Norfolk Birders

Norfolk Birdwatching and beyond!

California 2007

 

                                     Trip Report to California                 by Sue Bryan

 

28th July – 12th August 2007 

 

Birding Participants:

 

Sue Bryan

Paul Jeffery

 

Introduction

 

This bird and cetacean watching holiday was organised by me using resources from the internet. It was primarily a holiday to California with the sole purpose of seeing a Blue Whale. However as with most of my holidays, I am always keen to add to my world bird list. Having been to California once before and failing dismally to see Blue Whale, I spoke to Debbie Shearwater of Shearwater Journeys (www.shearwaterjourneys.com) at the 2005 Birdfair and asked her advice as to the best time of year to see a Blue Whale. Having established that August was a good time I booked two pelagic trips with her. The first from Bodega Bay was at the end of July and one from Fort Bragg in mid August.

 

The last time I visited California, I regretted not having enough time to visit Yosemite National Park. I felt I wanted a few days built into the holiday to appreciate the stunning scenery that this area would afford to relax in.

 

Some motels were pre-booked as Bodega Bay, Fort Bragg and Yosemite are popular holiday destinations amongst Americans at this time of year. Yosemite needs at least 5 months advance booking (more if you want lodge accommodation) www.yosemitepark.com

 

Itinerary

 

28th July - Fly from Gatwick to Detroit and onto San Francisco.

 

29th July – Monte Rio. Birding around Point Reyes

 

30th July – Monte Rio. Birding around Bodega Bay

 

31st July – Monte Rio. Pelagic out of Bodega Bay

 

1st August – Lake Tulloch

 

2nd August – Yosemite National Park

 

3rd August – Yosemite national Park

 

4th August - Yosemite National Park. Birding around Mono Lake

 

5th August - Yosemite National Park. Non-birding day sight-seeing around  Panum Crater

 

6th August - Yosemite National Park, Birding around Bodie and Tuolumne Meadows

 

7th August – Geyserville

 

8th August – Willets

 

9th August – Fort Bragg

 

10th August – Fort Bragg. Pelagic out of Fort Bragg

 

11th August – San Francico. Birding around Livermore

 

12th August – Fly to Minneapolis and onto Gatwick

 

13th August – Gatwick

 

Flights

 

We flew to San Francisco via Detroit (Minneapolis for the return journey) using North West Airlines booked with ebookers. ( www.ebookers.com ) The cost, which included car hire for sixteen days, amounted to £700 each.

 

Climate

 

In July and August the coastline around San Francisco is famed for its sea fog and this was certainly the case. Birding at Point Reyes was a non-starter and we wasted our time here. We drove through fog at any point of our journey that touched the coastline and we were only in sun when a few miles away from the coast. Once away from the immediate coastline birding took place in t-shirts and shorts as it was sunny and pleasantly hot without being uncomfortable. On both pelagics ‘winter gear’ was necessary as it was very cold and windy on the sea. Luckily by our second pelagic from Fort Bragg the fog had cleared.

 

Money

 

I took a few American Dollars but used a credit card for virtually all bills, including restaurants and brought most of my Dollars back home again! However it is necessary to show either a passport or driving licence for all transactions. Pelagics were paid via Paypal online before leaving England months before. Some motels were also booked and paid for before leaving England.

 

Habitat

 

Some coastal forests are made up of the Giant Redwood trees (Monte Rio area). The Central Valley has many vineyards giving way to barren, parched land as you head inland. As we approached Yosemite we stopped off at lakes which were surrounded by either scrub or trees. Yosemite has a mixture of high cliffs, rock, river, trees and grassy meadows, affording stunning scenery. The other side of Yosemite is of a volcanic nature giving some interesting features of calderas, lakes, hot springs and scrubby Sage bushes.

 

The sea out of Bodega Bay was fairly rough for our first pelagic and Paul certainly added to the chum. Calmer seas at Fort Bragg helped birders keep their breakfast down, but was not so good for bird numbers.

 

Daily Log

 

28th July

 

We left Gatwick at 13.50hrs after intensive security checks for our flight to Detroit. After a brief stopover and re-collecting our bags at Detroit, we flew to San Francisco. At Detroit Airport we started our trip list with Turkey Vulture, Purple Martin, American Kestrel, Ring-billed Gull and  Mourning Dove all in flight from the airport lounge. Near the runway a Killdeer was running around as House Sparrows looked for food near the airport windows. After arriving at San Francisco, we picked up our hire car and made our way to our pre-booked motel (£40 a night for the room) near the airport for the night. (www.Super8.com 421 El Camino Real, San Bruno)

 

29th July

 

We drove over Golden Gate Bridge watching a marathon taking place. The runners were drenched in the coastal fog and many looked miserable! We were hoping to escape England’s miserable summer and were not too impressed by the thick fog that greeted us. We drove to Point Reyes which was almost a waste of time as thick fog hampered all attempts at birding. We did however start our list with a few common birds. A Red-tailed Hawk sat on overhead wires. Stopping at various lay-bys near the coast we added Brown Pelican, White-crowned and Song Sparrow as well as American Crow and Heerman’s Gull. Western Grebe could just be made out in the gloom close inshore. At one stop we added Anna’s Hummingbird, Brewer’s Blackbird and Califonia Towee.  A mixed swallow flock added Barn, Northern Rough-winged and Cliff Swallow to our tally.

