A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Slice of California II 2023

September 5-14, 2023 with Chris Benesh guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
While on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, we took in the south shore of Mono Lake, the South Tufa, one early morning.

The Slice of California Tour is designed to provide a nice sampling from some of the many varied habitats found across the state. We started off this year’s tour birding around the San Francisco Bay, with Coyote Point our first destination. Spotting a handsome Tricolored Blackbird is a mixed blackbird flock got us off to a good start. Band-tailed Pigeons, Black Turnstones and an assortment of other shorebirds, Elegant Terns, and Pygmy Nuthatches entertained. From there, we headed over to Byxbee Park where two Ridgway’s Rails showed off and a few Vaux’s Swifts mixed in with Violet-green Swallows. McClellan Ranch was great from some oak birds, including Oak Titmouse, Nuttall’s and Acorn woodpeckers, and the Pacific form of White-breasted Nuthatch. We then hit a few more spots in the south bay where we connected with Wilson’s Phalarope, lots of Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets.

Our second day was the amazing pelagic trip organized by Alvaro Jaramillo out of Half Moon Bay. Here we joined the other Slice of California group, and several other VIPs for a great day of birding. We headed out almost 30 miles toward Pioneer Canyon, seeing some wonderful pelagics along the way. Black-footed Albatross, Tufted Puffin, Sabine’s Gulls were among the many highlights. And the marine mammals were amazing, perhaps even stealing to show. Humpback Whales were in sight of the boat for much of the trip, and we encountered three species of dolphins, Harbor Porpoise, and both sea-lions and fur seals. The trip did have a somber overtone, as we mourned the loss of Tom Johnson earlier in the year. Tom always had a massive presence on our pelagics.

We had one more day on the coast and we birded between Pillar Point Harbor and Gazos Creek Road to the south. There was a wayward Acorn Woodpecker at the harbor, and a pair of Wrentits in the scrub near the parking lot. Traveling south along the coast, we saw a few more Tricolored Blackbirds and a really dark Merlin (quite possibly the Black Merlin) hunting in the area. Pescadero was great for rocky shorebirds with Surfbirds, Black Oystercatchers, and a Wandering Tattler. Gazos Creek had a lot of goodies including Pacific Wren and many Townsend’s Warblers. Back in Half Moon Bay we found some Snowy Plovers on the beach, as well as a stakeout Red-necked Grebe, Parasitic Jaeger, and a couple of Marbled Murrelets.

It was then time to head inland. Early the next morning we were off to Mines Road and Del Puerto Canyon before crossing the great Central Valley to Sonora. Yellow-billed Magpies were stars of the morning. But other goodies included Lawrence’s Goldfinches, Bell’s Sparrow, California Thrasher, and Golden Eagle. We arrived into Sonora around the same time that a tremendous thunderstorm was developing. It made for some spectacular skies, but sadly took out the power in most all of Sonora, complicating our dinner and hotel experiences.

We had a couple of days to enjoy the west slope of the Sierra including a visit to the Calaveras Big Trees, the big trees being Giant Sequoias. The trees were spectacular, but the birding was a bit slow, so we headed higher into the mountains. The Bear Valley Ski Area proved productive for us with a couple of mixed flocks. Cassin’s Vireo, Purple Finch, Mountain Bluebird, Clark’s Nutcracker, and Red-breasted Sapsucker were some of the highlights.

The following day we headed across Sonora Pass to the east slope of the Sierra and Lee Vining. Our first stop at Cascade Campground was really great, with nice Cassin’s Vireo and Hermit Warbler, and the star of the morning, Northern Pygmy-Owl, perched high in a conifer. We were also teased by a calling Mountain Quail that sadly stayed out of view. Our next stop at Donnell Vista was not too birdy, but did have a fabulous Black-backed Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Townsend’s Solitaire, and Olive-sided Flycatcher. Cottonwood Day Use area provided an American Dipper, and Sharp-shinned Hawk. We then did some birding around Bridgeport Reservoir and then on to Mono County Park where we had a nice couple of Lewis’s Woodpeckers.

The following day started with a pre-breakfast visit to the South Tufa on the south shore of Mono Lake. Eared Grebes, Red-necked Phalaropes, and California Gulls were in abundance. There were Mountain Bluebirds, Sage Thrashers, Brewer’s Sparrows, and a Rock Wren as well. After breakfast we headed to Cemetery Road where we finally connected with Sagebrush Sparrow. A short visit to Mono City was also productive. A faulty van tire fouled up our plans for visiting Bodie, but we did poke around a bit more south of the lake and connected with a pair of Prairie Falcons there.

