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California pelagics - January 2022 (1 Viewer)

denisparkes

Active member
Hello there.

I'm looking for any information anyone might kindly be able to provide about seabird pelagic opportunities in January 22. I've finally got my sights on a birding trip to California probably for about 15-16 days in the latter part of the month. Seeing some good seabirds would be an important part of the trip, but so far I've not found any current/live information on my internet searches. I'm assuming anything going out would be from Monterey but as I haven't yet fixed an itinerary don't have any issues if there's trips from other ports North or South.

Kind regards

Denis
 

connorco

Well-known member
United States
First, California is a big state. Which part are you going to be traveling to? Pelagics rarely run up here in the northern part of the state during the winter months. Your best chance of a January pelagic would be down in San Diego, but I'm not familiar with doing pelagics that far down south.
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
First, California is a big state. Which part are you going to be traveling to? Pelagics rarely run up here in the northern part of the state during the winter months. Your best chance of a January pelagic would be down in San Diego, but I'm not familiar with doing pelagics that far down south.
Back in the day there was a New Years Day pelagic every year on January 1st in San Diego. IIRC, pelagics are not much run out of San Diego in Winter. Pelagic offering might also still be a little thin on the ground due to COVID.

What you may want to consider looking into are whale watching trips. They are shorter and not bird focused obviously, but they will get you into the right habitat. I would guess that you should be able to easily find some whale-watching trips out of San Francisco or Monterey Bay.
 

Andrew Whitehouse

Professor of Listening
Staff member
Supporter
Scotland
Island Packers run a number of trips out of Ventura, including wildlife watching trips. They're not specialist pelagic birding trips but should get you into good areas.
 

denisparkes

Active member
First, California is a big state. Which part are you going to be traveling to? Pelagics rarely run up here in the northern part of the state during the winter months. Your best chance of a January pelagic would be down in San Diego, but I'm not familiar with doing pelagics that far down south.
Hi. Yes I'm aware there are some pretty big distances involved. South California would be where I'd be doing most of the birding (and pelagics if possible) though I'm looking to also visit relatives in Oakland even if it takes me half a day each way to get to them. I'm envisioning there'll be a few landbirds easier if I get that far North too (Varied Thrush? Mountain Quail? Still researching). Thanks for your help. This is really helpful.
Denis
 

denisparkes

Active member
Island Packers run a number of trips out of Ventura, including wildlife watching trips. They're not specialist pelagic birding trips but should get you into good areas.
Thank you, Andrew.
 

denisparkes

Active member
Back in the day there was a New Years Day pelagic every year on January 1st in San Diego. IIRC, pelagics are not much run out of San Diego in Winter. Pelagic offering might also still be a little thin on the ground due to COVID.

What you may want to consider looking into are whale watching trips. They are shorter and not bird focused obviously, but they will get you into the right habitat. I would guess that you should be able to easily find some whale-watching trips out of San Francisco or Monterey Bay.
Thanks. Yes, if I end up with no more than a couple of whale watching trips and the Island trip then it still sounds pretty good given the likely new species I'd pick up. A San Diego full pelagic sounds amazing (though I can't get there quite as early as New Year even if).

Thanks for your help. It's great to find so many helpful birders on this forum.

Denis
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
Hi. Yes I'm aware there are some pretty big distances involved. South California would be where I'd be doing most of the birding (and pelagics if possible) though I'm looking to also visit relatives in Oakland even if it takes me half a day each way to get to them. I'm envisioning there'll be a few landbirds easier if I get that far North too (Varied Thrush? Mountain Quail? Still researching). Thanks for your help. This is really helpful.
Denis
I live in San Diego for three years and Mountain quail, while not as easier as California, are definitely in the mountains in those parts. Never saw a Varied Thrush in 3 years living in San Diego, although they are occasionally reported. You might have to head a bit farther north for those.

