After acting as Count Compiler and Region 7 Coordinator
for the Palo Alto Christmas Bird Count 2000 (the results
of which will be made available soon), I spent my holiday
birding in Southern California. Highlights included two
lifers for me! The first of which was the recently split
Island Scrub Jay on Santa Cruz Island off of Santa
Barbara. This bird was deemed a full species a few years
ago and is found nowhere else on earth! The two-hour boat
ride out to the island was great fun, affording good views
of approximately 1500 Common Dolphin and a single
Gray Whale. Sea birds, such as several hundred
Black-vented Shearwaters, a pair of Common Murre
and a single Rhinocerous Auklet were exciting too.
After stepping off the boat a beautiful hike up Scorpion
Canyon was rewarded with close encounters with the rare
species of Jay. I was impressed with it's larger size, more
vivid color and heavier bill. Quite different from our mainland
Western Scrub Jay, which is not present on the island at
The island itself was teaming with three species of Cormorants,
and huge colonies of Brown Pelicans. Allen's Hummingbirds
were numerous in the campground and Say's Phoebes
seemed to be the predominant flycatcher for the island.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warblers,
Golden-crowned, and White-crowned Sparrows
seemed to be just as numerous off shore as on the mainland...
Sharp-shinned Hawk, American Kestrel, Northern
Harrier and Red-tailed Hawk were present as well.
After that exciting day, a two-and-a-half hour walk through
the arid oil fields in Maricopa produced the second lifer
of the trip, a single LeConte's Thrasher. The brief
three-second view was unsatisfying, but still very exciting!
I'll have to go back in spring when the birds are said to
be easier to find due to their more vocal nature. In the
same area were Sage Sparrow, Black-throated Sparrow,
Merlin, Greater Roadrunner and Loggerhead
Other birds of interest on the trip were Mountain Quail
in the mountains above Maricopa, hordes of Mountain Bluebirds
in the agricultural valley just outside of Maricopa and
Prairie Falcon outside of Los Angeles. Oh, yes. There
was also a Peregrine Falcon and an immature California
Condor (one of only 11 individuals in Northern Calfornia)
in Pfeiffer State Park near Big Sur...