Our final full day saw us heading back to the San Francisco Bay, but not before a bit more birding near Lee Vining. And that proved productive, with nine Pinyon Jays finally putting in an appearance. Whew! Then it was the drive back across the Central Valley to settle in for our final dinner.

I want to thank all of you for making the trip such a success and going with the flow with weather and van issues. I hope all are well and enjoying more birding riches. I look forward to seeing all of you again in the future! Good birding!


One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)

Field Guides Birding Tours
The gang huddled on a crisp morning at Mono Lake.

CINNAMON TEAL (Spatula cyanoptera)

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

GADWALL (Mareca strepera)

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)

GREEN-WINGED TEAL (AMERICAN) (Anas crecca carolinensis)

SURF SCOTER (Melanitta perspicillata)

COMMON GOLDENEYE (Bucephala clangula)

A couple of these hanging out at Coyote Point was a surprise.

COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser)

Nice looks at four at San Gregorio Beach while scanning for rare gulls.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

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A splendid Tricolored Blackbird seen at Coyote Point on the first day of the trip.
Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

MOUNTAIN QUAIL (Oreortyx pictus) [*]

CALIFORNIA QUAIL (Callipepla californica)

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

RED-NECKED GREBE (Podiceps grisegena)

One seen from Half Moon Bay and in breeding condition no less was a stakeout but still a surprise.

EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis)

WESTERN GREBE (Aechmophorus occidentalis)

CLARK'S GREBE (Aechmophorus clarkii)

A good opportunity to compare this with the preceding species at Del Valle Reservoir.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

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One of the splendid Ridgway's Rails we found at Byxbee Park on San Francisco Bay.

BAND-TAILED PIGEON (Patagioenas fasciata)

Our best looks were our first ones at Coyote Point.

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Apodidae (Swifts)

VAUX'S SWIFT (Chaetura vauxi)

We were fortunate to luck into a few mixed in with swallows at Byxbee Park.

WHITE-THROATED SWIFT (Aeronautes saxatalis)

A lone bird sighted at Donnell Vista.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus alexandri)

We had two on the tour with the first at our Junction lunch stop on Mines Road.


RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus)

One at Junction and two more in Mono City.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

RIDGWAY'S RAIL (SAN FRANCISCO BAY) (Rallus obsoletus obsoletus)

Great looks at this species at Byxbee Park. At one time this was considered a subspecies of Clapper Rail.

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A somewhat bedraggled Wrentit showed well for us at Pillar Point Harbor.

SORA (Porzana carolina)

One at Charleston Slough.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

Some big numbers of this and the next species at the south end of San Francisco Bay where there were lots of shallow saline ponds.

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)

Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)

BLACK OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus bachmani)

Four of these impressive shorebirds seen.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)

SNOWY PLOVER (Anarhynchus nivosus)

Three were seen at a traditional spot at Venice Beach.

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Gazos Creek turned out to be pretty productive. One of the highlights was this Hutton's Vireo, an oak specialist.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

WHIMBREL (HUDSONIAN) (Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus)

LONG-BILLED CURLEW (Numenius americanus)

MARBLED GODWIT (Limosa fedoa)

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

WILSON'S PHALAROPE (Phalaropus tricolor)

Two were at the Spreckles Pond in Alviso.

RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus lobatus)

Quite a few seen on the pelagic, but Mono Lake was where there were massive numbers of them still.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)


We eventually managed to find two. One at Pillar Point and a second one at Pescadero.

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Also at Pillar Point was this point blank look at a Common Yellowthroat.

WILLET (WESTERN) (Tringa semipalmata inornata)

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

BLACK TURNSTONE (Arenaria melanocephala)

SURFBIRD (Calidris virgata)

Seen at Pillar Point and Pescadero.

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

Our best looks were at Venice Beach.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

Stercorariidae (Skuas and Jaegers)

PARASITIC JAEGER (Stercorarius parasiticus)

A couple were seen inshore on the pelagic and another the following day from Venice Beach.

POMARINE JAEGER (Stercorarius pomarinus)

Two singles were seen on the pelagic trip.

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Gazos Creek was also a great area for Townsend's Warblers. We ended up seeing about ten individuals here.
Alcidae (Auks, Murres, and Puffins)

RHINOCEROS AUKLET (Cerorhinca monocerata)

TUFTED PUFFIN (Fratercula cirrhata)

We lucked into one of these on the pelagic trip. This species breeds on the Farallon Islands but becomes scarce once they depart their breeding colonies.

