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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

California, 2024 (1 Viewer)

20 May 2024

I started out in search of parrots this morning, but started feeling poorly and soon headed back to the hotel. I felt better by late afternoon and went back to the Chula Vista Bayfront Park. I did not see anything new, but the light was better for some photos.

No new birds, still at 334.


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21 May 2024

Thinking that traffic might be better for a drive up to Orange County after 9:00 AM, I started off the day with a trip back to the Bird and Butterfly Garden. There were birds. There were butterflies. No birds I did not see there a few days prior, but I got some better (not to say great) photos of some of them.

There were still a few slow downs on the drive north, but it was not too bad. I stopped at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, on the coast at Huntington Beach. There is a colony of Least Terns that breed there. I had already seen them in San Diego, but at Bolsa Chica one can get up close to them. It turned out, you can’t get up close to nearly as many as you formerly could. At this same time of year in 2022 I estimated I saw 40; in 2024 I saw 12. I do not know the reason for the decline. A complete listing of what I saw is here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S176475746.

I went next to Huntington Central Park, which can be good for the smaller introduced passerines that have established populations in southern California. I did not find any of them today. I missed a Pin-tailed Whydah by just a few minutes, according to other birders there. It was moderately birdy, and there was a pair of Vermillion Flycatchers, which are always nice to see. The only new year bird for me was a big introduced non-passerine: Egyptian Goose. I may have missed a vagrant. Merlin Sound ID claimed an American Redstart was to be found. Merlin Sound ID has told me there were American Redstarts to be found about a dozen times, and I have never found them. It has always been where there were Yellow Warblers around, and I had come to assume it was mistaking a Yellow Warbler call for a Redstart call. Later in the day someone else found an American Redstart at the park. So it goes. All that went is here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S176476463.

After an early dinner at Shake Shack (good chocolate milkshake, bad chicken sandwich, really crowded with a long wait) I went to a little site that overlooks Upper Newport Bay. It was not what was on the bay that interested me nearly as much as what was on the sides of the bluffs bordering the bay. There were California Gnatcatchers there. I found three, two of which were clearly a pair with a nest of babies to feed. I am guessing they were big (well, big for gnatcatchers), hungry babies from the frequency with which the parents delivered food to the bush where the nest had to be. An eBrid list is here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S176476778.

My hotel for the night was the Cozy Inn in Costa Mesa. The cost was $77/night including taxes and fees. The room was large and well furnished. There was a refrigerator, a surprisingly large microwave, and coffee service. The room was clean, though there were some places where the paint was flacking off the walls and others where there were spots. The large tv had an average channel selection. The bathroom had hair products, but was missing a bath towel and wash cloth; the shower dripped, the under-counter mounted sink was falling off, and the vent fan sounded like someone was torturing a donkey. I wished I had spent a bit more and had a place where they got the little things right.

Two species new to my year list today, Egyptian Goose and California Gnatcatcher, and the total is now 236.


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22 May 2024

This was a day to look for a couple birds that according to the American Birding Association list are not countable. They were Pin-tailed Whydah and Northern Red Bishop, both small introduced species with populations in the L.A. area that are not yet sufficiently established to merit countability status. I thought they would be nice birds to see anyway. Having reviewed recent sightings, I decided the best place to look for the whydah was at Huntington Central Park, even though I missed them there the day before. I tried the west side, rather than the east side I had previously visited. The birds ended up being very similar for the two sides, but I did get a handsome male and pretty female whydah. The male even did a courtship display. The eBird list is here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S176879607.

The best place for the Northern Red Bishop seemed to be the Santa Ana River Trail north of Adams Avenue. To get there is about a mile walk down from Gisler Avenue. There is little actual water in the river at this point, the walk is above a concrete channel with sand on the bottom. There are some birds on the other side of the trail, which mostly borders a golf course, but few in the river bed. When you get down near Adams there are some reeds along the puddles of water and some mounding shrubs, and this is where the bishops were. I am afraid I did not find it very exciting. The birds were just too far – little orange spots on a green background. An eBird list is at this address: https://ebird.org/checklist/S176880201.

