Lesser Florican - August 2023

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Saturday 30 January 2016

California Trip

The trip has now pretty much been fully updated with the majority of photos, though there are still a few scenic ones to be added.


Tuesday 26 January 2016

California - Day 1 - 12/1/16

With very little preparation (arranging birding sites and booking flights last week!!), myself and Richard Fairbank set off from LHR - LAX with Virgin Atlantic (with me being upgraded thanks to a friend who works for the company) arriving into Los Angeles around 1pm local time. Our car hire was simple to pick up and we were soon on our way heading north through the LA traffic.

There was just enough time for birding around the Ventura Harbour area before dark seeing the following (having never been to the US, most species will be new, and these will be highlighted):

Western Meadowlark - 4
Brewer's Blackbird - 1 
Red-tailed Hawk - 1
White-tailed Kite - 1
Slavonian Grebe - 2
American Coot - 150
California Gull - 5
Brown Pelican - 30
Willet - 7
Hudsonian Whimbrel - 5
Western Grebe - 2
Pied-billed Grebe - 10
Ring-necked Duck - 10
Ruddy Duck - 2
Snowy Egret - 5
Great Blue Heron - 3
Black-crowned Night Heron - 20

Monday 25 January 2016

California - Day 2 - 13/1/16

It was to no great surprise that sleeping was going to be an issue, and so with both of us being wide awake at 4am we decided to drive a couple of hours north to Oso Flaco Lake where we birded for four hours seeing a staggering number of birds. Possibly the highlight was seeing my first Hummingbird! Next stop was Morro Bay, where again wetland species were very numerous, even more so we had timed the high tide just right. Further sites included Morro Rock, again see a host of new species, before ending the day along highway 41 near Cerro Alto Campground. Intentions were to visit more sites today but we just ran out of time, though where we did visit was worth it and saved us time elsewhere. Stayed the night in Monterey.

Due to the vast number of birds seen today, only noteworthy species will be mentioned at each site, with those highlighted being lifers. 

Oso Flaco Lake
Song Sparrow - 10
Orange-crowned Warbler - 1
Long-billed Dowitcher - 3
Canvasback - 15
Virginia Rail - 1
Anna's Hummingbird - 4
Bushtit - 17
Hermit Thrush - 1
California Thrasher -2
Wrentit - 2
Heermann's Gull - 3
Glaucous-winged Gull - 2 1w
Marbled Godwit - 4
Green Heron - 1
American Bittern - 4
Sooty Fox Sparrow - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee - 2
+ many species of Ducks

Morro Bay
Brandt's Cornorant - 3
Black Turnstone - 5
Spotted Sandpiper - 1
California Scrub Jay - 6
Spotted Towhee - 3
American Avocet - 20
Least Sandpiper - 30
Short-billed Dowitcher - 50
Forster's Tern - 4
Anna's Hummingbird - 10
Cinnamon Teal - 2
California Towhee - 1
California Quail - 2

Morro Rock
Townsend's Warbler - 4
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher - 1
Ring-billed Gull - 1
Black Turnstone - 6
Western Grebe - 2
Great Northern Diver - 1
Bewick's Wren - 2
Hermit Thrush - 1

Cerro Alto Campground
Oak Titmouse - 2
Acorn Woodpecker - 1
Wrentit - 1

 our only American Bittern of the trip - Oso Flaco Lake
 Lesser Scaup at Oso Flaco - one of several species of Duck present at this site
 Song Sparrow at Oso Flaco
 California Thrasher at Oso Flaco
 juv Glaucous-winged Gull at Oso Flaco Beach - one of several seen during the trip
 a very tame Snowy Plover at Oso Flaco Beach
 first-winter Western Gull at Oso Flaco Beach
 Audubon's Warbler at Shell Beach - by far the commonest Warbler of the trip
 Spotted Sandpiper at Shell Beach
 California Quail at Elfin Forest
 Sooty Fox Sparrow - one of only four seen during the trip
 Townsend's Warbler at Morro Rock - a big surprise was connecting with several of these bright gems over the course of the trip.
 adult Heermann's Gull
Marbled Godwit at Morro Rock

Sunday 24 January 2016

California - Day 3 - 14/1/16

We started the day with an Owling session in the dark in Robinson Canyon where we had a chance of seeing seven species of Owl, but despite trying we saw none. We birded the canyon for a couple of hours seeing a huge number of American Robins and various other bits.
Next up was our Grey Whale trip which was amazing. Not only did we see numerous Grey Whales, we saw several superb pelagic species, followed by the largest pod of Dolphins I've ever seen that duly surrounded the boat and rode the waves with us. A very memorable outing, and just after getting off the boat, I started hand feeding Heermann's Gulls that were then joined by a Glaucous-winged Gull
The rest of the day was spent further north at Moss Landing, again another fruitful visit full of great species (including seven species of Gull) and lots of Sea Otters. Night spent in Monterey. 