CASSIN'S AUKLET (Ptychoramphus aleuticus)

We actually had some terrific views of this often shy species on the pelagic trip. Many breed on the Farallon Islands.

MARBLED MURRELET (Brachyramphus marmoratus)

Some nice studies of this species on the pelagic trip and then again the following morning at Venice Beach.

PIGEON GUILLEMOT (Cepphus columba)

Another really scarce alcid outside of their breeding season, we had one at the end of our pelagic trip.

COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge)

Hundreds seen on the pelagic with a lot of dependent young hanging out with parents.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

SABINE'S GULL (Xema sabini)

Nearly 20 of this striking species seen on the pelagic trip.

HEERMANN'S GULL (Larus heermanni)

An attractive West Coast specialty, with many present along the coast at this time of year.

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

The rarest gull (locally) that we saw.

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While birding along Highway 1 we had a great study of a young Northern Harrier.

WESTERN GULL (Larus occidentalis)

CALIFORNIA GULL (Larus californicus)

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

BLACK TERN (AMERICAN) (Chlidonias niger surinamensis)

We saw about a dozen of these in the distance at Bridgeport Reservoir.

FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)

ELEGANT TERN (Thalasseus elegans)

Along with Heermann's Gull and Brown Pelican, there is a big influx of this species into the California coast post-breeding. We saw a number of these along the coast.

Diomedeidae (Albatrosses)

BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS (Phoebastria nigripes)

Five of these were tallied on the pelagic trip. This species breeds in Hawaii and off of Japan and spends time roaming the Pacific otherwise.

Hydrobatidae (Northern Storm-Petrels)

ASHY STORM-PETREL (Hydrobates homochroa)

Most of this species breeds on the Farallons and fewer on the Channel Islands. We saw some massive flocks of this species on the pelagic.

BLACK STORM-PETREL (Hydrobates melania)

Larger than Ashy, we saw 100+ near the edge of the continental shelf on the pelagic.

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We also had this marvelous dark Merlin hunting blackbird flocks along the coast.
Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)

NORTHERN FULMAR (Fulmarus glacialis)

Three of these were seen on the pelagic.

PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER (Ardenna creatopus)

BULLER'S SHEARWATER (Ardenna bulleri)

A decent number of this attractive species were seen on the pelagic.

SOOTY SHEARWATER (Ardenna grisea)

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

BRANDT'S CORMORANT (Urile penicillatus)

PELAGIC CORMORANT (Urile pelagicus)

A few seen in total and remarkably one was seen well offshore on the pelagic trip.

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

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This Black-headed Grosbeak was at the start of Gazos Creek Road.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

GOLDEN EAGLE (Aquila chrysaetos)

We lucked into a couple of these on the Del Puerto Canyon road which turned out to be the only ones we saw. Impressive birds.

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One of the trip highlights was our pelagic trip out of Half Moon Bay, and this Black-footed Albatross was one of many avian highlights.

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

Our only one was along Clarks Fork Road.

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (ELEGANS) (Buteo lineatus elegans)

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Strigidae (Owls)

GREAT HORNED OWL (Bubo virginianus) [*]

One hooting at our motel in Half Moon Bay.

NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL (PACIFIC) (Glaucidium gnoma californicum)

This was a real highlight of the trip seeing this tiny owl near Cascade Campground.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus thyroideus)

Four female plumaged birds were seen.

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We had some good numbers of these splendid Sabine's Gulls.

RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus ruber)

LEWIS'S WOODPECKER (Melanerpes lewis)

A couple of cooperative birds were hanging out at Mono County Park.

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

We had a lot of encounters with this distinctive species including two away from their normal haunts. The first oddball was at Pillar Point and the other was in Mono City.


A fantastic encounter with this species at the Donnell Vista. Whew!

DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)

NUTTALL'S WOODPECKER (Dryobates nuttallii)

Our only one was at the McClellan Ranch on the first day of the tour.

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

WHITE-HEADED WOODPECKER (Dryobates albolarvatus)

We had several good encountered with this highly desired species in the Sierra.

NORTHERN FLICKER (Colaptes auratus)

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Here is one of the several Marbled Murrelets seen close to shore off of Half Moon Bay. This tiny species breeds in tall conifers often several miles inland from the coast.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

MERLIN (Falco columbarius)

A surprising find along the coast near the Cowell-Purisima Coastal Trailhead. This bird was extremely dark, potentially dark enough to be considered a Black Merlin.