So it was two new birds today, Pin-tailed Whydah and Northern Red Bishop, but they shall remain uncounted, and the total remains 336.


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I failed to note that dinner on the 22nd was with my niece, who picked Filomena's Italian Kitchen and Market in Costa Mesa. I had a Ceasar salad and chicken marsala with linguine, she had cheesy garlic bread and pesto penne chicken Florentine. It was all very good, but pricey: $100 without tip.

23 May 2024

The big excitement in the L.A. birding world the last few days has been a Yellow-headed Caracara being seen outside a butcher shop near the harbor. I am not sure anyone thinks this South American bird arrived there on its own, but I decided to try to have a look at it anyway. The bird had been quite cooperative for others, but I obtained only a brief, poor view. In the same area is Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park where a few vagrants had been reported recently. I made a visit, but I could not figure out where in the park the rarities had been seen and soon left. eBird list: https://ebird.org/checklist/S177567285.

Up I went to Pasadena, to spend some time in that area, principally to look for parrots. The Los Angeles County Arboretum was the place to begin. This is well worth a visit to see the collection of plants; I particularly liked the succulent garden. It is also the easiest place to find an established exotic bird: not a parrot, but the Red-whiskered Bulbul. The bulbuls were easy to find. They tended to stay up in the trees, calling loudly from exposed perches. The peacocks were the only birds to which most visitors paid any attention. Some of the native birds, particularly Northern Mockingbirds, have become habituated to people and allow much closer approach here than they do most of the places where they live. I found a few Pin-tailed Whydahs associating with House Finches, Lesser Goldfinches, and Scaly-breasted Munias. I did see a few parrots too, I think Red-crowned and Yellow-headed, but I was unable to confirm the identifications. eBird list: https://ebird.org/checklist/S177571461.

I checked in to the Best Western Pasadena Inn. If I recall correctly, it was about $100/night with taxes and fees. The room was a bit smaller than most I have stayed in this trip, but quite adequate. It was clean, had a good bed and all the things you would expect, except a microwave. It came with a good breakfast.

As I was going out for dinner some parrots flew over and I decided to see if I could chase them down. I don’t know if they were the same ones, but a few blocks away I did find what were certainly Red-crowned Parrots.

Dinner was take-out from the Wok Master on Colorado Boulevard. My shrimp with vegetables was very good at $18.

I am not counting the Yellow-headed Caracara, so it was two new species: Red-crowned Parrot and Red-whiskered Bulbul. The total is up to 338.


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24 May 2024

Today was parrot day. I have never paid much attention to feral parrots – I have always been more concerned with native species. However, if I am going to get to 400 species in California this year, it is likely I will need some. There are six parrot species found in the Los Angeles area that are regarded as established by the American Birding Association: Red-crowned and Lilac-crowned Parrots, and Nanday, Mitred, Red-masked, and Yellow-chevroned Parakeets. Several more species are present but not yet considered established. Nanday Parakeets are mostly in the Santa Monica/Malibu area and I did not expect to find them without a trip out there. The other five all occur in the Pasadena area and it was them that I sought.

A group of Red-masked Parakeets has been roosting overnights on a street in Temple City, south of Pasadena. I got up early and went down there hoping to catch them before they dispersed for the day. I was in luck and a few were still around. In the low light of an overcast dawn it was hard to see the colors on their heads necessary to identify them, but there was enough. Photographing them was another story. My efforts produced grainy pictures resembling a pointillist painting. Another Temple City roost was reported to have Red-crowned Parrots and Mitred Parakeets, but they had gone by the time I arrived there. My eBird checklist may be found here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S177623333.

