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Courtesy of James P. Smith

California’s ongoing drought did little to interfere with the success of the Birdfinders tour to the Golden State in 2016. We found almost all of California’s key species ranging from the endemic Island Scrub-Jay to the tiny, mewing California Gnatcatcher, and we did it all amid superb scenery and perfect weather.

Naturally, a few moments stood out from the rest and we welcomed the return of Buller’s Shearwaters to Monterey Bay, a species curiously absent from our dedicated pelagics in recent years. The day before, Big Sur produced a bumper crop of California Condors with seven of these magnificent beasts soaring over the spectacular Pacific Coast Highway. Remarkably, one of the condor stops also produced a calling Tropical Kingbird, a new species to our California tour. As we drove through giant pine groves of Yosemite National Park there was near pandemonium in the bus when we spotted a Great Grey Owl perched up by the side of the road. Fortunately, it stuck around long enough for us to turn around and park safely so we could all enjoy views of one of the most prized species on the tour!

Once again, this was a wonderful trip to lead and I’m especially grateful to Peter Lansdown for his help and co-leadership during the tour.

Good birding

James P. Smith

Northfield, MA, USA

Clark's and Western Grebes
Black-footed Albatross Pink-footed Shearwater
Buller's Shearwater Buller's Shearwater
Black-vented Shearwaters
American White Pelicans and Black Skimmer
California Condor California Condor
Golden Eagle Bald Eagle
Snowy Plover Red-necked Phalarope
Pomarine Jaeger Pigeon Guillemot
Franklin's Gull Western Gull and Yellow-footed Gull
California Gull
California Gull (juv) Black Tern
Burrowing Owl Great Grey Owl
Red-naped Sapsucker Possible Nuttall's x Ladder-backed Woodpecker hybrid
Prairie Falcon Olive-sided Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird Black-throated Magpie-jay
Island Scrub-jay California Scrub-jay
Clark's Nutcracker Pygmy Nuthatch
American Dipper Mountain Bluebird
Sage Thrasher American Redstart
Blackpoll Warbler Sooty Fox Sparrow
Bell's Sparrow Summer Tanager
Tricoloured Blackbird
Lawrence's Goldfinch Northern Red Bishop
Short-beaked Common Dolphin
Desert Horned Lizard
Bristlecone Pines
Big Sur, Condor country
Joshua Trees
Mono Lake
Morro Bay
Owens River
Yosemite National Park
Birdfinders' group at the Salton Sea
Birdfinders' group at Mono Lake
Birdfinders' group at San Simeon
California Thrasher

California Thrasher