For any use of my photos, please contact me at monika.wieland (at) gmail (dot) com

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Soaking Up the California Sunshine

After heading north from San Diego it was nearly time to head back home where snow would await us, but first we had just enough time for a pit stop in sunny Laguna Beach, where we got married almost two years ago. The weather couldn't have been more perfect and with winter storm warnings forecast for our drive home, we had extra incentive to soak up our last couple days of California warmth. Even for California, it was amazing to me how many flowers were in full bloom in February!

I of course have extra special memories from here, but I think it would be one of my favorite places in California anyway. It's a smaller, funkier beach town with much more dynamic landscapes; I just love it there.

There wasn't as much variety of bird life on the beaches as in Mexico, but we still got some nice birding in.

Heermann's gull - a species we won't be seeing at home until late June
As we enjoyed our last sunset in Laguna Beach, we just had the feeling that would be the end of our warm weather, as indeed it was. The next morning there was a new chill in the air even in southern California.

For a few moments the golden light just looked magical on the waves!

The next day we stopped at a neat little preserve called Madrona Marsh in Torrance. The harsh lighting made birding a bit difficult, but we did get a quick look at what would be my last life bird for the trip - an ash-throated flycatcher.

We spent the night in Santa Maria and then made a stop at the butterfly grove in Pismo Beach early the next morning. The birding was great, as we added another handful of year birds in the hour we were there.

Nuttall's woodpecker - the only place I had ever seen one of these before was....also at the butterfly grove in Pismo Beach!
California scrub-jay
It was still too early in the day/cold for the monarch butterflies to be flying around, but after some careful searching of the trees we did find a cluster of them huddled together looking like a branch of dead leaves.

On our continued drive north we stopped at a little city park in Sacramento where a worm-eating warbler has been seen. (It was funny: as we passed by a couple of Frisbee golf players and they saw our cameras they knew we were probably looking for "that little bird".) We didn't have any luck finding it, but did get our best look of the trip at a red-shouldered hawk.

And just like Batiquitos Lagoon, I can't pass Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge without making a stop. It's 6-mile auto tour loop always provides some great birding and was not a disappointment!

Greater white-fronted geese

White-faced ibis

Western meadowlark
American coot
And I don't think I have ever seen so many black-necked stilt in one place! A conservative estimate was 250 of them. I'm not sure what was going on in the second photo - attempted mating?

We saw nearly 40 bird species in just over an hour there - pretty impressive! Oh, and one mammal species:

California ground squirrel
For our last two days of the drive up we hit the snow and it felt like our vacation was over! Thankfully we managed to dodge the worst of the weather and the biggest snow didn't hit home until the day after we got back. That actually made for a cozy return and some nice photo opportunities! The last birding of the road trip, however, occurred at the Anacortes ferry landing where the most impressive sight was the more than 30 great blue herons roosting on the old dock pilings:

It was a great trip that provided both the birding and some of the warm weather we had hoped for. In conclusion, here are a few statistics for our nearly two and a half week trip:

Miles traveled: More than 3800
Number of states traveled through: 7 (including Sonora, Mexico)
Number of bird species seen: 187
Number of photo year birds added: 120
Number of life birds for me: 19 
Number of life birds for Jason: 42
Number of mammal species seen: 15 - ranging from yellow-bellied marmot to bottlenose dolphin!

1 comment:

Vera said...

I love the blog! Amazing statistics at the end.