California/Arizona February 2016.

This 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 from Mexico.

Direct 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 Ventura harbour. 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.

Day 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!

Next 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!

We 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.

After 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.

Last 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.

Special 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.

Below 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!

Paul and Andrea Kelly 2016

Common (C) Localised (L) Rare (R)
Red-throated Loon (C) Cal. Sanderling (C) California. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (4) AZ.
Pacific Loon(C). Off shore California. Western Sandpiper (C) Cal. Californian Gnatcatcher (6) Cal. San Diego.
Common Loon (C) Off shore California. Least Sandpiper (C) Cal. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (2) AZ.
Red-necked Grebe(1) Ventura Cal. Long-billed Dowitcher (C) Cal. Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (C) AZ/Cal
Horned Grebe (2) Ventura Cal. Wilson's Snipe (C) California. Black-headed Gnatcatcher (2) AZ. Madera.
Eared Grebe (L) Arizona/California. Ring-billed Gull (C) California/AZ. Western Bluebird (C) AZ/Cal
Pied-billed Grebe (C) Everywhere. California Gull (C) California. Varied Thrush (1) Cal. San Diego.
Western Grebe (C) American Herring Gull (C) California. American Robin (1) Cal.
Clarks Grebe (L) Cal. Thayer's Gull (8) California. Ventura. Rufous-backed Robin (1) AZ.
Black-vented Shearwater (C) Only at sea. Glaucous-winged Gull (L) California. Hermit Thrush (L) AZ.
American White Pelican (C) Salton Sea only. Western Gull (C) California. Northern Mockingbird (C) AZ/Cal.
Brown Pelican (C) Coastal. Yellow-footed Gull (2) Salton Sea. CAL. Bendire's Thrasher (2) Salton Sea Cal.
Double-crested Cormorant (C) Coastal. Yellow-legged Gull (2) CAL. Curve-billed Thrasher (8) AZ.
Neotropic Cormorant (2) Semi-rare Arizona. Heermann's Gull (C) California. California Thrasher (2) Cal.
Brandt's Cormorant (C) Coastal/pelagic Royal Tern (L) California. Starling (C) AZ/Cal.
Great Egret (C) California, 2 Arizona. Scripps's Murrelet (8) Pelagic CAL Ventura. Buff-bellied Pipit (L) AZ/Cal.
Green Heron (1) Yuma Arizona. Cassin's Auklet (6) Pelagic CAL Ventura. Yellow-rumped Warbler (C) AZ/Cal.
Snowy Egret (C) California. Rhinoceros Auklet (1) CAL. Ventura Pelagic. Black-throated Grey Warbler (4) AZ.
Little Blue Heron (3) San Diego. Mourning Dove (C) CAL/AZ. Townsend's Warbler(4) AZ Madera.
Night Heron (C) Ventura. Collard Dove (C) CAL/AZ. Black-and-white Warbler (1) AZ. Pima.
White-faced Ibis (C) Salton Sea. Spotted Dove (L) CAL. Painted Redstart (1) AZ. Madera.
Brant (C) San Diego. Common Ground Dove (L) Salton Sea CAL. Common Yellowthroath (L) Cal.
Canada Goose (40) Salton Sea. 2Todd's included. Band-tailed Pigeon (L) CAL. Rufous-capped Warbler (1) AZ. Pima.
Ross's Goose (80) Salton Sea. White-winged Dove (L) CAL. Olive Warbler (1) AZ Madera.
Snow Goose (C) Thousands Salton Sea. Red-crowned Parrot (2) San Diego CAL. Hepatic Tanager (2) AZ. Madera.
Mallard Duck (L) California. Greater Roadrunner (L) AZ. Pyrrholoxia (L) AZ/Cal.
Gadwall (C) California. Great Horned Owl (1) CAL. Salton Sea. Northern Cardinal (L) AZ/Cal.
American Wigeon (200) One site Arizona. Burrowing Owl (30) AZ. Salton Sea. Spotted Towee (L) AZ/Cal.
Shoveler (C) California Violet-crowned Hummingbird (1) AZ. Madera Green-tailed Towee (L) AZ/Cal.
Cimmamon Teal (L) CAL/AZ. Broad-billed Hummingbird (2) AZ. Madera. California Towee (C) Cal.