After going back to the hotel for breakfast, I decided to try for Lilac-crowned Parrots at Griffith Park. They were reported from the Old Zoo Trails. People at the new zoo put me straight on where that was. Parrots were screeching high above as I got out of the car. The trails led up, and soon I was not exactly at eye level with the parrots, but close enough to confirm that there were both Red-crowned and Lilac-crowned. Griffith Park eBird list: https://ebird.org/checklist/S177613584.

Yellow-chevroned Parakeets had recently been recorded at the Huntington Botanical Gardens. The gardens are part of a private cultural center including a library and art museum. It turned out that there was no access to the gardens without entering the whole complex, and on a Friday (which this was) there was no entry without prior reservations. I wandered around the parking lot, but no parakeets appeared. Yellow-chevroned Parakeets had also been seen recently at Whitter Narrows Recreation Area. This was further than I hoped to drive, but I went anyway. I spent most of the afternoon there, saw hundreds of Canada Geese and a fair variety of other birds, but no parrots at all. Here is the eBird list: https://ebird.org/checklist/S177620951.

I had an early take-out dinner at the hotel, then went back to the Red-crowned Parrot/Mitred Parakeet roost in Temple City, hoping those birds would have started arriving for their nighttime gathering. The Mitred Parakeets had. At first there were just a few in the tops of tall palm trees, but more kept coming and some began chewing on something on the trunks of some of the palms. I could not tell what they were after, but I hoped it was not the wires of Christmas lights spiraling around the wood. I left before any Red-crowned Parrots appeared and went back and parked outside the Huntington Botanical Gardens, hoping some Yellow-chevroned Parakeets might fly by. They did not, but some Red-crowned Parrots were feeding on the fruits of one of the street trees and a Yellow-headed Parrot perched high above.

It was three new countable species for the day: Red-masked Parakeet, Mitred Parakeet, and Lilac-crowned Parrot. The total has reached 341.


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25 May 2024

I bypassed several options to tally another species or two and just drove home today. There were a few brief slowdowns, but traffic was not bad at all. The only new bird-note to add to this vacational trip report is a negative one. The highway rest stop on US 101 near Camp Roberts was long the place to go to see Yellow-billed Magpies up close. There are many places easier to get to where you can see them, but the Camp Roberts Rest Stop had birds that would come right up under your feet. That does not seem to be the case anymore; I did not see any at all, either heading south on the 5 May or heading back north today.

A review of the trip. According to my odometer, I drove 2887 miles. That must have taken about 82 gallons of gasoline and cost about $400. That is more than I had expected and better planning could have reduced the amount somewhat, but there was a lot of going back again to sites where I missed the birds the first time and that surely added to the total. I am a little astonished that I made the whole trip, including more than a week in coastal southern California, and never had more than a short delay in traffic. Accommodations were mostly fine, though there were two or three hotels that could have been better. People were cool, I never encountered an unfriendly situation. But then I did not wear my San Francisco Giants cap. The deserts were great. I only had a few really hot days; it could have been much worse. I was a bit worried going to San Diego. Their tourism board runs tv ads in which everyone is dancing. They are dancing on the beach, dancing on the streets, dancing in hotels. I was a little afraid I might at any time be forced to join a conga line, but that did not happen. Actually, I did not see anyone dancing at all. Los Angeles was big, but, again, surprisingly, traffic was not bad. Overall I think I did well with the birds. I added 62 species to my year total. The only species on my hit list that I did not see were Yellow-chevroned and Nanday Parakeets, and a few wanderers that I had hoped for but were not actually present in southern California at the time. I now have seen 341 species that I am counting toward my goal of 400. There are about 40 more that I should pick-up with a trip to the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin, a fall pelagic trip, and more birding locally. It is going to take some luck and effort to get the final 20 or so.
30 May 2024