 

 

Red-tailed Hawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brewer’s Blackbird                                                                       Heerman’s Gull

 

At Valley Ford we stopped for something to eat and wandered behind the shops where a Western Bluebird was feeding young in a nest it had made in a generator. It was good to be in the sun as we watched with fascination as both parent birds provided a continuous supply of insects to their young. A Red-shouldered Hawk flew from trees and swooped over the fields as we grappled with its identification at a distance.

Western Bluebird

Stopping off at various shoreline stops we added to our tally with many coastal birds including Pigeon Guillemot, Long-billed Curlew, Black-necked Stilt, Marbled Godwit, Snowy Egret, Double-crested Cormorant and Least Sandpiper.

 

We had pre-booked The Village Inn, a motel at Monte-Rio [email protected] at a cost of $125 a night for a double room. This was a good option to be near Bodega Bay but just back from the coastal fog. It had good views over the Russian River with good birding habitat around it. The Giant Redwood trees were all around too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The Village Inn at Monte Rio with views of the Russian River.

 

 

 

 

A Great Blue Heron patrolled the marshy areas of the river as people swam or canoed past on the water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30th July

 

After taking a small continental breakfast during which we added Belted Kingfisher, American Robin, Black-headed Grosbeak and Green Heron to our tall we set off in search of where the pelagic from Bodega Bay was due to leave the following morning. At the wharf we added Pied-billed Grebe, Willet and Western Gull to our lists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Western Gull                                                                              Willet

 

 

The fog persisted and we decided to return to Monte Rio where the sun was shining. We wandered the back streets of our hotel and watched in awe of an Acorn Woodpecker at work. Goodness knows how many of the holes in the telegraph pole it was responsible for but it certainly had a good supply of acorns stashed away for winter.

 

After shopping for supplies we decided that the Russian River looked inviting and we hired a canoe for a leisurely paddle upstream. Black Ducks soon cleared out of our way as they obviously did not trust our steering capabilities. They were right as we soon found ourselves grounded on an unexpected sandbank. With two chiefs on board and no ‘injuns’ even the Green Herons were falling off their perches laughing as we desperately tried to get going again. Goosanders swam to avoid us as we turned the canoe around to head for home.

 

 

 

Acorn Woodpecker

 

 

 

 

 

 

31st July

 

We were up early and were down at Tide’s Wharf in Bodega Bay for our pelagic birding trip by 6.30am full of anticipation. Our only concern was that we were unable to obtain a decent breakfast as everything was closed at this time in the morning. We ate some of our supplies as I liked to have a full stomach for a pelagic. The wharf was deserted and our fellow birders all arrived after us. However Debbie Shearwater soon arrived and ticked us off the list. We had seven leaders and fifteen participants. After a safety lecture with full instructions on how to be sick off the back of the boat we were on our way. Very soon we were adding to our tally as Black Turnstones were in the harbour as were Black Oystercatchers. Hudsonian Whimbrel, Surfbirds and a Wandering Tattler added to the wader tally. Very soon the sea started taking its first victims as we rocked about on the fairly rough seas. Paul was escorted to the back of the boat to be sick and spent much of the journey lying down only getting up for new ticks or to take photos. Other birders joined him in adding to the chum. Although I felt sick I kept going with the oatmeal biscuits to mop up any acid floating around in my now very queasy stomach.

 

Soon we were surrounded by flocks of  Pink-footed and Sooty Shearwaters. Cassin’s Auklet was a new tick for me as was the Rhinoceros Auklet that was good to see. Paul was delighted with the Black-footed Albatross that came gliding in and sat on the water. Taking pictures was nearly impossible as the boat rocked about and I had many pictures of nothing but empty sea or sky!

 

 

 

 

Risso’s Dolphins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-footed Albatross

 

Humpback Whales were a pure delight to watch as were the Risso’s Dolphins. Northern Right Whale Dolphins appeared. They don’t have a dorsal fin and all too soon disappeared. My favourite were the Pacific White-sided Dolphins that enjoyed riding the bow wave of the boat. It was exhilarating watching them as I leaned over the bow of the boat to get better views. How I love to be on board a boat when there are cetaceans about.