Blue-winged Teal (10) San Diego. Magnificent Hummingbird (1) AZ. Madera. Canyon Towee (2)
Green-winged Teal (C) AZ/CAL. Anna's Hummingbird (C) AZ/CAL. Albert's Towee (C) Cal. Salton Sea.
Canvasback (L) Arizona. Costa's Hummingbird (2) CAL. Rufous-crowned Sparrow (2) AZ.
Redhead (L) Arizona. Black-chinned Hummingbird (C) AZ/CAL. Rufous-winged Sparrow (L) AZ.
Ring-necked Duck (L) Arizona. Allen's Hummingbird (C) AZ/CAL. Sage Sparrow (L) San Diego Cal.
Surf Scoter (C) California. Rufous Hummingbird (C) AZ/CAL. Black-throated Sparrow (L) AZ.
Lesser Scaup (C) California/Arizona. Rufous Hummingbird (C) AZ/CAL. Brewer's Sparrow (L) AZ.
Bufflehead (C) California/Arizona. Elegant Trogon (C) AZ Madera Canyon. Chipping Sparrow (C) AZ
Hooded Merganser(1) Ventura Harbour CAL. Belted Kingfisher (C) AZ/CAL. Savannah Sparrow (C) AZ.
Common Merganser(11) Ventura CAL. Acorn Woodpecker (L) AZ Lark Bunting (L) AZ.
Red-breasted Merganser(L) Ventura CAL. Gila Woodpecker (L) AZ Lark Sparrow (L) AZ.
Ruddy Duck (C) CAL/AZ. Red-naped Sapsucker (L) AZ White-crowned Sparrow (C) AZ/Cal.
Turkey Vulture (C) CAL/AZ. Ladder-backed Woodpecker (L) AZ Song Sparrow (C) AZ/Cal.
Northern Harrier (C) California/Arizona. Arizona Woodpecker (L) AZ Lincoln's Sparrow (2) AZ
White-tailed Kite (C) California/Arizona. Gilded Ficker (L) AZ. Swamp Sparrow (C) AZ/Cal.
Sharp-shinned Hawk (C) CAL/AZ. Northern Ficker (L) AZ. Red-Shafted. Dark-eyed Junco (C) AZ/Cal.
Cooper's Hawk (C) California/Arizona. Grey Flycatcher (2) AZ. Yellow-eyed Junco (4) AZ. Madera Canyon
Red-shouldered Hawk (1) CAL. Black Phoebe (C) AZCAL. Western Meadowlark (C) Cal.
Red-tailed Hawk (C) California/Arizona. Say's Phoebe (C) AZCAL. Brown-headed Cowbird (C) Cal.
Golden Eagle (1) AZ. Madeira Canyon. Vermilion Flycatcher (L) AZ. Red-winged Blackbird (C) Cal.
Osprey (L) CAL/AZ. Thick-billed Kingbird (1) CAL San Diego. Brewer's Blackbird (C) Cal.
Crested Caracara (3) Arizona. Tropical Kingbird (1) CAL San Diego. Great-tailed Grackle (C) Cal.
American Kestrel (C) Arizona/CAL. Cassin's Kingbird (4) San Diego CAL. House Finch (C) Cal/AZ.
Prairie Falcon (1) Yuma. AZ. Western Kingbird (1) Ventura CAL. Pine Siskin (L) Cal.
Peregrine Falcon (2) San Diego. CAL. Loggerhead Shrike (L) CA/AZ. Lawrence's Goldfinch (8) AZ.
California Quail (C) CAL. Hutton's Vireo (1) AZ Madera Canyon. Lesser Goldfinch (C) Cal/AZ.
Gambel's Quail (C) Arizona. Western Scrub Jay (C) CAL. American Goldfinch (L) Cal.
Wild Turkey (C) AZ. Mexican Jay (C) AZ. House Sparrow (C) Cal.
Common Gallinule (1). AZ Pima. Common Raven (C) CAL/AZ Brown Booby (30) Cal. Santa Cruz, San Diego.
American Coot (C) Arizona/CA Chiauahuan Raven (2) AZ Orange-crowned Warbler (3) AZ. Pima.
Ridgeway's Rail (C) San Diego CA American Crow (C) AZ/CAL. Belding's sparrow (C) Cal. Coastal San Diego.
Virginia Rail (1). AZ Pima. Horned Lark (C) AZ/CAL. White-fronted Goose (18) Cal. Salton Sea (Tules)
Sandhill Crane (11) Salton Sea CA Northern rough-winged Swallow (C) AZ/CAL. Black-throated Magpie Jay (L) Cal. San Diego.
Black-bellied Plover (C). CA. Tree Swallow (C) CAL. Nuttall's Woodpecker (1) Cal. San Diego.
Semipalmated Plover (C) CA. Bridled Titmouse (C) AZ. Gray Whale (30) Cal.
Snowy Plover (L) CA. Verdin (C) AZ/CAL. California Sealion (C) Cal.
Mountain Plover (60) Arizona. Bushtit (C) AZ. Humpback Whale (L) Cal.
Kildeer (C) CAL/AZ. White-breasted Nuthatch (C) AZ.
American Avocet (C) CAL Salton Sea. Bewick's Wren (C) AZ.  
Black-necked Stilt (C). CAL Salton Sea. House Wren (C) CAL.  
Greater Yellowlegs (L) CAL Salton Sea. Pacific Wren (1) CAL.  
Western Willet (C) CAL. Marsh Wren (C) CALAZ.  
Spotted Sandpiper (L) CAL. 2 AZ. Cactus Wren (C) AZ.  
Hudsonian Whimbrel (C) CAL. Rock Wren (2) CAL.  
Long-billed Curlew (L) CAL. Canyon Wren (2) CAL.  
Marbled Gowit (C) CAL. Wrentit (C) CAL.