After lollygagging around the house for a few days I went out for at least a little birding this afternoon. Purple Martins are uncommon breeders in California. I see them every year, but usually it takes a bit of a drive to get to a site where they are likely to be found. Recent reports, however, put a pair just down the road from me at Mt. Hermon Camp and Conference Center. This is the same site where the Louisiana Waterthrush was this past winter, but the martins would be expected up around the open pine forest of the hill tops, not down in the creek bottoms. I took to the trails above the Ponderosa Lodge and saw a relatively few birds on the hot midday, but one each of Black-throated Gray Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Warbling Vireo gave a few songs and some others called. The first aerialists I saw were Violet-green Swallows. Lovely, but not what I hoped for. Eventually I did get a view through the pines of one then another male Purple Martins flying in the distance, and then one perched on a dead branch of a pine. In a bit of bad timing, seconds after I spotted the perched bird I received an important phone call. I was unable to juggle phone and camera at once, and the bird flew before I could get any but a few distant photos. eBird list: https://ebird.org/checklist/S178308125.

One new species today, Purple Martin, bringing the total to 342.


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Just discovered your terrific thread rkj, read through it all over a couple of days and am loving it!

I've visited California a few times and therefore have some context for your birding. I wonder if you're greater freedom to drive might bring those 58 species faster than you expect, especially as you managed 380 previously without really trying.

Thanks for the kind words Mike, I am glad you are enjoying the thread. Looking over my records of the year (2022) I said I had 380 species in California, it turns out I did not really see that many. It was actually only 370. I made a simple subtraction error. You would hardly believe I had a career teaching science. I am double checking my totals this year, and I think I am correct so far. The outstanding thing contributing to my total in 2022 was an autumn with a remarkable number of vagrants from the eastern part of the continent showing up locally. It may take that again for me to get to 400.
31 May 2024

I set out this morning after two birds, one of which I thought would be easy, the other iffy. As these things do sometimes go, I got the iffy one and not the easy one. The iffy one was Northern Parula. This is an eastern species for which there are several scattered records of its breeding in California. One had been singing along Gazos Creek Road in San Mateo County on 30 May, and it might still have been around. Or it might have taken off in the night and been hundreds of miles away. I drove over there and as I approached the site a birder walking down the road assured me that it was still present, singing frequently. I followed his advice as to the best place to park back down the road. When I walked up to the location I found several other birders listening to the bird giving frequent songs. It was not that easy to pick out as there was a wonderful amount of birdsong – particularly by Swainson’s Thrushes, but also by Warbling Vireos, Purple Finches, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Wilson’s Warblers, and Orange-crowned Warblers. I stayed for about two hours and never got more than a glimpse of the parula high up in tall Douglas-firs. Finally I gave up on obtaining a better view and headed out after the easy bird. That was a Grasshopper Sparrow. The La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve is a little further north and a bit more inland, near the little town of La Honda. It has extensive grasslands that for years have been a reliable place for Grasshopper Sparrow. I am sure it still is, but today the grasses were in prodigious pollen production mode and it all overwhelmed my usually well controlled allergies. I just could not stay long enough to give the sparrows a chance to show themselves. eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/checklist/S178653451.

Again it was one new species today, Northern Parula, and I am up to 343 for the year.
2 June 2024

I began this day at Zmudowski State Beach. Since my attempted visit on 21 April the water level had dropped and the entry road was dry, but highly rutted. The parking lot here is adjacent to a sand dune that parallels the shore and the dune is gradually drifting and swallowing the lot. I only found a place to park because another visitor was just leaving. Which is not to say the place was crowded; there was only room for about 10 vehicles. I suspect most of those here this morning had gone over the dune to the shore to do some fishing or just to have the long beach almost all to themselves. I, however, was more interested in the freshwater wetlands on the inland side of the dunes. It is a nice place to bird almost any time, and a couple days prior birders had reported a Red Phalarope and likely American Bittern there. I walked back along the entrance road, which has a pond on one side and a seasonal marsh on the other. There were Mallards, Gadwall, Cinnamon Teal, and lots of Song Sparrows in the marsh. The pond had a few Pied-billed Grebes, while Marsh Wrens and Common Yellowthroats sang from the reeds that bordered it; some Western Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants, Caspian Terns, an Osprey, and many swallows flew over it. There were no bitterns or phalaropes that I could detect. A dirt road runs parallel to the dunes on the inland side, and this passes by more marsh and a field that at this time was partially flooded. Canada Geese with goslings, more gulls, Semipalmated Plovers, Marbled Godwits, American Avocets, and more ducks were here. A few Redheads among the ducks were a good find. The dune face is covered with coastal chaparral and has breeding White-crowned Sparrows, Wrentits, and other shrub loving birds. Walking back, finally I saw the phalarope at the edge of the water. I saw a phalarope at the edge of the water. A phalarope with a bill too long and thin and a body too gray and streaky to be the Red Phalarope I needed – it was another Red-necked Phalarope, which I have already seen many of this year. So it goes. An eBird list may be examined here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S179191553.