 

 

 

 

 

Pacific White-sided Dolphin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

        The fluke of a Humpback Whale                                                                       Humpback Whale 

 

A South Polar Skua flew by as did a small party of Sabine’s Gulls. All too soon after we had been out to the Cordell bank it was time to head back to the harbour. Luckily the fog had lifted a little but not sufficiently to see distant whale blows and I was a little despondent at not seeing a Blue Whale blow. Linda and Lisa had tried their best as they both knew I was keen to see a Blue Whale but it was not to be. Humpback Whales did their best to keep us entertained as did all the dolphins. As we neared the harbour an American White Pelican was added to the list as was Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants. A Pacific Diver was new for the trip list too. We had both had an excellent day out but I was disappointed at not seeing a Blue Whale. We joined many of the other birders in the Sandpiper Restaurant and ate a hearty Clam Chowder.

 

1st August

 

We left Monte Rio for the long drive towards Lake Tulloch. We stopped off at Brannan State Island Park for lunch. The heat intensified and we were glad to find some shade at the side of the water under which to park the car. Lunch was brief as we were keen to add to our growing bird list. Paul had disappeared into some scrub that was extremely parched. Underfoot was scrunching as we pushed our way through the bushes. A yell went up as I was summoned over. Paul had flushed a Great Horned Owl and was keen to relocate it so I could see it. It sat staring down at us with attitude!

 

 

 

Great Horned Owl

 

Dark-eyed Juncos were all around the car as a Nutall’s Woodpecker climbed the tree above us. Lesser Goldfinches flitted in the trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We motored on to Lake Tulloch which was recommended to us in a garage as being a little more interesting than most motels around. A bit expensive but the lakeside views it afforded were certainly better than the barren landscape that we were travelling through en-route to Yosemite National Park. After registering, we birded the hillside behind the motel and took photos of the Ospreys that had occupied a platform that had been constructed on a telegraph post.

 

 

Tulloch Reservoir

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next few hours we watched as the adults brought in fish for the remaining chick that was reluctant to leave the nest as its sibling flew around with its parents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

2nd August

 

After an early morning swim we drove towards Yosemite. It was good to leave the barren land behind and start the climb up towards the hills and Yosemite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Black Bear                                                                                 Black Bear Cub

 

Upon reaching Crane Flat lots of cars had stopped by the roadside. A Black Bear and cub were making their way through the long meadow grass. It was difficult to get photos because of the long grass and rangers on hand trying to keep order and the traffic flowing as vehicles were being abandoned in the road as everyone scrambled to get photos.  Continuing on our way we could not help but be impressed by the scenery as we descended into the Yosemite Valley. High cliffs on either side kept our eyes skyward. White-throated and Black Swifts were in the air as we gazed in awe at the scenery.

 

We drove onto Curry Village in the central part of Yosemite, where we had pre-booked a tent as we were too late to book lodge accommodation which needs to be booked a year in advance during high season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Valley floor at Yosemite National Park                               Yosemite National Park

 

 

 

                                                      

               

  

 

                                                                                    Yosemite National Park

 

At Curry Village we were quite looking forward to camping as we thought this would place us in more natural surroundings for birding. Imagine our horror when we arrived to discover that we were in one of 700 tents all side by side. Piccadilly Circus could not have been busier. It was my idea of a nightmare. Because of the threat of Bear attack all our food and bathroom items had to be placed in bear-proof steel containers at the sides of our tents. After leaving our bags in our tents we soon left the camp site to get away from people and wandered around one of the meadows surrounded by trees. A Red-breasted Nuthatch called from one of the trees. We wandered down by the river but we surprised by how few birds we saw that were new for us. After an evening meal from the Pizza place (don’t expect good food in Yosemite) we bedded down in our tent waiting for bears!

 

 

 

 

  Red-breasted Nuthatch

 

3rd August

 

Having survived the night from bears we set off for an early morning walk of another meadow. Orange-crowned, Nashville, Hermit, McGillivrays and Yellow-rumped Warblers were all watched along one of the pathways. Hummingbirds were difficult to identify as many young birds were on the wing as they zipped around a few feeders that were hung in workers houses. Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds were new ticks for the trip. On the river an American Dipper was busy finding food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We drove onto Glacier Point which has spectacular views of Half Dome rock and views of Yosemite Valley. En-route we walked up a creek where Mountain Chickadee and Wilson’s Warbler flitted in the trees and bushes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

             Yosemite from Glacier Point

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Glacier Point we failed to locate any Blue Grouse and after sight seeing we made our way back to one of the high meadows, where we sat and watched a couple of trees in the middle of the meadow by a small pool. In the late afternoon it attracted lots of small birds for their wash and brush up session.

