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THE CALIFORNIA COAST

Saturday 16th August - Monday 25th August 2003

Derek Scott

The sixth Birdquest tour to the California coast was another great success. Once again we were fortunate with the weather for both our pelagic trips, and indeed barely required our seasickness pills or waterproof clothing. As always, the sea-birds were fantastic, but this year we were extremely fortunate in finding both Xantus’s and Craveri’s Murrelets, as well as exceptional numbers of Buller’s Shearwaters. The cetaceans were hardly any less exciting. We recorded eight species in all, including over 35 gigantic Blue Whales, 25 Humpback Whales, a splendid male Killer Whale and three groups of the unusual Northern Right Whale Dolphin. Wader passage was in full swing, and the 29 species that we encountered included several scarce migrants for this area, notably Pacific Golden Plover and Semipalmated, Baird’s and Pectoral Sandpipers. Inland, in the chaparral, woodland and forest, the birding was tough, as little was singing and nothing was responding to the tape recorder, but with some perseverance we were able to find most of the specialities, including Mountain Quail, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Pacific Slope Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Magpie, Oak Titmouse, California Thrasher, Hermit Warbler, California Towhee, Lazuli Bunting and Tricoloured Blackbird. Our trip total of 179 was unexceptional, largely because of the paucity of wintering ducks and grebes, but the quality was certainly there.

(NOTE: THIS ITINERARY DID NOT INCLUDE YOSEMITE, MONO LAKE OR SANTA CRUZ ISLAND.)