Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A fun family trip to California

From December 26th-29th I took a short trip to Los Angeles, CA. with my family. Although the trip was strictly to visit my grandparents, I was able to squeeze at least one morning of birding in.  I did however, see a few birds around my grandparents house which is in Temple City on the edge of Pasadena. My main goal (birdwise) was to get my year list to 300. After doing a lot of birding in AZ. my year list was up to 293. Although, I knew I was probably not going to be able to get my AZ. year list to 300 hundred, I thought I might have a chance to at least get my overall year list to 300. You might be asking " Well, did you get it?", you will have to read to find out!

After five and a half hours of driving from my house we finally stopped but, it was not at my grandparents, we went to a close friends house first. (they live in Yuciapa)  While my parents talked with their old-friends I stood in their back yard looking and listening for any birds. It did not take me long to have my first-of -year (FOY) Allen's Hummingbird fly over me. Booya, one down, six to go! As I continued looking around I was able to get a few more birds but no FOYs. We then went off to get lunch at a local restaurant when I spied a familiar shoulder from across a main road. It was Mr. Red-shouldered Hawk!!!

After eating lunch we drove for another hour and a half before reaching my Grandma and Grandpa's house. By the time we arrived the sun was already starting to set and the first bird I heard and saw was the local population of Red-crowned Parrots that roost in my grandparents neighborhood. The next day (the 27th) I started the morning before the sun rose with a walk around the block. As soon as I walked out of the house I heard a couple of California Towhees calling from someones yard. After pishing the birds popped out in the open and I was even able to get a photo of one of the birds.

Year bird 296!                    

I then continued walking but didn't see anything notable, until I was just about done with the so called "Bird Hike".  I then saw a Red-whiskered Bulbul as it was singing in a tree, and soon after it started singing another RWBU came in and the two of them sang their mouths off, or in this case sang their beaks off.

Year bird 297!
Throughout the rest of the day I didn't see much else, but the next day my Mom and I went out birding at one of the local birding hotspots called Legg Lake Park. Of course, one of my target birds was a Black-and-white Warbler that was found a couple days before, but spoiler-alert, I missed it which somehow doesn't surprise me. As soon as we arrived at the park I saw three FOY Bonaparte's Gulls and I could hear American Goldfinches calling from almost all directions.
 These two birds brought my year list up to 299. But once I looked to the right of the BOGU I could see another gull that was not just my 300th bird of the year but a lifer!

See that gull on the right side of the picture? Well That's my lifer Mew Gull!


 Even though I was still getting over a cold and my ears were plugged, I was able to hear lots of Townsend's and Wilson's Warblers calling from up in the trees. I then heard a Purple Finch calling from the top of some Chinese Elm Trees and after walking around the trees trying to get a visual I was finally able to see it!

As you can see there was a pretty thick layer of clouds covering the sky, but these photos show the birds forked tail, light belly with defined streaks, and its large bill.

I then found a continuing Swamp Sparrow that spends the winter at this park.

Here is a more common look at a SMSP.

After spending several minutes observing this awesome skulker we came upon a very large flock of American Robins. Here is a photo of a quarter of the flock.

As I scanned through the flock for any rare thrushes that might be flocking with them, a large flycatcher flew in front of us and when I got my binocs on it I noticed it was a continuing Tropical Kingbird! Unfortunately the bird flew off and I was unable to relocate it. As we started heading back to the northern lake we ran into a few awesome birds on the way!
Hutton's Vireo
Townsend's Warbler
Brewer's Blackbird

A Greater White-fronted Goose following what it must think is its Mom?
One of the last birds I wanted to see was the Tricolored Blackbird. As I scanned through a flock of blackbirds I finally saw one that stuck out, it was glossy black in plumage, its bill was very pointy, and its wing bars were buffy white.
Tricolored Blackbird
I ended the morning at Legg Lake with over 60 species of bird (not including the many non-countable birds). I did little birding after the trip to Legg Lake and the day after that we headed back to AZ. I had a very fun time with my family in CA. I even got a couple of lifers in the mix,and I brought my year list up to 302! 


  1. Great trip, post, and pictures, Caleb! Congrats on the lifers and reaching your goal of 300 year birds! That Red-whiskered Bulbul and Tricolored Blackbird are incredible birds and ones I haven't seen on bird blogs before. The fact that you got in this fantastic birding while seeing the grandparents is awesome!

    1. Thanks Mr. Josh!!! The RWBU is an awesome bird, as is the TRBL! If only got enough photos of the bulbul, I would have given that bird its own post.

  2. Fantastic post and pictures Caleb! Congrats on a great 2014 and getting 300 year birds. The gull pictures are awesome, so is the RS HAWK! But the best, Swamp Sparrow! How often do you see those things feeding on a lawn? Hardly ever!

    1. Thanks Mr. Tommy!!! I know! When I saw the Swamp I was stunned. It was out in the open, about 15 feet out in the lawn but when it let me get within pretty close range I was shocked.