 

 

Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria Aphrodite)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A White-headed Woodpecker was joined by a Lazuli Bunting and Mountain Chickadees as well as a good variety of warblers, including a Yellow Warbler. Pine Siskins were also new trip ticks. We finished the day with yet another Pizza and vow to eat something different for the following evening.

 

 

 

 

 

White-headed Woodpecker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4th August

 

We left our camp site for the three hour drive to Twin Lakes and the search for Sage Grouse in the parched Sage Bushes of this area. Once we were out of the park the temperature rose and we admired the view of Mono Lake, a dormant caldera of this volcanic region. Violet Green Swallows flew overhead as we stopped by a few fields near habitation. A Western kingbird sat on a fence –line as Yellow-headed Blackbirds fed amongst the horses.

 

 

 

Mono Lake with Tufa Stacks

 

 

 

 

 

 

We searched in vain at Twin Lakes for Sage Grouse amongst the millions of Sage Bushes but did see Sage Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow and a Green-tailed Towee. We accidentally disturbed Mule Deer as we continued our search. The Sage Bushes had revenge on us as we gave up not without a few scratches. Three Clark’s Nutcrackers flew overhead as we made our way back to the car. We turned around and drove to Mono Lake. It was now very hot as we made our way down to the lakeside. Mono Lake is famed for its thousands of Wilson’s Phalarope that feed here at this time of 

year as well as the breeding colonies of Califonia Gulls. Millions of black flies surrounded the lake, that were a good food source for the birds. Black-necked Grebes were also present as were Chipping Sparrows and House Wrens.

 

  

 

 

Mule Deer 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California Gull feeding on black flies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                             Tioga Pass                                                                           Tuolumne Meadows

 

Back over Tioga Pass at 9945 feet we found a Gray Flycatcher before stopping at Tuolumne Meadows for an early evening walk. An American Tree Sparrow and a Williamson’s Sapsucker appeared by our car. We set off in search of Mountain Bluebird and soon found one. A Black-backed Woodpecker was added to our list as Red Crossbills drank out of a small creek. We headed back to our tent and the masses.

 

5th August

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                    Hot Creek

 

 

 

Today was billed as a non-birding day as I wanted to look at the volcanic features in this part of the world out the other side of Yosemite. We drove to Hot Creek where boiling water was spewing into the creek. Four Lesser Yellowlegs were running around a small sandy island in the middle of the creek. As we walked up the side of the creek a brown bird disappeared into one of the riverside bushes. With patience a Sage Thrasher came and sat on a nearby rock. How we had searched for this species yesterday in our search for Sage Grouse. A Rock Wren also put in an appearance.

 

 

 

Sage Thrasher

 

 

 

It was now very hot and we made our way to Panum Crater a dormant volcano overlooking Mono Lake. The temperature was rising and it was quite a climb up the side of the lava strewn volcano. Once at the top the obsidian and pumice plug of the crater was fascinating and gave excellent views over Mono Lake. The heat began to get to us and Paul wanted to go down to the lakeside. Once we had found the track-way a couple of rangers turned up and encouraged us to take a swim. I realised that I actually had a costume in the boot of the car and put it on. The water was extremely salty and made me float very high in the water. It was impossible to swim as my legs were mostly above water level. Weird! Paul played safe not wishing to display his body and remained the photographer.

 

 

 

 

 

                                              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       View of Mono Lake from Panum Crater                                Sue in the salty Lake Mono

 

 

At the end of the day I could not face another pizza at Yosemite and we had dinner at Lee Vining the nearest town to the entrance of the National Park. At Tuolumne meadows on the way back we saw Fox Sparrow and White-breasted Nuthatch. It was dark on our arrival at Curry Village, where our tent was and we fumbled for torches as we tripped over guy ropes. The tents were so close it was difficult to remember exactly which track-way ours was sited on. At least we had another bear attack free night.

 

6th August

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                           Bodie

 

Paul was still determined to see a Sage Grouse and I had ascertained another site to try from birders on the pelagic. We set off from Yosemite to the former gold rush town of Bodie which has many of its wooden and community buildings preserved for the tourists. It is however surrounded by Sage bushes. A Mountain Bluebird family kept us amused as we took photos.

