California, USA – Week 1 (26 Jul-1 Aug 2016)

Before our trip, I was really looking forward to birding in the USA over summer, across California, Arizona and New York City.

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on flight to San Francisco

At age 14, my world list is 4232 and I was hoping to see at least a couple of hundred new bird species in our month away. It would be fantastic to see a few new hummingbirds as well, as I am trying to see all the hummingbirds of the bird. I am also hoping to add a load more flags for the USA onto my wall world map.

We flew from London Heathrow direct to San Francisco with United Airlines on Tuesday 26 July 2016 on a day flight. Usually, we tend to fly on night flights and so it was was great to watch 6 films without hassle from my parents.

We arrived in San Francisco the same day on Tuesday 26 July 2016 and travelled across to stay with our friends in Oakland, California. Our friends, Dave and Daphne and their lovely girls were great hosts. On Wednesday 27 July 2016, we collected our hire care and then had our first full day birding around Oakland which is across the Bay from San Francisco. First, we birded along The Bay and then into the mountains behind Oakland. We saw lots of new birds including Wilson’s Warbler one of the birds I really wanted to see.  What more can you ask than a bird with Wilson in the name?

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, San Leandro Bay Regional Shoreline, California

 

Jack-tailed Jackrabbit, Hayward, California

The next day, Thursday 28 July 2016, we birded back up in the hills above Oakland before having a fantastic day visiting the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco with lots more birding in that area. The best bird of the day was Hammond’s Flycatcher. From here, we travelled to Monterey Bay, where we were doing a boat trip the next day.

Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco Bay, California

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

 

Red-tailed Hawk, Lands End, San Francisco

American Coot, Lands End, San Francisco

 

American Coot, Lands End, San Francisco

Hermann’s Gull, Lands End, San Francisco

 

Lighthouse, Pigeon Point, California

 

Seal, Pigeon Point

 

Brandt’s Cormorant, Pigeon Point

 

Friday 29 July 2016 was an unforgettable day on one of the famous Debi Shearwater’s Californian Pelagics out of Monterey Bay. It was interesting to meet Debi, who was Annie Auklet in my favourite film, They Big Year with Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson. Debi has been running pelagics (boat trips to open seas looking for birds) from the coast of California for over 40 years (http://shearwaterjourneys.com/). The best birds from the trip were Scripp’s Murrelet and Black-footed Albatross with my first two huge Blue Whales and also Fin and Humpback Whales.

 

Male and Female Sea Otter,  Monterey Bay, California

 

Male and Female Sea Otter mating, Monterey Bay, California

 

Pigeon Guillemot, Monterey Bay

 

Californian Sealion, Monterey Bay, California

 

Black Oystercatcher, Monterey Bay, California

 

Sun Fish, Monterey Bay, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with Debi Shearwater on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Blue Whale on Pelagic from Monterey Bay, California

 

Blue Whale, apparently it is rare to see them fluke with their tale
on Pelagic from Monterey Bay, California

 

Black-footed Albatross on Californian Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Black-footed Albatross on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Pink-footed Shearwater on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Pink-footed Shearwater on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Rhinoceros Auklet on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

We were planning to travel south from Monterey Bay to The Big Sur, for Californian Condor but there was a huge forest fire out of control and blocking the road and reserves. Debi suggested that we go to The Pinnacles National Monument instead, but warned us it would be hot into the day.

Saturday 30 July 2016 we were up early and birded at The Pinnacles National Monument in California. The highlight was 3+ Californian Condor. It was fantastic to see these birds after recovery from extinction in the wild. Today was my Dad, Chris Craig’s birthday and so the Condor’s were a great birthday present. In the evening it was 90 degrees at 7.30 pm, so it was a balmy night for us.

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at The Pinnacles National Monument

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig watching 3 Californian Condor
at The Pinnacles National Monument

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at The Pinnacles National Monument

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with Chris Craig at The Pinnacles National Monument

 

The Pinnacles National Monument, California

 

First of many Stellar’s Jay during the trip, Pinnacles National Monument

 

Temperature at The Pinnacles National Monument

 

The morning of Sunday 31 July 2016, we started our day birding at Lake Luis, Basalt Camp. The campsite had sections of trees, amongst the desert about it.  Here we found our target, a Californian endemic, Yellow-billed Magpie.

It was interesting for birds here as we flushed birds from the small woods, which held over twenty Barn Owl as well as other birds of prey.  We searched for other owls in the heat of the day with no luck.

It was also really uplifting to bird in a campsite where virtually all the families were African Americans. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see this in the UK one day?

We then spent the rest of the day birding in this central Californian area seeing some specialised birds.

 

Yellow-billed Magpie at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Yellow-billed Magpie at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Barn Owl at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Swainson’s Hawk at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Red-tailed Hawk at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Western Yellow-bellied Racer snake at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Western Yellow-bellied Racer snake at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Osprey, Lake Luis, California

 

Great Blue Heron, Los Banos Wildlife Centre, California

 

On Monday 1 August 2016, we spent the day birding on the southern end of Yosemite (pronounced U-cem-eti) NP, which is east of San Francisco. It was difficult birding as the park had lots of people in it and birds seemed quiet post-breeding. We birded up the road to Glacier Point, seeing a handful of new species by the end of the day. A common but great looking bird for the day was Audubon’s Warbler.

Then something amazing happened; as we were waiting in the shop, my old teacher from primary school (with only 70 pupils) Mrs Jo Brady came up to us with her children. A fantastic coincidence!

After catching up, we went for a walk on the highest path. We were pishing as we birded (though mainly Dad). That’s when you make a p’shing noise that birds hopefully come out to investigate. However, here Dad got more than he bargained for when a ground squirrel came close to him, sat on a rock and started shouting at him. Not a good plan with some carrying fleas infected with the plague.

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Yosemite NP, California

 

Yosemite NP, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Chris Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Chris Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Chris Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Audubon Warbler, Yosemite NP, California

 

Ground Squirrel at Yosemite NP, California

 

Ground Squirrel at Yosemite NP, California

 

It was a really wonderful first week of our trip. I had only spent a day birding in Atlanta, Georgia in 2012 on our way from South America when I saw 64 bird species and 60 new birds. The trip has started well with 136 birds seen and I’m really hoping to see 200 new species on this trip.

 

A great road trip, California

 

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