated along over the ocean, along with a few gulls but no other birds of note were spotted on this drive.
Disneyland was fun, yielding the expected assortment of House Sparrows, House Finch, Common Grackle, Mallard and European Starling, but it also delivered two rather nice birds in the Turkey Vulture(though I had seen these earlier in the trip, they were a nice bird to see at Disneyland) and a flock of three Great Egrets floating above the park. Bushtits I soon found in the park, and they also proliferated the trees near our hotel, making me quite happy. The next day we packed up and headed to our final destination for the trip, Simi Valley.
We got into Simi Valley and after doing some visiting, headed off to the hotel. I was pleasantly surprised again to find the trees around this hotel to be chock full of Bushtits! So for the three nights we were in Simi Valley, I always looked forward to returning to the hotel to see "my" Bushtits. The following day, we made our way(after some begging on my part) to Rancho Simi Park, my ALL TIME favorite birding location, AND the location of my first ever birding excursion(way back when I was 14)! While the family went to have fun at the playground, I dragged the wife along to show her around my favoritest place on earth(Disneyland might be the happiest place on earth, but this is by far my favoritest!) and introduce her to the birds that got me into the hobby/passion I love so much now. The usually assortment of Mallards, American Coot, Canada Geese, Rock Pigeon and feral waterfowl were making use of the small lake at the park. Though these are not really impressive birds, the shear numbers and how tame they are make it an interesting experience. About a dozen Snowy Egrets(another one of my all time favorite birds) were roosting in the trees on one of the islands. Eurasian-collared Doves were about, the first time I've ever seen them at the park. Bushtits and some American Goldfinches were flitting through the trees, but this time I was unable to find any warblers. The first Black Phoebe of the trip was soon found(love these birds too!) and a Costa's Hummingbird made an appearance as well. I heard a chickadee like call and soon tracked down an Oak Titmouse foraging in a tree. My wife and I both enjoyed watching a Snowy Egret forage in the canal behind the park, and a pair of Common Yellowthroats were foraging along the reeds and bushes as well. Back in the park, I spotted a Spotted Dove roosting in a tree, only my second sighting of one of these birds and an Allen's Hummingbird went buzzing by as well(another second only sighting). We spotted some turtles out on a log in the water, and a Double-crested Cormorant was seen as well, but our time to explore had unfortunately come to an end, and we headed out to do some more visiting. While visiting with my grandma, the first Northern Mockingbird of the trip made an appearance, and two more were seen too. One of them started harassing an American Crow and put on a fun little show to watch. After visiting for a couple hours, we headed out to Channel Islands harbor and beach for a little fun in the sun. We walked around the harbor first and saw Heerman's Gulls, Western Gulls and Rock Pigeons, but then a Brandt's Cormorant made an appearance flying down the waterway. After walking around for a little longer(the place has become a ghost town essentially), we headed out to the beach. Some Forster's Terns, Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants and gulls were flying about. I spent some time watching for other terns and see birds and found and photographed a tern that I couldn't identify, and since I had accidentally left my bird book at the hotel, would have to wait a while before I would be able to figure out what it was. Another Brandt's Cormorant made an appearance, but no Pelagic Cormorants showed up. Three small shorebirds flew out across the water but I was unable to get my binocs on them before they disappeared behind the breakwater. Soon it was time to leave, this last location of birding for the trip, and head back to the hotel. A Red-shouldered Hawk made an appearance on the way back. The Bushtits again greeted us when we arrived, a pleasant way to end the birding part of the California trip. After getting packed and ready for bed, I grabbed my camera and Kaufman Field Guide to figure out what that tern was that I saw. After looking through my pics and studying the birds in the book, I was elated to discover it to be an Elegant Tern! This is a specialty bird for California and my 309th life bird! I had not been expecting to add a life bird on this trip so I was very excited about this bird. Great way to end the California trip!
The drive back to Colorado produced a Bald Eagle. No other birds would be added to the list though. In total, I had seen 55 different bird species and added one bird to my life list. I am really looking forward to the day I can return to California and bird there some more! For now though I am looking forward to two exciting birding events here in Colorado that are coming up next month!
The annual Barr Lake Birding Festival will be held September 8th this year. It is great fun with many vendors, hawk rehabilitation groups, bird walks and birds to be seen! Last year my dad and I spotted 67 birds at the Festival, with about 75-80 species being seen in total. There is a small State Parks fee that you have to pay, but this is definitely not to be missed! This is always the highlight of my birding year!
My dad and I will be leading a fourth and final(for the year) bird walk at Two Ponds NWR on September 22nd. I will post the bird walk times when I get the rest of the information. Dave Menough from Wild Birds Unlimited will be joining us and giving a presentation after the bird walk on how to choose binoculars.
Hope to see you all at both these events and happy birding!
An F-18 Raptor in Grand Junction.
Oceanside Pier at night.
A sand crab we dug up.
Western Gull at Oceanside Beach.
A line of Brown Pelicans skimming the waters surface.
Heerman's Gull on sentry dutyl
A Mourning Dove nesting at my grandmother's house in Oceanside.
Attack of the Northern Mockingbird!
Feral geese at Rancho Simi Park.
A feral duck.
Another feral duck.
The Oak Titmouse
Foraging Snowy Egret. I have this video up on my YouTube channel, BirdSpyFilms.
Looking over the lake.
"The Grove" as I call it. Good place for warblers.
Another Heerman's Gull
Double-crested Cormorant overhead!
Impact! A tern just as it hit the water. Didn't get anything though.
Up close with a Brown Pelican.