 

 

 

 

Mountain Bluebird

 

 

 

 

Once again it was extremely hot and I soon became weary searching endless Sage bushes on the hillside. I decided to take an interest in the actual buildings I was searching around and stopped to talk to some builders busy restoring buildings. They told me a good place to try for Sage Grouse as they had seen a ‘mama’ with chicks earlier. I wandered into their suggested place without success and on up the hillside. I was conscious that I was getting dehydrated as I had set off without any drink. A headache developed and I was having little success other than another Sage Thrasher and Dark-eyed Junco. Paul had set off in another direction and was now trying to find me as He had had more success and had located a pair hiding under a Sage bush not far from where I was earlier on. I felt relieved as we had spent a disproportionate amount of time trying to find them. My head was now hammering to the point I felt sick. However I had enjoyed seeing the former mining town but missed John Wayne riding through as Sheriff!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sage Thrasher

 

 

 

Sage Grouse

 

 

 

We returned to Tuolumne Meadows my favourite spot in Yosemite. We picked a lonesome spot by the river where I sat quietly whilst Paul sought out a few more birds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sue at Tuolumne Meadows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7th August

 

We packed our belongings into the car and bade farewell to Yosemite, but not before stopping to add Vaux’s Swift, Mountain Quail and House Finch to the list on several stops along the way on the long haul up towards Fort Bragg. We motored to Grizzly Island where we saw very little and up through the famed Napa Valley. I wanted to stop at one of the many vineyards but Paul was keen to press on. The Napa Valley was very expensive and we struggled to find a place to stay at reasonable cost. We spent the night at a hotel www.geyservilleinn.com  in Geyserville, a small town not too far from Fort Bragg ($160 a night). We treated ourselves to a fine meal in a local restaurant which was a bit of a boost after our poor food for the last few days.

 

8th August

 

After checking out we headed to Clear Lake near Lakeport. This unscheduled spot turned out to be a good spot for birding in this otherwise difficult area of vineyards. The lake was surrounded by trees and scrub all harbouring birds, especially around the creeks that flowed into the lake. However it was also a popular holiday destination for boat owners and fishermen. As we crossed over the parking lot I was aware of something running. Assuming it was an animal I looked and suddenly realised it was a Wild Turkey, a species that I had wanted to see in the wild for many years. It was followed by a family party. It did seem odd!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           Wild Turkey                                                               Clarke’s Grebe

 

I counted over 300 Clarke’s and Western Grebes on the lake. Up in the trees above our heads Tree Swallows called to one another. The bushes were alive with a mix of small birds that included Ash-throated Flycatcher, Bewick’s Wren, Oak Titmouse, Wren Tit, Hairy Woodpecker, and a Blue-gray Nutcracker.

 

 

 

 

 

Tree swallows

 

 

 

We had a relaxing time watching all the boats and fishermen before heading at the end of the day to Willits, where we stayed in a Best Western Hotel. Although it was by the side of a busy main highway, it provided me with a small pool in which to have a swim in the heat and was a reasonable cost at $97 for the room for the night. www.bestwesterncalifornia.com

 

9th August

 

We left Willits and drove the short distance to Fort Bragg in the hope that we did not hit the coastal sea fog that had plagued Bodega. Luckily it was totally clear and we located where our pre-booked B and B was. We headed for the Botanical Gardens which is often a good place in many cities or towns around the world no matter where you are for birding.

 

Hummingbirds darted around bushes and flowers but we only added Allen’s Hummingbird as a new tick. A Pygmy Nuthatch seemed at odds as Canada Geese flew overhead. We wandered down to the cliffs and watched Black Oystercatchers fly around the rocks. An Indigo bunting was a nice surprise lurking amongst foliage of an overgrown stream. A Swainson’s Thrush flitted about a tree as we walked back up to the gardens as a Cedar Waxwing perched high up a dead branch.

 

I bumped into Don Doolittle who was the bearer of bad news for the following day. Paul and I were booked onto the pelagic for the following day. Don explained that the boat that we were due to use was in dry dock needing emergency repairs. Debbie was desperately trying to get a replacement boat but had to off-load some passengers as she knew it would be smaller. Don reassured me that it was unlikely to be Paul and I as we had travelled such a long way.

 

After lunch Don had recommended walking around a lake by the sea. This we did but apart from watching an Osprey fishing in the lake we added little to our list. We checked into our B and B but soon realised that our hosts were not used to birders. A request for an early breakfast was met with stony faces. I had to be quite persistent to obtain any alternative. In the end we realised that a shopping trip was in order for supplies for the following day.