Robinson's Canyon
Pacific Wren - 2
Steller's Jay - 2
American Robin - ca.300
Acorn Woodpecker - 6
California Scrub Jay - 2
Red-shouldered Hawk - 2

Monterey Grey Whale outing
Belted Kingfisher - 1
Pacific Diver - 20
Black-vented Shearwater - 50
Short-tailed Shearwater - 2
Rhinoceros Auklet - 10
Ancient Murrelet - 10
Black-footed Albatross - 3
Mew Gull - 5
Glaucous-winged Gull - 1 1w
Grey Whale - 12
California Sea Lion - 200
Common Dolphin - 250

Moss Landing
Black-necked Stilt - 10
Thayer's Gull - 2 1w
American Herring Gull - 25
Glaucous-winged Gull - 6 
Ring-billed Gull - 5
Semipalmated Plover - 4
Snowy Egret - 1
Black Turnstone - 4
Red-throated Diver - 2
Hairy Woodpecker - 1
Dark-eyed Junco - 15
Wild Turkey - 7
Hermit Thrush - 2

 Short-tailed Shearwater was another big surprise of this Whale trip, and in the end we saw two. With this, an Albatross, Murrelets and Auklets, it was very much so one of the better pelagics I've had, and even better no smell of chum knocking about

 an unexpected surprise was this stunning Black-footed Albatross that first drifted by behind the boat and out of site. However it soon turned towards us again and gave these views.

 our first of a few Grey Whales - it was easy to keep up with these mammals due to them being the slowest moving Whales on Earth, travelling between 4-6mph. 
 a huge Grey Whale heading south to the Gulf to breed, then in a few months time it will head back north along this route bound for Alaska.
 Ancient Murrelets - after seeing two flying away from us it was very satisfying to encounter this small group on the sea
 Black-vented Shearwater off Monterey
 Common Dolphins - this extremely large group containing hundreds of individuals tracked towards our boat and 'rode' alongside us
 California Sea Lion at Monterey

 Sea Otter at Mossbank
a stonking adult Glaucous-winged Gull that thankfully failed to fly despite our close presence
 our boat for the morning
 although the sea looks calm, it certainly wasn't, in fact the waves were the highest I've encountered and made photography and balancing a real struggle, but the stomach dealt with it fine
the Dolphins riding in front of us 

Saturday 23 January 2016

California - Day 4 - 15/1/16

The day started at Point Pinos as I wanted to see Surfbirds, and that was simple enough seeing two in quick succession. The usual bits seen here before heading down to Carmel Mission Trails where a Varied Thrush had been seen, but no luck here.
The Californian Condors south from here were easy to find and continuing down the coast was very picturesque. We stopped at a Northern Elephant Seal colony before ending the day spectacularly at Cerro Alto Campground (Route 41) seeing four stunning Varied Thrush, as well as several other good species but the Thrushes could well prove to be the birds of the trip. 
Night in Atescadero. 

Point Pinos
Surfbird - 2
Glaucous-winged Gull - 3 (2 adults)
Black Oystercatcher - 2
Black-vented Shearwater - 3
Song Sparrow - 1
American Herring Gull. - 10

Carmel Mission Trails
Pygmy Nuthatch - 1
Pine Siskin - 3
Band-tailed Pigeon - 10
Cedar Waxwing - 2
Oak Titmouse - 2

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
California Condor - 9

Route 1 Northern Elephant Seal Colony
Glaucous-winged Gull - 5
Brewer's Blackbird - 50
Snowy Plover - 50
Northern Harrier - 1 ringtail
Least Sandpiper - 2
Snowy Egret - 1

Cerro Alto Campground (Route 41)
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Wrentit - 2
Varied Thrush - 4
Brown Creeper - 3
Nuttall's Woodpecker - 1
Steller's Jay - 2
Dark-eyed Junco - 10
Golden Eagle - 1
Bald Eagle - 2
California Scrub Jay - 3

 adult Glaucous-winged Gull at Point Pinos
 Black Turnstone at Point Pinos, Monterey
 Anna's Hummingbird
 California Condors at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

 Elephant Seals along the Pacific coastline
 Wrentit at Cerro Alto

 one of four Varied Thrushes seen along this road. A stunning bird that sat motionless for 15 minutes while we photographed it. A weird sensation reminding me of East Asian Thrushes, yet being so bright it reminded me of a Bokmakierie (if only there were orange ones) in Southern Africa, yet being in the States. A beautiful bird!!
Acorn Woodpecker at Cerro Alto
 a very approachable Gull roost at Point Pinos - spot the Glaucous-winged

 Big Sur NP

 Elephant Seal colony along the Pacific coastline
Varied Thrush habitat

Friday 22 January 2016

California - Day 5 - 16/1/16

The day started off drizzly but thankfully cleared to reveal a lovely day. We birded highway 33 where our sought after species were the Yellow-billed Magpies, and although they took time to see we eventually saw several. It wasn't just these along this road, several good birds were encountered on many random stops.
Next up was Carrizo Plain (partly based along the San Andreas fault line) where Mountain Plovers had been seen the day before, but after hours of searching good looking habitat, we failed which was a real blow, though thankfully the next few days will hopefully produce. Birding was generally quiet so we continued on to a Le Conte's Thrasher site, but again no joy here. Although species were missed today, it was still another enjoyable day driving through various habitats. 
Night in Lebec. 

Highway 33
California Towhee - 2
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Western Bluebird - 10
Lesser Goldfinch - 8
Red-breasted Sapsucker - 1
Say's Pheobe - 2
Loggerhead Shrike - 3
Mountain Bluebird - 15
Horned Lark - 40
Vesper Sparrow - 1
Phainopepla - 2

Carrizo Plain
Prairie Falcon - 1
Ferruginous Hawk - 3
Bell's Sparrow - 2
Horned Lark - 500
Burrowing Owl - 1
Savannah Sparrow - 1
Western Meadowlark - 20
Northern Harrier - 1 2nd cal male
House Finch - 150

 one of the most sought after species of the trip, were these Yellow-billed Magpies. Being scarce at first along the Pozo Road, they soon became numerous.
 Prarie Falcon on the Carrizo Plain
Bell's Sparrow at Soda Lake - a pair seen by the boardwalk that allowed very close approach
 Richard searching for Mountain Plovers on the Carrizo Plain

 After a few hours of searching for the Plovers, this was my answer hoping a birder would spot it and point us in the right area.......they didn't
spectacular scenery on the plain