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CALIFORNIA 2007

Birdfinders enjoyed another highly successful trip to the Golden State in September 2007. This year was hot and dry, in fact so dry that forest fires deflected our route on one occasion and denied us the possibility of access to some promising National Forest areas towards the end of the trip. Even so, our group coped well and as usual on our trips, there was some exceptional bird finding by all the members of our party. Moreover, we set a new Birdfinders tour record of 285 species, a great achievement considering the drought conditions in California this year.

Avian highlights were many and included some real spectacles – a raft of over 1500 Black and Ashy Storm-Petrels in Monterey Bay, 13,000 Black Terns coming into roost at the Salton Sea, a single flock of 160 Lawrence's Goldfinches at Julian, and a soaring California Condor at Big Sur so close that you could hear the wind whistling through its primaries! On the rarity front we discovered a Common Black Hawk at Big Morrongo which will be only the 4th or 5th state record if accepted. We saw Pacific and American Golden Plovers together at Tijuana River Mouth, and had more than our fair share of luck in Yosemite with Sooty Grouse, Black-backed and White-headed Woodpeckers, and a breathtaking Great Grey Owl at dusk. Our annual offshore pelagic with Shearwater Journeys was quite brilliant with calm seas and some thrilling birding, culminating in exceptional views of a Xantus's Murrelet. The rarest bird of the trip was a mysterious dark petrel that made a brief appearance during the crossing to Santa Cruz Island on the very first day of the tour. At the time of writing, all the pointers seem to indicate the petrel was either a Bulwer's or the little known Jouanin's Petrel. Either way, it will be a huge record for California and very exciting one for Birdfinders.

This traditional tour loop began in Los Angeles, traveling north along the Pacific Highway, before crossing the central part of the state to Yosemite. Then down the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada by Mono Lake and the beautiful Owens River Valley. From here we traveled southwards through the Mojave Desert, reaching the Southern Salton Sea, the site of a slight itinerary change to previous years. Here we spent two nights in Brawley (rather than heading further south to El Centro) before climbing back through the Anza-Borrego foothills to the west, passing through Julian and heading back to the Pacific Coast to spend two nights near Sand Diego. Our trip closed where it began in Los Angeles with 2,300 miles driven and a new Birdfinders trip record.

We found may classic Western US species but it was the traditional birds of California that we really came to see and we had good views of them all, with the exception of Mountain Quail. These included; Black-footed Albatross, Black-vented Shearwater, (California) Red-shouldered Hawk, (Light-footed) Clapper Rail, California Quail, Yellow-footed Gull, Heerman's Gull, Elegant Tern, Cassin's Auklet, Allen's Hummingbird (sedentarius), Nuttall's Woodpecker, California Thrasher, California Gnatcatcher, Wrentit, Island Scrub-Jay, Oak Titmouse, Yellow-billed Magpie, 'Large-billed' Savannah Sparrow, 'Belding's' Savannah Sparrow, California Towhee and Tricoloured Blackbird.

Many thanks go to Peter Basterfield for co-leading, Richard Dakin, Helen Heyes, Michael and Johanne Jones, Steve Lister, John Lloyd, John and Rosalind Matthews, Chris Measures, Bob Bailey and Chris Rose, Roy and Linda Harvey and Paula Reynosa for making the trip such a successful one.

California Thrasher

California Thrasher