 

 

 

 

 

Osprey

 

 

 

 

10th August

 

Down at the wharf, Debbie had done a grand job and had managed to obtain a replacement fishing boat. We soon realised that we amongst some of the top American listers. Fort Bragg pelagics are renowned for producing rarities and top listers book every trip available in season. We listened intently once again to the health and safety talk and what to do if sea sickness made you throw up. I had a good supply of oatmeal biscuits but was fairly confident I would be OK (but I suspect Paul paid better attention to throw up from the back and had his pockets stuffed with crackers to save throwing up at the side of the boat again)

 

We set off from the wharf and noted many waders on the mud as we left harbour. Wandering Tattler was a world tick for me so I was thrilled to see one on the rocks. Once at sea, birds seemed few and far between but a Humpback whale added to the delight of 6 Dall’s Porpoise right next to the boat. I was delighted at the sight of many Pacific White-sided Dolphins riding the bow wave. We had many Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters as well as Red-necked Phalaropes. A Pomarine Skua came close to look at us but there weren’t as many birds as there had been out from Bodega Bay.

 

There was a lull in the birding and cetacean watching and many of us were taking it easy in the sun at the back of the boat when all of a sudden I was woken from my snooze. There can’t have been a person on board that did not know that I wanted to see a Blue Whale and I had made it clear that if a Blue Whale spout was seen I was to be notified. Lisa had spotted a Blue Whale blow from the bow and Debbie was yelling to go to the right (starboard) side of the boat. A couple of Humpbacks were displaying on the port side and most people were watching them. However as the engines were cut, an enormous blue-grey shape emerged from the water on the starboard side with a very small dorsal fin. I jumped for joy as my Blue Whale that had eluded me for so long showed itself to the few of us that had remained on that side of the boat. I was thrilled! I tried to find Paul. I had assumed he was watching the Humpbacks, but I could not find him! Had he gone overboard? No! He had chosen those few precious minutes to visit the toilet. What timing!

 

We turned back and headed towards Fort Bragg. Small flocks of Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters were sitting on the sea and we added Arctic Skua and Red-throated Diver to our species list. Once back ashore Paul and I headed to a Tri-coloured Blackbird site that I had gleaned from a fellow birder on board boat. We searched through the blackbird flocks and soon located a few birds. Paul and I returned to our B and B to freshen up. We decided to celebrate with a last special meal at one of the Wharf’s Restaurants and treated ourselves with a window-seat looking out over the harbour. We watched the sun set on our holiday near its end.

 

11th August

 

More problems with our B and B meant that we had to wait over an hour for our breakfast. Along with other guests none of us were amused with one lot of guests leaving without getting fed. We have made a mental note never to arrange a private B and B again but to use chain organisations. Eventually we left late and birded a State park down the main coastal highway. Paul headed off up a forest pathway but I turned back as we were seeing very little. I was fortunate to meet up with some of the birders that we had met the day before. I discussed a few birds that I felt we had missed in the forests and a tape was produced from one of the birders pockets. Within seconds of being played a Hutton’s Vireo sat within touching distance of me. A Winter wren also made its presence known.

 

However once Paul had returned we headed off for a long journey south to Livermore and Mines Road. Here after much searching we finally saw our much sought after Yellow-billed Magpie. We carried on to Del Valle State Park and the lake where Yellow-billed Magpies were in abundance feeding all around the picnic tables and trees.

 

We made the most of the sun and wandered round with the rest of the tourists. Eventually we headed back to San Francisco where we had booked our last night’s stay at the same motel as our first night because it was convenient for the airport.

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-billed Magpie

 

 

 

 

 

12th August

 

Arriving at the airport far too early we were informed of a flight delay to Minneapolis. This meant upon arrival at Minneapolis we were met and transported straight to our plane for the transatlantic flight. Arriving at Gatwick we were amazed to find our luggage had arrived with us! Well done North-West Airlines!

 

Systematic List

 

