Brian and Pat Wetton joined the Birdfinders tour to California in September 2011. It was ably led by James Smith and Martyn Kenefick. Other participants were Michael Baker, Adrian & Christine Blagden, Craig Constance, Christine Daley, David Griffiths, Anne Lansdown, Owen & Monica Marks, Arthur Pitcher, John & Aline Roberts, Barry Skelton and Roger Terrell. We personally saw 260 species of which 50 were new to us.
8th Sept Flew United Airlines via Chicago to LA and then on to Ventura
9th Sept Across the Santa Barbara Channel to Santa Cruz Island (SC) & then to Buelton
10th Sept Alisal Canyon (AC), Nojoqui Falls (NF) & Montana de Oro (MO) ending in Morro Bay (MB)
11th Sept Morro Bay (Strand & State Park) and Big Sur (BS) to Monterey
12th Sept Monterey Bay (MT) pelagic and Point Pinos (PP) & Monterey
13th Sept Moonglow Dairy (MD) & Elkhorn Sough (ES), Moss Landing (MS) & San Luis Res. (SL) to Mariposa
14th Sept Merced Valley (MV) to Yosemite Nat. Park (YM) (inc. Glacier Pt. McGurk Meadow & Wawona)
and return to Mariposa
15th Sept Merced Valley to Yosemite (inc. Tamarack Flats, Tuolumne Meadow & Tioga Lake),
Mono Lake (ML) and Mammoth Lakes
16th Sept Owens River (OR), Mammoth Hot Springs (HS) & White Mts (WM) (inc. Cedar Flats &
Bristlecone Pine Forest) to Ridgecrest
17th Sept Mojave Desert (MD), California City (CC) & Butterbredt Springs (BB) to Ridgecrest
18th Sept Big Morongo (BM) (inc. Covington Park) & Salton Sea (SS) to Brawley
19th Sept Salton Sea, Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge (SB), Calipatria Fields (CF) & Brawley
20th Sept Brawley River (BR), Fig Lagoon (FL), Laguna Mts (LM) (inc. Kitchen Creek & Green Valley),
Julian & Cuyamaca Lake (CL) and San Ysidro
21st Sept Otay Lakes (OL), Tijuana River (TJ), Dairy Mart Sodfields (DM) and San Ysidro
22nd Sept Point Loma (PL) and Laguna Mts Nat. Park the return to Julian and LA
23rd Sept Air Canada flight from LA to Heathrow via Toronto
Santa Cruz Island:
The largest island in the Channel Islands National Park. Accessible via boat from Ventura Harbour. Prisoners' Harbour area of the island comprises shingle shore with small marsh behind and coastal scrub and woodland below rocky bluffs.
South east of Buelton, this river valley has riverine woodland and rocky flanks with scrub and pasture.
A State Park with areas of parkland and woodland south of Buelton.
Montana de Oro:
On the coast south of Morro Bay, this State Park has a wooded creek, coastal heath and a rocky shore with offshore islets.
The Strand Beach has mudflats and sandy banks whilst the State Park has coastal scrub and saltmarsh.
An area of scenic coastline along the coast road south of Monterey. Included are W H Hearst State Beach and the Elkephant Seal haul-out at Piedras Blancas. Inland at the southern end are grassy hills with areas of exposed rocky crags.
Debi Shearwater runs organised pelagic cruises out of Monterey into the large Bay on the Pacific coast where large numbers of seabirds and cetaceans are to be found on migration.
A rocky coastline near Monterey.
Inland from Monterey, this intensive dairy allows access to birdwatchers to the tracks through its cattle pastures and its slurry pools alongside the following site.
A lowland river with fringing marshes adjoining Moonglow Dairy.
A river estuary and beach with backing dunes on the north of Monterey Bay.
San Luis Reservoir:
Between Monterey and Mariposa, this large reservoir in an otherwise arid hinterland attracts large numbers of waterbirds.
An incised valley along the approach-road to Yosemite with shallow rapids and wooded cliffs plus a few grassy openings in the adjoining pine woodland.
Yosemite National Park:
Contains spectacular areas of high sierra with exposed rocky mountain tops, some snow covered, such as viewed from Glacier Point. Other areas are forested with pines such as behind the visitor centre at Glacier Point, along McGurk Trail and on Tamarack Flats. Also meadows at McGurk Meadow and Tuolumne Meadow and lakes such as Tioga Lake. Tioga Pass was our highest point at 11,000 feet.