If you have the opportunity, a trip for Island Scrub-jay out of Ventura might be also rewarding for pelagic species. You should be able to get some of the commoner shearwaters and alcids on the ferry that run's to prisoner's harbor.
 

connorco

Well-known member
United States
Varied Thrush is pretty easy up in any forest in the Bay Area. Mountain Quail is pretty tricky though, to see one usually you just have to be lucky driving along mountain roads. In the Bay Area you don't see them till you get pretty far north in Sonoma (About a 2 hour drive from Oakland). It might be easier down in SoCal. What are your main landbird targets?
 

denisparkes

Active member
I live in San Diego for three years and Mountain quail, while not as easier as California, are definitely in the mountains in those parts. Never saw a Varied Thrush in 3 years living in San Diego, although they are occasionally reported. You might have to head a bit farther north for those.

If you have the opportunity, a trip for Island Scrub-jay out of Ventura might be also rewarding for pelagic species. You should be able to get some of the commoner shearwaters and alcids on the ferry that run's to prisoner's harbor.
Thanks. This is useful and these points are becoming clearer. Really helpful.
 

denisparkes

Active member
Varied Thrush is pretty easy up in any forest in the Bay Area. Mountain Quail is pretty tricky though, to see one usually you just have to be lucky driving along mountain roads. In the Bay Area you don't see them till you get pretty far north in Sonoma (About a 2 hour drive from Oakland). It might be easier down in SoCal. What are your main landbird targets?
Hi there. Thanks for reply (and sorry for tardy response). Encouraging news on Varied Thrush (funnily enough one that is driving UK twitchers mad at the moment :) ).

Well there's at least 40 to 50 new land birds that I'd be looking to target. I've not been any further West than Texas, so some of the (hopefully obvious) coastal gulls, cormorants and waders, 4 species of thrasher, all the (near) endemics, 5 or 6 sparrows, Lawrence's Goldfinch, Mountain Plover, Prairie Falcon, Ridgeway's Rail, 3 Sapsuckers, 5 woodpeckers/flicker and a whole host of owls - just to name a few. I like to try hard to see as much new stuff as possible, but equally I've mellowed enough these days that a trip doesn't have to succeed or fail on seeing every single target. It's really good to review things I've previously seen (after all, Texas was nearly 20 years ago and Florida even further back). Though prepared to put the legwork in it's also about seeing birds well rather than tick-and-rush. Also at some point further down the line I'd plan to do a summer tourist holiday with my non-birding wife and this would give me some opportunity to gap fill and pick up summer breeders etc.
 

Hamhed

Well-known member
In December, 2017, my wife and I birded much of the the southern half of CA, and posted a report on this forum. You may find that helpful.

Random pieces of information:
There was a Salton Sea bird festival, not sure if the pandemic interrupted that annual event. The Salton Sea area is a decent spot for Prairie Falcon, Ridgeway’s Rail and Mountain Plovers among many other species.The spectacle of wintering Snow Geese is a fine sight for non-birders as well.
While in southern CA, we got wind of a reported Red-throated Pipit in a small, grassy school yard. If not for the help of a nearby birder, we might not have been able to pick it out among the numerous American Pipits in the same field. The man that helped us happened to run pelagic trips out of San Diego. I thought I would have saved his name and any contact information but can’t seem to lay my fingers on it. However, the person who might help with that name and who was of assistance to us as we birded the
San Diego area was a member of the Birding Pal organization. I believe her name is Theresa Hyde and is listed on the Birding Pal website (under California, then scroll down to Hyde). She is still listed on that Birding Pal page And I assume still an active birder in that area.
You may want to bring warmer clothes that the California name implies. We visited Joshua Tree NP and were cold much of the time.
Finally, I think you’ll have a great time in California, though there may be a good bit of driving in store to get the birds you want most.

Steve
 

denisparkes

Active member
It's not an exact fit to your schedule, but if your plans change and you end up in the San Diego area in mid-February the San Diego Audubon Society has an annual bird festival that includes several pelagic trips.

Thanks for this. Yes, close but not close enough as I'll be back in the UK (and need to be) for start of Feb. Thanks though - and good luck with it if you're on it. Kind regards. Denis
 

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