  1. Red-throated Diver       Fort Bragg        10/08/2007
  2. Pacific Diver     Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  3. Great Northern Diver    Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  4. Pied-billed Grebe         Bodega Bay     30/07/2007
  5. Black-necked Grebe    Mono Lake      04/08/2007
  6. Western Grebe San Francisco   29/07/2007
  7. Clark's Grebe   Clear Lake National Park         08/08/2007
  8. Black-footed Albatross Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  9. Northern Fulmar           Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  10. Pink-footed Shearwater            Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  11. Sooty Shearwater         Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  12. Ashy Storm-petrel        Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  13. Brandt's Cormorant      Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  14. Double-crested Cormorant       San Francisco   29/07/2007
  15. Pelagic Cormorant        Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  16. American White Pelican            Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  17. Brown Pelican  San Francisco   29/07/2007
  18. Snowy Egret     San Francisco   29/07/2007
  19. Great Blue Heron         Monte Rio        29/07/2007
  20. Great White Egret         San Francisco   29/07/2007
  21. Green Heron    Monte Rio        30/07/2007
  22. Black-crowned Night-heron     Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  23. Canada Goose Fort Bragg        09/08/2007
  24. Wood Duck     Bodega Bay     30/07/2007
  25. Mallard            Monte Rio        29/07/2007
  26. Red-breasted Merganser          Twin Lakes      04/08/2007
  27. Turkey Vulture Detroit  28/07/2007
  28. Hen Harrier [sp]           Monte Rio        29/07/2007
  29. Red-shouldered Hawk  Valley Ford      29/07/2007
  30. Swainson's Hawk         Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  31. Red-tailed Hawk          San Francisco   29/07/2007
  32. Ferruginous Hawk        Panum Crater   05/08/2007
  33. Osprey San Francisco   29/07/2007
  34. American Kestrel          Detroit  28/07/2007
  35. Prairie Falcon   Tuolumne Meadows     06/08/2007
  36. Sage Grouse     Bodie   06/08/2007
  37. Wild Turkey     Clear Lake National Park         08/08/2007
  38. Mountain Quail Yosemite          07/08/2007
  39. California Quail San Francisco   29/07/2007
  40. American Coot Fort Bragg        09/08/2007
  41. Black Oystercatcher     Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  42. Black-necked Stilt        San Francisco   29/07/2007
  43. Grey Plover      Monte Rio        29/07/2007
  44. Killdeer            Detroit  28/07/2007
  45. Marbled Godwit           San Francisco   29/07/2007
  46. Hudsonian Curlew        Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  47. Long-billed Curlew       San Francisco   29/07/2007
  48. Greater Yellowlegs       Hot Creek        05/08/2007
  49. Wandering Tattler         Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  50. Willet   Bodega Bay     30/07/2007
  51. Ruddy Turnstone          San Francisco   29/07/2007
  52. Black Turnstone           Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  53. Surfbird            Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  54. Red Knot         San Francisco   29/07/2007
  55. Sanderling        San Francisco   29/07/2007
  56. Least Sandpiper           San Francisco   29/07/2007
  57. Wilson's Phalarope       Mono Lake      04/08/2007
  58. Red-necked Phalarope Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  59. Grey Phalarope            San Francisco   29/07/2007
  60. South Polar Skua          Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  61. Pomarine Skua Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  62. Arctic Skua      Fort Bragg        10/08/2007
  63. Long-tailed Skua          Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  64. Heermann's Gull           San Francisco   29/07/2007
  65. Ring-billed Gull Detroit  28/07/2007
  66. California Gull   Mono Lake      04/08/2007
  67. Western Gull    San Francisco   29/07/2007
  68. Sabine's Gull     Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  69. Caspian Tern    San Francisco   29/07/2007
  70. Elegant Tern     Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  71. Common Guillemot       San Francisco   29/07/2007
  72. Pigeon Guillemot           San Francisco   29/07/2007
  73. Cassin's Auklet Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  74. Rhinoceros Auklet        Bodega Bay     31/07/2007
  75. Band-tailed Pigeon       Bodega Bay     30/07/2007
  76. Mourning Dove            Detroit  28/07/2007
  77. Great Horned Owl        Brannan Island State Park         01/08/2007
  78. Black Swift       Tulloch Reservoir          01/08/2007
  79. Vaux's Swift [sp]          Yosemite          07/08/2007
  80. White-throated Swift    Yosemite          02/08/2007
  81. Black-chinned Hummingbird     Yosemite          02/08/2007
  82. Anna's Hummingbird     San Francisco   29/07/2007
  83. Calliope Hummingbird  Yosemite          03/08/2007
  84. Rufous Hummingbird    Yosemite          03/08/2007
  85. Allen's Hummingbird     Fort Bragg        09/08/2007
