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ARIZONA & CALIFORNIA

Wednesday 3rd May - Thursday 25th May 2006

Matt Denton

The Arizona and California tour returned this year with great success and included two new destinations, Santa Cruz Island and the Grand Canyon, unquestionably one of the Earth’s great natural wonders. We recorded 306 species of birds during our journey to some of the most famous birding locales and scenic places of the American West. From Arizona some of the highlights included Prairie Falcon, Montezuma Quail, Elegant Trogon, a Spotted Owl on its day roost in Scheelite canyon, a lively Mountain Pygmy-Owl, the stunning Red-faced Warbler and our brilliant views of Botteri’s Sparrow and the handsome Five-striped Sparrow. We watched California Condors with their three metre wingspans soaring over the Grand Canyon and in the surrounding Colorado Plateau found Ferruginous Hawk, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Clark’s Nutcracker and Mountain Bluebird. In the salt brush desert near Phoenix we had a Le Conte’s Thrasher that performed beautifully. A short flight took us to neighbouring California where we enjoyed many more ‘diamond birds.’ These included Clark’s Grebe, Heermann’s Gull and California Gnatcatcher in the San Diego area, Lawrence’s Goldfinch in the Laguna Mountains, Island Scrub-Jays and Allen’s Hummingbirds on Santa Cruz Island, Yellow-billed Magpie and other near-endemics from the chaparral and oak savannahs of Santa Barbara County, the beautiful Mountain Quail on Mount Pinos and the endangered Tricoloured Blackbird of which we found a large colony. Finally, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in spectacular Yosemite National Park where we had to contend with some rain and road closures but still found Calliope Hummingbird, Red-breasted Sapsucker and American Dipper among others.