Southern California March-April 2013
On March 22nd we took off from Mesa, Arizona on this year’s 8 month adventure.   Our tentative route takes us to all new parts of the US from last year.  It begins in Palm Desert on our way to Southern California where we’ll slowly work up the Coast to a family reunion in Santa Cruz.  Then we’ll head east to Yosemite, Lake Havasu, and on north to Zion, Salt Lake, and Yellowstone. Then we'll head across the Dakotas to spend the Summer in the Great Lakes before returning via Colorado on our way back to Arizona in October.  The year's schedule is not nearly as centered around birding as last year but we’ll still visit some great spots with some great new (and old) birds.

The first stop was Palm Desert. On March 25th, I saw my first lifer of the year in the not-particularly-rare Costa’s Hummingbird.  It was seen at a wonderful facility called “The Living Desert” and it reminded us of one of our favorites...The "Desert Museum" near Tucson. 

At a show at the Living Desert they brought out this Thick-billed Parrot, said to be the only “once” native Parrot in Arizona and I believe the US as well.
The next day, Deborah and I took our Honda CRV on a loop trip around the Salton Sea. Beginning at Salton Sea St. Rec. Area, we saw a lot of great birds including these breeding White Pelicans. Check out the curious bump on their bills  which evidently indicates their interest in breeding.

Also here we saw an "FO2Y" (First Of Two Year) Red-breasted Mergansers
and California Gulls.

Moving onto Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge we picked up our 3rd FO2Y bird of the day in a Western Kingbird. This common bird was missed on our 2012 eastern swing.
The next good birding opportunity came at O’Neill Regional Park where Deborah and I stayed while visiting family in the Irvine area. Here I viewed my 2nd lifer of the trip with a California Thrasher as well as one very insistent male House Finch.

Another great spot I would highly recommend birding in this area is Back Bay Drive in Newport Beach. Here you can walk, drive, bike or even Kayak these wonderful backwaters to enjoy some truly great birding.  On the 28th of March we saw this beautiful FO2Y Allen’s Hummingbird as well as many other great shore, marsh , and wading birds along the way.
It has been fascinating seeing the variation in certain birds around the country.  The Song Sparrow is an example of one species with tremendous regional differences.
Next stop was Malibu where from our campground we saw these curious and beautiful Black-hooded Parakeets which have established a population in Southern California.
On the 3rd of April we visited Malibu Lagoon State Beach. Near their protected nesting grounds we saw Snowy Plovers.
We also saw another common FO2Y bird in a Western Gull. This large dark winged gull is as dominant a gull on the Southern coast of California as the Laughing Gull was on the Gulf of Mexico and Southeastern US.
Costa's Hummingbird
Caspian Tern
California Gull
Burrowing Owls

Western Kingbird
California Thrasher
Acorn Woodpecker
Lesser Goldfinch
Allen's Hummingbird
Marsh Wren
Song Sparrow
Black-bellied Plover
Black-hooded Parakeet
   Snowy                Plover
Brown Pelican
It’s interesting to see the pattern of birds  as we travel. Each stop seems to have its dominant 1-3 birds. It's fun to watch it evolve and change as we move along to different locations and habitats.  At our next stop, wonderfully parallel parked right on the Pacific Ocean on Rincon Beach, CA, Whimbrels, Willets, and Marbeled Godwits dominated the shore line.   Any time the tide was out you could pick out these three large shore birds running up and down the beach as the waves came in and out. Here we also saw the first Black Turnstones and Surfbirds of our 2 year adventure.
Next on 4-11-13 we moved inland to Cachuma Lake Regional Park near Santa Barbara. Here the Western Scrub Jay was clearly the dominant bird allowing great looks and photo op’s. At our campsite we also were visited by FO2Y Oak Titmice and a Nutall’s Woodpecker as well as being provided good looks at a California Thrasher.
On a quick morning out birding we headed back toward the ocean to check out Lake Los Carneros Park in Golleta, CA. A great spot for a walk in nature. We saw these FOY Cedar Waxwings and Common Moorhen as well as a FO2Y Black-headed Grosbeak.
Continuing on our slow trek up the west coast of California we traveled to Pismo Beach on 4/12 where we spent a delightful 5 days primarily visiting with our son Kyle.  As always, we also took in some of what nature has to offer. More and more I find birding’s rewards to be just as much about being outside as anything else.   Gotta Love the outdoors of this great country of ours!  Right near Kyle’s house in San Luis Obispo we saw these Cliff Swallows gathering mud for nest building. On a road trip north of San Simeon to see Kyle in his gold panning element we happened to catch some FO2Y Black Oystercatchers too. Check out more on the travel pages.
Perhaps the most enjoyable time with Kyle (except maybe the unbelievable fresh Dungeness Crab feast together at The Cracked Crab in Pismo Beach) was birding for the first time with my oldest son.
First we went to Pismo State Beach where we saw White-winged Scoter flocks stream by. We also got good looks at Kyle’s dominant local shore birds, the Whimbrel, Willet, Marbled Godwit, and Sanderlings. On the walk back from the beach we also spotted an FO2Y Chestnut–sided Chickadee.

Western Gull
Double-crested Cormorant
Marbled Godwit
Eurasian Collared Dove
Oak Titmouse
Western-scrub Jay
California Thrasher
Black-headed Grosbeak
Cedar Waxwing
Hooded Oriole
Cliff Swallows gathering mud
Black Oystercatchers
Black Phoebe
Next up... Big Sur!
And a search for the endangered California Condor