was our second trip to the west coast and Arizona therefore birding
was aimed at selective species, our target birds were Ross's Goose
and the spectacle of Snow Geese. Mountain Plover and whatever alcids
were available, little did we know the unseasoned hot winter was
to produce plenty of summer birds wintering plus a plethora of rares
flights from Dublin to LAX at €450 each return and only ten
hours with Ethiopian airlines on the 787 Dreamliner. Car rental
cost €430 mid- size and drove to Ventura for a two night stay.
Next day saw us on a whale-watching boat to Santa Cruz Island, we
had thirty Gray Whales distant due to LA law restrictions on boats
keeping a distance from these mammals. Bonus birds were Scrippt's
Murrelet and Cassin's Auklet. We also had thirty Brown Bobby loafing
on Santa Cruz, with several more sitting on buoys as we approached
Next day we spent birding local Ventura harbour for gulls, apart
from the common birds we picked up several Thayer's, mostly young
birds. Ventura water plant host lots of duck and other land birds,
the outlet had the only Hooded Merganser we saw overall.
three another look at the gulls in Ventura before a five hour drive
to Salton Sea, made it just in time to tick-off Ross's Geese, lots
of them. Overnight in Brawley and back to Salton Sea. What a place,
had never seen so many birds in the one place, just awesome! We
worked the geese area all day enjoying the pure spectacle of white
geese moving from lake to fields. We looked hard for Yellow-footed
Gull only seeing two adults. They could be easily missed in winter!
day a big drive to Tucson Arizona via the Mountain Plover site,
Santa Cruz plains. Upon arrival we picked them up straight away
thankfully, we counted sixty plus giving deadly views. We spent
time watching these rare waders, as the odds of seeing these again
would be slim!
awoke in Tucson with the thoughts of twitching Streak-backed Oriole
in Pima, no luck but (as she does) Andrea finds a Black-and-white
Warbler. Spread the word and it performed, this male apparently
is a returning bird now in it's fourth winter. Madera Canyon was
next with fantastic birding, one would not think it at first but
patience is vital here. Andrea found an Elegant Trogon early am
and refound it that eve when I finally saw it, mega bird indeed.
Magnificent Hummingbird was over wintering at Santa Rita lodge feeders
among others. We found our only Painted Redstart and Yellow-eyed
Junco's here too. We also had a pair of Hepatic Tanagers here. The
friendly shop/lodge staff are very helpful with recent sightings
as they keep a daily bird log.
several days at Madera we decided to go south to Tombstone and Sonarta
Desert in search of Longspurs but no luck, we downed our binoculars
in Tombstone to soak up this old historic western town to walk the
streets of the OK Corral & Boothill Graveyard is a must. We
will revisit these areas again as the birding in general is superb
and we did not do it justice. We did pick up a stunning Rufous-capped
Warbler on the Mexican border though and that made our day.
day in Arizona, nine hour drive to San Diego via Yuma for a bit
of sight seeing and a dip on a rare Streaked-backed Oriole reported
on American Rare Bird Alert. Arizona is easy birding and we certainly
will be back for a return visit!
San Diego whale-watching was more impressive with awesome breached
views of Humpback along with closer views of Gray Whales. Also several
Booby's loafing on the buoys near shore, plenty of Black-vented
Shearwaters though but no Alcids. We needed California Gnatcatcher
as we dipped them last time, we already had the other three this
trip. We scored three birds next day after seeing plenty of Blue-grey
in the same seaside scrub, beware both species use the same habitat
making it difficult. Spending 5 days in San Diego produced plenty
of Mexican rares including several Tropical and Thick-billed kingbirds.
Birding San Diego was easy as birds are tame due to leashed dogs
and respect for wildlife. Whale-watching trips are a must if one
can't get on a pelagic as sea creatures should be seen well.
thanks goes out the staff at Santa Rita lodge for their help with
recent sightings, Gary Nunn for his help with identification of
various sparrows, Dermot Breen and lastly Micky Maher for up to
date gen from his recent trip to Arizona. We would not have found
Mountain Plover without his local gen.
all yellow highlighted under-lined species are linked to photographed
birds, otherwise follow the links at top/bottom of pages to see
all images taken on our trip. We hope you enjoy the images as much
as enjoyed taking them!