  86. Belted Kingfisher          Monte Rio        30/07/2007
  87. Acorn Woodpecker     Bodega Bay     30/07/2007
  88. Red-breasted Sapsucker          Yosemite          02/08/2007
  89. Williamson's Sapsucker            Tuolumne Meadows     04/08/2007
  90. Nuttall's Woodpecker   Brannan Island State Park         01/08/2007
  91. Hairy Woodpecker       Clear Lake National Park         08/08/2007
  92. White-headed Woodpecker     Yosemite          03/08/2007
  93. Black-backed Woodpecker     Tuolumne Meadows     04/08/2007
  94. Northern Flicker           San Francisco   29/07/2007
  95. Pileated Woodpecker   Bodega Bay     30/07/2007
  96. Western Wood-pewee Yosemite          02/08/2007
  97. Grey Flycatcher            Tioga pass        04/08/2007
  98. Pacific-slope Flycatcher            Fort Bragg        09/08/2007
  99. Say's Phoebe    Hot Creek        05/08/2007 
  100. Black Phoebe   San Francisco   29/07/2007   
  101. Ash-throated Flycatcher         Clear Lake National Park         08/08/2007 
  102. Western Kingbird       Twin Lakes      04/08/2007 
  103. Tree Swallow Clear Lake National Park         08/08/2007
  104. Violet-green Swallow Twin Lakes      04/08/2007
  105. Purple Martin Detroit  28/07/2007
  106. Northern Rough-winged Swallow       San Francisco   29/07/2007
  107. Barn Swallow San Francisco   29/07/2007
  108. Cliff Swallow  San Francisco   29/07/2007
  109. Cedar Waxwing         Fort Bragg        09/08/2007
  110. American Dipper        Yosemite          03/08/2007
  111. Rock Wren    Hot Creek        05/08/2007
  112. Bewick's Wren           Clear Lake National Park         08/08/2007
  113.  Winter Wren [sp]       Fort Bragg        11/08/2007
  114.  House Wren   Mono Lake      04/08/2007
  115. Northern Mockingbird            Clear Lake National Park         08/08/2007
  116.  Sage Thrasher            Hot Creek        05/08/2007
  117. Western Bluebird        Valley Ford      29/07/2007
  118.  Mountain Bluebird      Tuolumne Meadows     04/08/2007
  119. Swainson's Thrush      Fort Bragg        09/08/2007
  120. Hermit Thrush Yosemite          03/08/2007
  121. American Robin          Monte Rio        30/07/2007
  122. Wrentit           Clear Lake National Park         08/08/2007
  123. Blue-grey Gnatcatcher            Clear Lake National Park         08/08/2007
  124. Bushtit            San Francisco   29/07/2007
  125.  Mountain Chickadee   Yosemite          03/08/2007
  126. Chestnut-backed Chickadee   Monte Rio        29/07/2007
  127. Oak Titmouse Clear Lake National Park         08/08/2007
  128. Pygmy Nuthatch         Fort Bragg        09/08/2007
  129. Red-breasted Nuthatch           Yosemite          02/08/2007
  130. White-breasted Nuthatch        Tuolumne Meadows     05/08/2007
  131. Brown Creeper          Yosemite          02/08/2007
  132. Steller's Jay    San Francisco   29/07/2007
  133. Scrub Jay       San Francisco   29/07/2007
  134. Black-billed Magpie   Twin Lakes      04/08/2007
  135. Yellow-billed Magpie Del Valle Lake Livermore         11/08/2007
  136. Clark's Nutcracker     Twin Lakes      04/08/2007
  137. American Crow          San Francisco   29/07/2007
  138. Common Raven          San Francisco   29/07/2007
  139. Common Starling        Tulloch Reservoir          01/08/2007
  140. House Sparrow          Detroit  28/07/2007
  141. Hutton's Vireo            Fort Bragg        11/08/2007
  142. Pine Siskin      Yosemite          03/08/2007
  143.  Lesser Goldfinch         Brannan Island State Park         01/08/2007
  144. Purple Finch   San Francisco   29/07/2007
  145. House Finch   Yosemite          07/08/2007
  146. Red Crossbill  Tuolumne Meadows     04/08/2007
  147. Orange-crowned Warbler       Yosemite          03/08/2007
  148.  Nashville Warbler       Yosemite          03/08/2007
  149. Yellow Warbler          Yosemite          03/08/2007
  150. Yellow-rumped Warbler         Yosemite          03/08/2007
  151.  Macgillivray's Warbler            Yosemite          03/08/2007
  152. Wilson's Warbler        Yosemite          03/08/2007
  153. Western Tanager        San Francisco   29/07/2007
  154. Fox Sparrow  Tuolumne Meadows     05/08/2007
  155. Song Sparrow            San Francisco   29/07/2007
  156. White-crowned Sparrow        San Francisco   29/07/2007
  157. Dark-eyed Junco        Brannan Island State Park         01/08/2007
  158. Savannah Sparrow     Fort Bragg        09/08/2007
  159. American Tree Sparrow         Tuolumne Meadows     04/08/2007
  160. Chipping Sparrow      Mono Lake      04/08/2007
  161. Vesper Sparrow         Twin Lakes      04/08/2007
  162. Sage Sparrow            Twin Lakes      04/08/2007
  163. Green-tailed Towhee  Twin Lakes      04/08/2007
  164. Spotted Towhee         San Francisco   29/07/2007
  165. California Towhee      San Francisco   29/07/2007
  166. Black-headed Grosbeak         Monte Rio        30/07/2007
  167. Lazuli Bunting Yosemite          03/08/2007
  168. I ndigo Bunting            Fort Bragg        09/08/2007
  169. Yellow-headed Blackbird        Twin Lakes      04/08/2007
  170. Red-winged Blackbird            San Francisco   29/07/2007
  171. Tricolored Blackbird    Fort Bragg        10/08/2007
  172. Brewer's Blackbird      San Francisco   29/07/2007

 

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