PRAIRIE FALCON (Falco mexicanus)

Two were seen flying south of Mono Lake along Hwy 120.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)


WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus sordidulus)

WILLOW FLYCATCHER (Empidonax traillii)

WESTERN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax difficilis)

One seen along Gazos Creek. Formerly the Pacific-slope Flycatcher.

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)

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A lingering Pigeon Guillemot, a bird that is pretty plentiful in summer but mostly disappears after breeding, wintering offshore at sea.

WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)

A migrant was at Coyote Point.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni)

Three along Gazos Creek were our only ones.

CASSIN'S VIREO (Vireo cassinii)

It was a good trip for this species with at least 5 recorded.

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)

Two were at Gazos Creek.

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

One at Cowell-Purisima Coastal Trailhead was in an area where considered rare, and the same place one was seen in 2022.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

PINYON JAY (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)

Whew, what a relief! After a lot of searching, a flock of 9 found us at Log Cabin Mine Road.

STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri)

CALIFORNIA SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma californica)


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One of the really special birds of California is the endemic Yellow-billed Magpie. We saw a few groups of this charismatic species.

YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIE (Pica nuttalli) [E]

We eventually got some good views of this very range restricted species with the biggest number near Modesto.

CLARK'S NUTCRACKER (Nucifraga columbiana)

A lot of these teased us, but eventually we had some cracking views!

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE (Poecile gambeli)


OAK TITMOUSE (Baeolophus inornatus)

Quite a few of these were coming to feeders at the McClellan Ranch near San Jose.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina)

Quite a few were at Byxbee Park with Vaux's Swifts. More were at the north end of Mono Lake.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

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This beautiful Golden Eagle was spotted along the lower section of Del Puerto Canyon.

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)

BUSHTIT (Psaltriparus minimus)

Paradoxornithidae (Parrotbills)

WRENTIT (Chamaea fasciata)

A pair of these marvelous skulkers at Pillar Point Harbor. This species closest relatives are from the Old World!

Regulidae (Kinglets)


Sittidae (Nuthatches)

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (INTERIOR WEST) (Sitta carolinensis tenuissima)

The bird we saw at the Bear Valley Ski area belongs to the interior vocal type. There is a decent case to be made for considering three species of White-breasted in the US.

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (PACIFIC) (Sitta carolinensis aculeata)

These were best seen and heard at the McClellan Ranch.

PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea)

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)

Our only one was along Gazos Creek.

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One of the biggest surprises on Mines Road was this Desert Tarantula, Aphonopelma iodius.
Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)

We had one hanging out on the tufa at the south side of Mono Lake.

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

PACIFIC WREN (PACIFICUS GROUP) (Troglodytes pacificus pacificus)

We eventually tracked down a couple of these along Gazos Creek.

MARSH WREN (PALUDICOLA GROUP) (Cistothorus palustris paludicola) [*]

BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)

Cinclidae (Dippers)

AMERICAN DIPPER (Cinclus mexicanus)

We did have one along Clarks Ford Road at the Cottonwood Day Use area.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

CALIFORNIA THRASHER (Toxostoma redivivum)

A splendid thrasher that we had well along Mines Road.

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Weather played a big part in the tour in places. While we were in Sonora, an unseasonal thunderstorm developed on our way for dinner in town. Unfortunately it took out the power in most of the town for several hours! But wow, what a sky!

SAGE THRASHER (Oreoscoptes montanus)

Quite a few of these were still around the South Tufa at Mono Lake.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)

MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD (Sialia currucoides)

TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE (Myadestes townsendi)

Our only ones were at Donnell Vista.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)

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One of the more common species in the Sierra was the perky Red-breasted Nuthatch.

PURPLE FINCH (WESTERN) (Haemorhous purpureus californicus)

Our only encounter with this species was at the Bear Valley Ski Area where there was a small flock feeding quietly together.

PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus)

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCH (Spinus lawrencei)

It was a little tricky to see them in the open, but we did have a sizable flock of these in pines at Frank Raines Regional Park along Del Puerto Canyon. This species can be quite hard to track down.


Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

BREWER'S SPARROW (Spizella breweri)

There were still a good number of these around the South Tufa area at Mono Lake.

FOX SPARROW (THICK-BILLED) (Passerella iliaca megarhyncha)

It is unclear whether Fox Sparrow will ever be split into up to four species, but the birds in the Sierra are rather large billed and have distinctive call note that separates them from other forms. We had them on two occasions.

