Southern California, USA Sept 1st - Sept 5th 2005

Published by Andrew Birch (andyrbirch AT

Participants: Gavin Maclean, Andy Birch


This trip report documents finding some of the southern California specialties and endemics for those with limited time. We extensively used A Birder's Guide to Southern California (Lane/Aba Birdfinding Guide.),Brad Schram,Harold Holt (details below). We drove about 1200 miles in 4 days so this schedule is not for the faint-hearted. I picked up Gavin Maclean from LAX on the afternoon of Sept 1st.

Sept 1st 2005

Forestal Drive, Palos Verdes Peninsular (30 mins from LAX). This is a good spot for California Gnatcatchers and we found one within 30mins. When you park on Forestal, climb up the slope on your right towards the cliffs:

1 Western Wood Pewee
Lesser Goldfinches
1 California Gnatcatcher
1 Spotted Towhee

Point Fermin

6 Black Oystercatchers
1 Surfbird in flight

Marina Del Rey- a walk out along the breakwater in the evening didn't yield the hoped for Surfbirds but did give us good views of the Turnstones and Tattler

1 Wandering Tattler
2 Black Turnstone

Sept 2nd 2005

Palmdale, Ave O and Division. We started our morning early in the desert hoping for a number of spceies but especially LeConte's Thrasher. This is not the best time of year to look for the Thrasher and they can be very difficult at the best of times but with some perseverance we did manage to get good views of one and also added a few other desert species to our list:

1 LeConte's Thrasher
1 Greater Roadrunner
1 Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Cactus Wrens
4 Sage Sparrows
2 Brewer's Sparrows

San Gabriel Mountains - we worked all the major sites in the Schram guide. Our big misses were Green-tailed Towhees at Buckhorn (seen weekend before) and Lawrence's Goldfinches at Charlton Flats. Although Mountain Quail are described as regular at Chilao, this was the first time I had ever seen one here:

1 Cassin's Finch - Vincent Gap
4 White-headed Woodpeckers - Chilao and Charlton Flats
2 Pygmy Nuthatches - Chilao and Charlton Flats
Mountain Chickadees - common
1 Mountain Quail - Chilao on road
10 California Quails - Chilao
1 Dusky Flycatcher - Buckhorn
4 Hermit Warblers - Buckhorn
1 Wilson's Warbler
4 Band-tailed Pigeons - Chilao
1 Olive-sided Flycatchers - Vincent Gap
Western Wood Pewees

Sept 3rd 2005

Ventura Harbor - Santa Cruz Island with Island Packers. The trip across was disappointingly quiet with no shearwaters or alcids. However, the main quarry, Island Scrub Jay was seen relatively easily.

20 Surfbirds
10 Forster's terns
2 Black Turnstones
Brandt's Cormorants
4 Red-necked Phalaropes
1 Pomarine Jaeger (from boat)
1 Island Scrub Jay - seen shortly after landing at Prisoner's Harbor
1 Orange-crowned Warbler (island race)

Our return trip ticket on the boat was at 4pm. This meant we would arrive too late to look for Yellow-billed Magpie near Santa Barbara. Because our time was short and this was the only time we would be near Yellow-billed Magpie sites, we were able to hitch a ride back on a boat that was leaving 10 mins after we arrived. To the bewilderment of the crew, we left the island 10 mins after they dropped us off! It required a bit of explaining but they let us back on.

Near Solvang - we tried many of the suggested Schram spots for Magpies without success. These birds were very hard. In the end, we found 3 birds whilst aimlessly driving around some farmland nearby. These birds were off Armory Road (none seen along Happy Valley)

3 Yellow-billed Magpies
20 Lark Sparrows
1 Nuttall's Woodpecker - Bradbury dam, Lake Cachuma
1 Black-headed Grosbeak - Bradbury dam, Lake Cachuma
Western Grebes - Lake Cachuma

Sept 4th 2005

Salton Sea - Wister Unit. We started here early 7am:

3 Black-tailed Gnatcatchers
2 Abert's Towhees
1 Lesser Nighthawk
1 Barn Owl
1 Willow Flycatcher
Gambel's Quail
10 Common Ground Doves
100+ White-faced Ibis (in fields)
1 Baird's Sandpiper (in fields)
1 Long-billed Curlew
3 Burrowing Owls (outside visitor car park along road)

Ramer Lake

2 Clark's Grebes
1 Brown-crested Flycatcher


1 Gila Woodpecker
3 Inca Doves

Red Hill Marina

4 Yellow-footed Gulls
Wilson's Phalaropes - 100s
2 Red Phalaropes
100+ American Black Terns

We left Salton Sea by noon as it was getting very hot and birding was difficult.

Joshua Tree - 2pm

2+ Black-throated Sparrows

Big Morongo - the host's feeding station was very good:

1 Summer Tanager
male Costa's Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird

Lake Balboa, Encino - 6:30pm

2 Ross's Geese - resident birds. These are wild birds even though they do hang out with the feral ducks and you can even pet them! Big miss here was Tricolored Blackbird
1 Yellow-headed Blackbird

Sept 5th 2005

Hansen Dam - 8am

3 Bell's Vireos in willow thicket around dam
1 Nashville Warbler
1 Black-throated Gray Warbler
1 Yellow-breasted Chat
1 Nuttall's Woodpecker

San Gabriel Mountains, Bear Divide and Sand Canyon

An unsuccesful search for California Condors but we did add a few other missing species from the list:

2 Wrentits
1 California Thrasher
Hermit Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
1 Brewer's Sparrow

Lake Balboa, Encino - 1pm
After much scrutinizing of the Red-winged Blackbirds, we found

2 Tricolored Blackbirds

Sand Dune Park, Manhattan Beach - 5pm

1 Pacific-slope Flycatcher
1 Warbling Vireo

Point Fermin - 6pm

10 Pelagic Cormorants - on cliffs below lighthouse
1 Brandt's Cormorant - on cliffs below lighthouse
1 Yellow Warbler

Essential References
The following sites provide up to date local info essential to trip planning: - California Lists Digest in a format that allows you to quickly see latest postings - Archives date back further than Sialia and are searchable
Joe Morlan's California Birding Site
and the usual trip report sites such as, and Blake Maybank's collection (found by searching google)

A Birder's Guide to Southern California (Lane/Aba Birdfinding Guide.),Brad Schram,Harold Holt

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