Posted by: atowhee | June 26, 2010

California Expedition Finale: Big Finish With Tiny Bird

This was the last day of our California Expedition. Eight eastern birders, the Cheepers Tour Co. of Jim and Cindy Beckman and myself.  We saw about 165 species from Pt. Reyes to Orange County.  The eight birders totaled over 220 lifers.  Even Jim and Cindy scotred a few, especially sweet was seeing Hermit Warbler at Calaveras Big Trees.  That had been their nemesis bird, missed repeatedly in “all the right places.”

Today’s undeniable highlight was seeing the unphotographable family of California Gnatcatchers on a ridgetop above Back Bay Road in Newport Beach.  This tiny bird has an equally tiny range along the extreme southern California coast and part of Baja.  But we also had enjoyable birding at Caspers Wilderness Park in the foothills above Rancho Santa Margarita, then shared unforgettable tern times at Bolsa Chica. 

We saw five tern species at Bolsa Chica including Caspian, Royal and Elegant.  Despite their plentitude and repeated flights over our heads, I never managed a single useful shot of the fast-moving, bouyant flying Elegants.  The Least and Forster’s Terns were still nesting.  So, too, were the Black Skimmers.

There was a rich mix of shorebirds at Bolsa Chica: Stilts, Avocet, Black Turnstone (a trip bird we’d missed further north), Short-billed Dowitcher, Dunlin, Willet, Marbled Godwit.  All before the First of July.


This semi-arid scrubland yielded several fine sightings.  My favorite:

A satisfying trip for all.  One widely-traveled, experienced birder in our group had over 20 lifers.  That’s more than she’d ever gotten on a domestic trip before.

Woodpeckers figured high in our informal contest for “best bird.”  Acorn and Lewis’s Woodpecker and Red-breasted Sapsucker all got votes.  As did Hermit Warbler, Black-footed Albatross, California Condor and Black Skimmer.  Even though the Skimmer can be found along the East Coast, none of the birders had ever been so close and had so many fine views.  The big beakers repeatedly flew over our heads with fish and making their forays along the surface of the lagoon at Bolsa Chica.

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