Since Babe Webster and I had both separately birded southern California once before, we were generally missing only the ‘harder-to-find’ species. In fact, most of them (Flammulated Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Western Screech-Owl, LeConte’s Thrasher, and Sage Sparrow) were expected to be real ‘toughies’. The combination of searching for owls at night and birding the early morning hours meant finding time to sleep would be another challenge. Another “Red-eyed Birding Tour” was under way.
We took ‘US Air’ from Allentown to Los Angeles, with a plane change in Pittsburgh. We were happy to see no line at the Avis counter and were on our way in a 4-door Pontiac Grand Am (red again) just after noon, Pacific Time.
We hopped on the crazy I-405 (actually, the freeways aren’t crazy; it’s the drivers) and drove south to Upper Newport Bay. We found a few California Gnatcatchers (my first ‘lifer’ of the trip) on the brushy hillside at the intersection of Back Bay Drive and San Joaquin Hills Drive. Other notable birds seen in the area included Great Blue Heron, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Bank and Barn Swallows, Common Yellowthroat, and California Towhee.
From there, we drove the short distance to the Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Park. There, we found Green Heron, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Black Phoebe, Barn Swallow, Bushtit, Common Yellowthroat, California Towhee, Hooded and Bullock’s Orioles, and American Goldfinch. Nearby Carr Park held Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Black Phoebe, Barn Swallow, and Great-tailed Grackle.
Next, we set the auto-pilot for Ventura. After checking into a Motel 6 and picking up some supplies at a Von’s grocery store, we headed north to Foster Park. Before dusk, we found Turkey Vulture, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Black Phoebe, Violet-green and Barn Swallows, Western Scrub-Jay, Oak Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, and California Towhee. Our hopes for Western Screech-Owl were somewhat dimmed when we found the park full of noisy Memorial Day weekend campers.