This nine-day tour is a pelagic birder’s dream trip to California! We will focus on Pelagics, endemics, near-endemics and specialties at Anza Borrego and the Salton Sea and along the beautiful coast of southern and central California.
Note that the schedule is subject to change.
Our route will take us from the urban wildlife preserves of Los Angeles south along the coast to balmy San Diego, then out to the deserts of Anza Borrego and the Salton Sea before heading out on the open ocean to look for offshore pelagics. Then, we will head north through L.A. to the coastal scrub and Chaparral near Santa Barbara where we will catch the ferry over to Santa Cruz Island. Then we’ll head north along the winding but spectacular US Hwy 1 through Big Sur and up to Monterey where we will go on another pelagic out on the famous Monterey Bay. We’ll then do some birding between the forests of Big Sur and Point Lobos before heading to Santa Cruz where we will see the cliffs of central CA before getting to spend time exploring a Redwood forest. The final day of the tour will be spent birding the coast of Point Reyes near San Francisco, where the tour will end.
The pace of this tour will be fairly fast. We will cover long distances in short amounts of time which will make for long days. The advantage to this though, is that we will see lots of birds.
Arrival will be at Los Angeles International the evening of Aug 9th. The tour officially begins the morning of Aug 10th and ends the evening of the 18th in San Francisco.
Our first day will be spent hitting some of the local hotspots in the urban L.A. area. Our first stops of the day will be at Irvine Regional Park and some of the surrounding preserves to search for some of the endemics like California Thrasher, California Towhee and Wrentit. Other possible birds include Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Barn Owl, Western and Clark’s Grebes, Western Bluebird, Black Phoebe and Oak Titmouse.
We’ll spend part of the afternoon between Bolsa Chica Biological Reserve and Upper Newport Bay for California Gnatcatcher, Royal, Elegant, Forster’s and Least Terns, Snowy Plover, and possibly Pacific Golden Plover and Clapper Rail. We’ll then work our way down the coast with a quick stop at Crystal Cove where we’ll have our first taste of Heerman’s and Western Gulls, Black Turnstone, Surfbird and possibly Wandering Tattler. We’ll spend the night in San Diego.
On our second day, we’ll make an early run to the barren desert of Anza Borrego for Le Conte’s Thrasher, California Quail and possibly Mountain Quail, before heading to the world-famous Salton Sea; the only place in the US where Yellow-footed Gull regularly occurs and the only place in California where Laughing Gull regularly occurs. Then we’ll head to the coast and spend some time looking for California Gnatcatcher, Towhee and Thrasher (if we didn’t already see them), and possibly make a run out to the Least Tern reserve on Silver Strand for another shot at Least Tern, Snowy Plover, Red Knot, Surfbird, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit and more. Night in San Diego.
The 12th-14th will be spent aboard the Grande as we venture to the edge of the continental shelf in search of truly pelagic seabirds. The possibilities for vagrants is endless and the regular birds are quite good. Scripp’s and Guadeloupe Murrelets are often seen as well as Red-billed Tropicbird, Cook’s Petrels and sometimes Laysan Albatross. Upon arrival back at port, we will head to Santa Barbara for the night.
The next morning, our fifth day, we’ll make an early run to Solvang to search for Yellow-billed Magpie, Nuttall’s Woodpecker and Lawrence’s Goldfinch before heading back to Ventura for a trip out to Santa Cruz Island for a chance to see the endemic Island Scrub-jay. When we arrive back at the dock, we’ll head straight to Monterey for the night with a couple stops if time allows. It is possible to see Elephant Seal along this stretch of road.
In Monterey, we will go on another pelagic trip, this time out on the famous Monterey Bay where almost anything is possible. Possible species include Black-footed Albatross, Sooty, Pink-footed and Buller’s Shearwaters, Black, Ashy, Wilson’s and Fork-tailed Storm-petrels, all four Skua species, Red and Red-necked Phalarope, Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklet’s, Common Murre and Pacific Loon. Upon arrival back at the dock, we may have time to bird along Cannery Row out to the point, or possibly time to visit the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Our second day in Monterey will be a long one. We will start off the day with a run south to Andrew Molera State Park and Big Sur to look for California Condor. We’ll then head back north to Point Lobos to look for Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Pelagic Cormorant, Townsend’s Warbler, “Audubon’s” Warbler, Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants among others. We will also have a decent chance at seeing Sea Otters, Dolphins and Sooty Shearwater. Then we’ll swing north to Santa Cruz where we will pick up Marbled Murrelet, Tricolored Blackbird and more Pelagic Cormorants. We will then take a walk through the awe-inspiring Redwoods at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. By late afternoon, we will head to San Francisco, cross the Golden Gate Bridge, with a stop for sunset photos of course, and spend the night in San Rafael.
Our final day in California will begin at the famous Point Reyes where we will look for anything that we missed and include a swing through Mt Diablo State Park and San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The tour concludes late afternoon at Oakland International airport.