|The route, starting in San Fran and ending in LA, hitting up 7 national parks (Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Death Valley, Zion, Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree), one national disgrace (Las Vegas) and with a bonus add-on in South Texas.|
Natalia's parents flew up for our graduations and this was kind of a celebration trip. Non-birders involved, so it was not a 'birding trip' per se, but with the focus on national parks, it was pretty easy to be opportunistic. Heck, I scored 24 lifers. And that was before scooting off to Texas.
Since Natalia and I had already done a good bit of birding around LA the opportunities for lifers were slim for the first several days, so we'll just gloss over those except for some obligatory landmark pics:
|Golden Gate Bridge (sponsored by Hyundai)|
|General Sherman Tree|
|Yellow-billed Magpie, some park outside Fresno. This is one of the few birds endemic to the United States|
|Death Valley. Last landscape shot from here on it will be all birds|
At the Death Valley Visitor’s Center we picked up Lucy’s Warbler, Verdin and the much-desired Greater Roadrunner. Awesome!
|I didn't manage any lifer photos in the 100+ degree heat, so have a Warbling Vireo instead. Death Valley|
|Unlike game birds in a lot of parts of the world, these silly-looking Gambel's Quail are parking lot birds around Las Vegas.|
|I guess we were there during breeding season because this goof ball sat up for us to sing.|
|a skukling Verdin, one of my most-wanted desert birds in a park in Las Vegas|
After surviving Vegas we took a "quick" detour by Zion National Park, which in retrospect, was a mistake. It added just a few hours of extra driving, but 4 hours is not nearly enough time to see this place. Heck, with the crowds it was barely enough time to park, have lunch and cram onto a bus for a spin around the valley.
It almost paid off big time.
|California Condors are nesting in this hole in Zion Canyon. This is great news for condor conservation. Unfortunately for us the birds did not make an appearance.|
Had the California Condor showed up at this hole where the ranger told us it nests, the Zion jaunt would have been well worth the effort. But do yourself a favor and give this place at least a couple days.
After Zion, it was on to the main event, the Grand Canyon.
|OK, I lied. This is also a landscape|
|Black-throated Gray Warbler, Grand Canyon National Park|
|White-breasted Nuthatch at Grand Canyon National Park. There are rumors that this bird may soon be split and have a new name. I have no idea what this one would be called.|
Originally our plan had us cutting back through Vegas on the way to LA, but, fortunately, we instead cut south through Arizona in order to swing by Joshua Tree. In Arizona we made tactical stops at Kaibab and Prescott State Forests. These produced a nice haul: Red-faced Warbler, Painted Redstart, Scott’s Oriole, Canyon Towhee, Gray Vireo and Bridled Titmouse.
|Bendire's Thrasher at Joshua Tree National Park, this bird is known to occur here, but apparently hasn't been photographed very often (or so the local eBird reviewer told me)|
I caught a glimpse of what had to be a LeConte’s Thrasher scurry between a couple bushes, but like some jerk magician, it vanished into thin air. Do these things burrow under the ground or something? Not yet a nemesis bird, but I’ve got my eye on that one to show up later.
I don’t care too much for my U.S. list or the ABA area, so instead of driving south to Brownsville, I headed west for more lifer opportunities in the arid ecosystems around Falcon Dam State Park.
|Pyrruloxia at Falcon Dam State Park|
|Curve-billed Thrasher, Falcon Dam State Park|
|Inca Dove, Falcon Dam State Park|
My life knows no walls. This trip was really just a warm-up for the real post-graduation trip: six weeks in South America starting in Southern Peru and ended at Iguazu Falls in Brazil/Argentina. Stay tuned for that!