A large shallow lake with tufa formations along its shore and sage scrub hinterland.
South of Mammoth Lakes and in an arid area, this river is a magnet in the early morning for Greater Sage Grouse coming to drink. The surrounding rocky bluffs also attract birds of the sage scrub habitat.
Mammoth Hot Springs:
Also south of Mammoth Lakes is an area of hot volcanic springs in a rocky valley. Observation points provided along the valley top provide good vantages for scanning the area for denizens of the screes and crags.
East of Bishop, the White Mountains contain stunted pine woods, ancient Bristlecone Pine forest and mountain grasslands. It has some species of birds not found further west (eg Juniper Titmouse).
A huge area of desert and semi-desert scrub, we visited an area near California City to find specialities such as Le Conte's Thrasher and other birds of sage scrub.
California City Park:
This park with lakes and irrigated grassland acts like an oasis attracting some interesting water birds and passerines on migration.
Another oasis with a spring-fed small wood in an otherwise arid upland north-west of California City.
This State Park has a canyon and a marsh but our interest was in the hummingbird feeders at the car park and the adjacent Covington Park grassland with large trees.
A huge inland sea caused by flooding of a river but gradually being reduced by evaporation and abstraction for the intensive arable farming in its hinterland. It is a magnet in an otherwise arid region especially for shorebirds. Being located near the Mexican border it attracts some species of birds more associated with that country (eg Yellow-footed Gull).
Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge:
An irrigated area of scrub and trees in an otherwise arid area attracts some specialities (such as Gambel's Quail and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher). There is also a roost of nighthawks and owls.
Irrigated fields south of the Salton Sea attract large numbers of shorebirds and egrets.
A wooded valley on the outskirts of Brawley in an otherwise arid area. Has specialities such as Cactus Wren and Gila Woodpecker.
On route west from Brawley, this small lake attracts some waterbirds. Also birds in the surrounding scrub.
The hills between Brawley and San Diego contain dry scrub with interspersed valleys with streamside woods (such as Kitchen Creek and Green Valley). There are also some areas of more extensive pine forest (such as Laguna Mountains National Park).
Near Julian, this lake and its fringing marsh can be viewed drom roadside pull-outs. Julian is renowned for its apple pies and Birdwatchers Centre with hummingbird feeders.
An area of small lakes and coastal sage scrub inland from San Diego. The scrub contains the speciality California Gnatcatcher. On route to San Diego, grassland should be checked for Horned Lark, Roadrunner and, Cassin's Kingbird.
The river estuary forms the boundary with Mexico. It has extensive shingle and sand banks, mudflats and a shingle and sand beach on the Pacific shore. It holds large numbers of feeding and roosting shorebirds. Accessed from Tijuana Beach, the only downside for the birdwatcher is the continuous drone of helicopters on border patrol.
Dairy Mart Sodfields:
Also on the border with Mexico, this is an area of irrigated turf cultivation where birds are attracted to the temporary pools and wet grassland.
A rocky promontory north of San Diego offering good sea-watching. Beware however it doesn't officially open until 9am and access earlier may incur eviction or even a fine!
Birds Recorded (see Itinerary for key to sites):
Other Species Recorded:
Black Bear, Coyote, Racoon, Striped Skunk (dead), California Ground Squirrel, Belding's Ground Squirrel, Cascade Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, White-tailed Antelope-Squirrel, Douglas Squirrel, Western Grey Squirrel, Least Chipmunk, Lodgepole Chipmunk, Yellow-bellied Marmot, Black-tailed Jack Rabbit, Desert Cottontail, Elk, Black-tailed Mule Deer, Sea Otter, Northern Fur Seal, California Sea-Lion, Northern Elephant Seal, Harbour Seal, Humpback Whale, Short-beaked Common Dolphin, Risso's Dolphin, Northern Right-Whale Dolphin, Northern Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Dall's Porpoise
Western Sagebrush Lizard, Desert Spiny Lizard, Red Coach-whip Snake, Snapper Turtle, Northern Pacific Tree Frog, Sierra Tree Frog
California Sister, Common Buck-eye, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, West Coast Lady, Satyr Comma, Coronis Fritillary, Monarch, California Dog-face, Orange Sulphur, Common Sulphur, Marine Blue, Juba Skipper, Umber Skipper, Sandhill Skipper, Sonoran Skipper, Small White
Lavender Dancer, Variegated Meadowhawk, Blue-eyed Darner, Western Pondhawk