It being nearby, I made a quick stop at Jetty Road in Moss Landing. The tide was quite low, but few birds were on the mud flats. Near the end of the road a late Red-necked Grebe preened in the water and a Long-tailed Duck roosted on shore with a group of Surf Scoters.

A site new to me in the hills east of Watsonville has had several reports of Grasshopper Sparrows this spring. This was Peckham Road. I went. I found what looked like Grasshopper Sparrow habitat. I stood around, binocular hanging from my neck, and ate a burrito. I saw a few birds, none of which was a Grasshopper Sparrow. The short eBird list is at this address: https://ebird.org/checklist/S179193510.

No new species today, I am still at 343.
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Thanks for the kind words Mike, I am glad you are enjoying the thread. Looking over my records of the year (2022) I said I had 380 species in California, it turns out I did not really see that many. It was actually only 370. I made a simple subtraction error. You would hardly believe I had a career teaching science. I am double checking my totals this year, and I think I am correct so far. The outstanding thing contributing to my total in 2022 was an autumn with a remarkable number of vagrants from the eastern part of the continent showing up locally. It may take that again for me to get to 400.
Having been part of a class blown up by one science teacher and taught by another who set his tie on fire with a Bunsen burner as well as sitting on one (unlit) he'd put on his stool out of the way and burning his fingers demonstrating the plasticity of heated sulphur (the two were known respectively to pupils as the Homicidal and Suicidal Maniacs) I have no difficulty believing you!

6 June 2024

Once again I went out after Grasshopper Sparrows. This time I tried Moore Creek Preserve, which is just inland from Highway 1 on the north side of Santa Cruz. In this area a series of broad terraces reach from the ocean up to the Santa Cruz Mountains. After crossing Highway 1 to enter the preserve, one immediately climbs up the steep face of one of these terraces and on to the relatively flat terrace top. This area is covered in grass, and it is here that Grasshopper Sparrows breed. From the trees and scrub in the gullies that cross the terrace I could hear a variety of birds, including American Robins, Northern Mockingbirds, California Thrashers, House Finches, and Purple Finches. Flying over the grassland were Common Ravens, American Crows, five species of swallows, and a north-bound Common Loon. In the grassland itself I could hear and see only Savannah Sparrows. I walked up the terrace. I walked across the terrace. I traipsed trails trodden out by careless cattle. I walked back down the terrace. I made another pass up the trail, and finally, at a spot where I had paused twice before, a Grasshopper Sparrow perched on a thistle and sang. Once one started, another began singing nearby. I spent a bit of time with them, then headed back down the trail. A little way on two juvenile Grasshopper Sparrows fed in the middle of the road with two young Savannah Sparrows. Setting out at dawn on an overcast day, I had left my camera in the car; now it was bright enough I wished I had carried it. The eBird list: https://ebird.org/checklist/S180229016.

I stopped next at Lighthouse Field State Beach. I did not have any particular targets here, but this is a good time for vagrants to appear in California and I hoped one might have landed there. As far as I could determine none had, but it was interesting that some of the mountain species that had come into the lowlands in numbers this winter, Red Crossbill and Red-breasted Nuthatch, were still to be found. My eBird checklist is at this address: https://ebird.org/checklist/S180233964.

