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 all.

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 Shrike.

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...