Although our trip out west was ostensibly non-birding, there really is no such thing when you are joined at the neck by your bins strap. Perhaps the patience required for carting the scope through the 500 or so airport security checks is another clue as to where my particular focus lies. Yes the Golden Gate Bridge is neat, but the ABA tick Black Swift flying around it was way neater.
Our first couple of nights were based in Half Moon Bay, CA and from there we took a not unenjoyable three hour coach tour of downtown San Francisco where the highlights were several trip ticks in addition to the swift plus some buildings, some hippies and other non-bird related things. Fisherman’s Wharf was a great place to snap Western Gulls and a Heermann`s dropped by too. The Western Gulls were very bold, some even snatching food from plates and who would argue with them? Some militant Western Gulls were actively seeking out shiny cars to defecate on, revenge for loss of habitat one hopes. We also managed to find the odd California Gull in with the western mobs, including a bright bird in summer plumage.
Half Moon Bay seemed to be full of Western Grebes, literally, with a couple of hundred at least. I did manage to find one that I could call Clark`s, there were likely many more beyond reasonable scope distance. Along the coast singing White-crowned Sparrows are liberally dotted about and sound very different to ours in Quebec, surely a solid split at some point? I also saw both Cassin’s Auklet and Marbled Murrelet in the bay. eBird has yet to quiver over the records, it did further south in Monterey Bay but more on that later. During our stay in Half Moon Bay we didn’t see any other birders, strange.
The Savannah Sparrows we saw look and sound different to QC birds too, less clean and less buzzy.
From dawn to dusk patrolling groups of western form Brown Pelicans are passing this way and that. Every now and then there would be a fish shoal located and frenetic activity would ensue, attracting Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants, Common Murres, gulls and the aforementioned alcids to the to the feeding party. The events seemed short-lived, with birds moving off after ten minutes or so, perhaps when the fish ran out or the brighter ones swam off pronto.
As this is the first true post for the trip, here is the itinerary. Half Moon Bay, CA, two nights. Monterey, CA, three nights. Groveland, CA, one night – this site was chosen so we could visit Yosemite (busy) and to drive the Sierra range over to Nevada. Reno, NV, one night. Tucson, AZ, two nights (I know!), Oak Creek Canyon, AZ (Sedona), three nights – handy for the Grand Canyon. Anthem, AZ, one night then fly home. This was a bucket list trip for Sandra’s folks but I still managed to winkle 205 species out of the trip, 13 lifers, 20 ABA ticks.