One new species for the day, Grasshopper Sparrow. The total is 343.


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9 June 2024

There has been a Yellow-billed Loon in Bodega Bay all winter, and, surprisingly, it has lingered into June. I have been reluctant to go after it because I did not want to drive that far for one bird, and I thought chances of finding it might not be very good. What seem to be the only places for Least Bittern anywhere in the region, however, are in the same direction. Going after the bittern would take me much of the distance to the loon. With two sites for the bittern close to one another, and recent reports of the loon all in the same part of the bay, it seemed like there was a fairly good chance for both species if I went up there and made an effort.

Traffic was light early on a Sunday morning, even through San Francisco. I made it to Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District by shortly after 8:00 AM. This is just west of San Pablo Bay, the northern extension of San Francisco Bay. Lots of water treatment plants have ponds where they park treated waste water; why the ones here attract Least Bitterns when almost none of the others do is a mystery. Most reports had the Least Bitterns at the northwest corner of the first pond. Walking out there, I enjoyed a continuous serenade by Marsh Wrens and Song Sparrows. Mother Mallards and Gadwalls had lots of babies following them around. There were a few heron types: Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons, and Green Herons, but I reached the location with no sight or sound of a bittern of any sort. The cattails were quite thick and tall there, so I continued around to where they were a bit shorter and there was a better view over the pond. And it was there that a low horse chuckling announced the presence of a Least Bittern. It was a bit frustrating – the bird had to be quite close to me, but I never got a look at it. Still, I was quite pleased overall; this is not an easy bird to find in California. Las Gallinas is also a good spot for Mute Swans, and I saw one on the way out. These are not native to the Americas, but there are established populations in parts of the east and midwest. A feral population has existed in the northern San Francisco Bay Area for many years now, but is not yet considered fully established. The Las Gallinas eBird list: https://ebird.org/checklist/S180668928.

I did not linger too long over the Least Bittern; I wanted to get on to Bodega Bay and look for the Yellow-billed Loon. It was a pleasant drive over to the coast. Passing through grasslands along much of the way, I wondered how many Grasshopper Sparrows might have been in them. I suspected there might be lots. The town of Bodega Bay is best known for having been the location of the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds. Unlike the birds in the film, as far as I know the real birds of Bodega Bay have always been reasonably well behaved. The bay is small enough that one can scan most of it from the shoreline. I worked my way around the north end, where recent reports had the Yellow-billed Loon, then along the west side. Then I worked my way back. I saw at least a dozen Common Loons, but there were none I could convince myself was the Yellow-billed. I stopped and had a sandwich. A Western Gull kept a close eye on me, but did not attack. I started around the north end again and was able to stop at a parking spot that had been occupied before. Just off shore was the bird I was looking for. It was rather ratty looking, still in worn winter plumage. I guessed it was not going to make it north to its breeding grounds this summer. By this time it was still early afternoon, but I started back home. Sunday afternoon heading into San Francisco traffic can be bad as those who have been out for the weekend or the day go back to their homes. It was certainly slower than the trip north, but I made it home myself without any real trouble. eBird list for Bodega Bay (just the Yellow-billed Loon stop): https://ebird.org/checklist/S180670533.

Two countable species today, Least Bittern and Yellow-billed Loon, and I have climbed up to 346 for the year.


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Yellow-billed Loon in CA, great tick! Closing in on 350 now and still half a year to go; well done and thank you for the detailed reporting and pictures. Post #86 was interesting to me in terms of the documented effort (miles driven, gas used). It's quite a project and it's really fun to figuratively look over your shoulder as you go along. Thanks!
Congratulations on your ivory-billed loon! My one and only was a dirty brown juvenile 30-odd years ago in Cornwall in the UK, so you’re still ahead of me!

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