DARK-EYED JUNCO (Junco hyemalis)

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One of the classic high country alpine species is the Clark's Nutcracker. We saw several, and the best were at Donnell Vista.

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (ORIANTHA) (Zonotrichia leucophrys oriantha)

We recorded three different subspecies of White-crowned Sparrow on the trip. In the high Sierra we saw the dark-lored form Oriantha

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (GAMBEL'S) (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii)

There was a single Gambel's White-crowned at Donnell Vista, persumably an early migrant.

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (NUTTALLI) (Zonotrichia leucophrys nuttalli)

Birds seen at Pillar Point Harbor belong to this resident form.

SAGEBRUSH SPARROW (Artemisiospiza nevadensis)

We finally connected with this species on Cemetery Road near Mono Lake.

BELL'S SPARROW (BELLI) (Artemisiospiza belli belli)

After a lot of searching, we finally saw this distinctive subspecies of Bell's Sparrow along Del Puerto Canyon.

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

Most of the ones seen were either coastal or south Bay. But we did also have a couple at the Bridgeport Reservoir.

LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)

CALIFORNIA TOWHEE (Melozone crissalis)

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Cascade Campground turned out to be quite good and provided our best Hermit Warblers.

GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE (Pipilo chlorurus)

SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

As is often the case, a few were hanging around the South Tufa and Bridgeport Reservoir.

WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta)

A couple of these in the lower grassland section of Del Puerto Canyon were a nice treat.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Seen at a variety of locations, most were of the distinctive bicolored form, mostly lacking any yellow edging on their epaulets.

TRICOLORED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius tricolor)

Nice studies of a couple in with Red-wings at Coyote Point, and later another furtive group flying around the Cowell-Purisima Coastal Trailhead.


BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

This species established itself in recent decades. Ours were at Del Valle Reservoir.

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This Yellow-bellied Marmot was a highlight from the Bear Valley Ski Area.
Parulidae (New World Warblers)

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata)

Seen at several spots in the Sierra, but the motherlode was at Lost Cabin Mine Road.

VIRGINIA'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis virginiae)

One of the most remarkable birds of the trip, we had a lost bird many miles offshore on the pelagic trip.

MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER (Geothlypis tolmiei)

We had a couple of encounters, with one at Gazos Creek, one at the Stanislaus River Campground, and for some, another at Mono County Park.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)

BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens)

Just two were seen on the trip with the first at the Stanislaus River Campground.

TOWNSEND'S WARBLER (Setophaga townsendi)

Quite a few of these were along Gazos Creek where they winter.

HERMIT WARBLER (Setophaga occidentalis)

A few seen with our best looks at the Cascade Campground.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The sagebrush dominated high desert around Mono Lake proved really good for Sage Thrasher, such as this one at South Tufa.

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)

Most of the ones we saw were along Gazos Creek.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)

We only saw migrants with birds at Coyote Point and along Mines Road.

BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

Just a single bird at the start of Gazos Creek.


BRUSH RABBIT (Sylvilagus bachmani)

Seen along the coast.

LEAST CHIPMUNK (Tamias minimus)

MERRIAM'S CHIPMUNK (Tamias merriami)

LONG-EARED CHIPMUNK (Tamias quadrimaculatus)

YELLOW-BELLIED MARMOT (Marmota flaviventris)

Good looks at one at the Bear Valley Ski Area.

CALIFORNIA GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus beecheyi)

Field Guides Birding Tours
We didn't see too many butterflies, but the distinctive California Sister was present at a few locations.

EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis) [I]

Three were at Coyote Point.


Nice to see this scarce species on a couple of occasions.

CHICKAREE (Tamiasciurus douglasii)

This noisy species was locally common in the Sierra.


PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHIN (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens)

Really nice views of this species on the pelagic.

NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHIN (Lissodelphis borealis)

A few lucky ones saw this mixed in with the White-sided.

HARBOR PORPOISE (Phocoena phocoena)

A few seen at the start of the pelagic in the calm inshore waters.

HUMPBACK WHALE (Megaptera novaeangliae)

We had a spectacular showing of whales with lots of them present throughout the pelagic trip. Fabulous to watch some actively feeding too.

COYOTE (Canis latrans)

CALIFORNIA SEA LION (Zalophus californianus)

SOUTHERN FUR SEAL SP. (Arctocephalus townsendi)

HARBOR SEAL (Phoca vitulina)

MULE DEER (Odocoileus hemionus)

Totals for the tour: 202 bird taxa and 19 mammal taxa