Wednesday, May 27, 2015

California: Coast to Mountains

Our 3rd day in California was the day to return to Arizona.  Tommy and I had already decided we wanted to check out Laguna Resort in the mountains about an hour out of San Diego, but we also wanted to get some breakfast to start off the day.  We had talked briefly a few times about maybe searching for the Red-crowned Parrot that now has large enough numbers and are breeding freely in southern California.  They can be found in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas, but we really had not gotten too serious about locating them to add them to our life list.  Even though this species is now accepted as an ABA reportable bird, somehow if feels weird adding a life bird to one's list that is not a native to the United States.  But then, when one thinks about it a little more, then I suppose that if we are going to  follow that standard, we probably should not count House Sparrows, European Starlings, Eurasian-collared Doves, and a whole slew of game birds that have all been introduced. 
But fate stepped in when we pulled into the parking lot at Denny's for breakfast and we heard the unmistakable calls of parrots in the air.  It did not take long to see them flying overhead in small flocks and landing a block or two away.  Too easy!  The chase was on and we finally located and saw over 20 parrots. 
 Red-crowned Parrot
Red-crowned Parrot - juvenile

We just added a new life bird without much difficulty and after a hearty breakfast, we then headed east with Laguna Resort as our next target location.  This place is in the mountains east of San Diego and although we stopped here on our way in on Friday, it was pouring rain so this visit would be much better weather wise.  We did have a target here, so there was a reason to check it out.  We had did a little researching on eBird and found that this location was one of the most southerly locations with resident Purple Finches.  Believe it or not, this would be a life bird for both of us.  The place was full of higher elevation birds and many were common to Arizona, but we focused on locating Purple Finches.  In the process we did locate a Swainson's Thrush and a couple of Band-tailed Pigeons.

 Band-tailed Pigeon
Swainson's Thrush

And in the same vicinity we found our target bird the Purple Finch.  There were several of them, but photographing them was a bit of a challenge as they did not like to expose themselves to sunlight.  They can be identified from House Finches due to the reddish/raspberry color in the brown feathers on their wings.  They kind of look like they have been dipped in raspberry sauce.

 Purple Finch
Purple Finch

So for the final day, I tallied 2 more life birds for a total of 6 during our 3 day epic trip.  Once we left Laguna Resort and headed east, I was rather interested in stopping at a another location, Kitchen Creek Road which was on the east side of Laguna Resort but at a much lower altitude.  Tommy had gotten photos of a Wrentit in this area a year before and although I had gotten very brief glimpses of this cool little bird in September 2013, I had not gotten good looks of them and no photos.  Well this time was a much better experience because we had 4 of them show themselves for photos.


And for a final and last stop we visited Cibbets Flat Campground to check it out before we took the long trip home. 

 Steller's Jay
 California Scrub-Jay

It was an awesome 3 days of birding and exploring some new birding spots and was well worth the trip by adding 6 new life birds to my list.  And I believe Tommy added 14 new birds to his life list as well.


  1. Nicely done Gordon! You have great birds there. I love the Wrentits. As for Purple Finches, I have yet to see them in California. Pretty finches all over. Looks like a trek work the walk. Isn't it a trip finding the parrots? Congrats!

  2. That's awesome when you experienced birders can get that many life birds. Congrats.

    1. Candace, it is great to get those new life birds and there are still a lot more for me to get in California and the US. Thank you for the comments and taking the time to read my blog post!