Monday, March 3, 2014

Birding Southern California's San Jacinto Mountains

The San Jacinto Mountains.  My oh my what a beautiful mountain range!  The tall snow covered peak is Mount Jacinto, which tops out at 10,786 feet.

It's March 3rd, 2014.  It's the fifth final day of Dominic and my epic Southern California birding trip, and we still had more birds to see.  We stayed in a cabin in Idyllwild, a very nice town in the high mountains that is over a mile high in most places.  The Idyllwild population is close to four thousand people, and it has many nice restaurants, gift shops, stores, etc. in a classic small town feel.  By the end of today, I had enjoyed Idyllwild just as much as I have enjoyed San Diego.  It isn't so crowded and is in the mountains, which vary in town of about 6,000' on average and then rises to 10,786' at Mount Jacinto.  Everything about this place is neat in my opinion, and it would only take 4.5 hours to get here from Phoenix, which would be a straight drive west on the 1-10.  Dominic and I still had birds to see, and we especially wanted to try for Mountain Quail and White-headed Woodpecker.  Here's what some of the streets look like in Idyllwild.

Here is our cabin in Idyllwild

And here is the beautiful town itself!

Dominic and I woke up and started the day off by going to the Idyllwild County Park where we did the previous night.  We birded near the nature center in pursuit of the White-headed Woodpecker.  Anywhere in the area we were hopeful for Mountain Quail, despite the fact they are very shy, elusive, and are hard to find.  Before we started to bird the forest for the woodpecker, we were greeted by a pack of five Coyotes in the parking lot.

After the Coyotes moved on, it was then time for our search in the San Jacintos!

These two Band-tailed Pigeons were our first bird of the day.

Just minutes into our walk while walking on the road to the visitor center, I saw a woodpecker on the side of a snag.....and it looked good for.....

Yes, it was my first ever look at a White-headed Woodpecker, my 20th life bird of the 5 day California trip!  The White-headed Woodpecker is a striking bird, and is unlike any other woodpecker in North America in terms of it's plumage and look.  This bird is a female, and males otherwise have a patch of red at the back of their head.  I have wanted to see this woodpecker for a very long time now, and it was great to finally be able to see it!  It was also sharing the tree with a male Western Bluebird.

This Townsend's Solitaire was also nearby.

This area was a woodpecker heaven.  Besides the White-headed Woodpecker, there was also Acorn, Nuttall's, and Hairy Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, and even a female Williamson's Sapsucker!

Acorn Woodpeckers

Nuttall's Woodpecker

Throughout the morning, I did see and hear more White-headed Woodpeckers without good photo opportunities.  I did get somewhat of a blurry shot off of this male White-headed Woodpecker.

We then spent most of the morning in search of Mountain Quail.  By the end of our search, we didn't see any Mountain Quail.  However, we did hear them well from a lookout point several times very well.  So, they were around!  As a birder, I count heard only birds as lifers on my list, but with looks much rather desired than the heard only.  So the Mountain Quail was my 21st life bird of the trip.  From where we heard the quails calling, we had a great view of the mountains surrounding us.  Hearing the quail and seeing these mountains was a perfect reason to celebrate!

I thought the San Jacinto Mountains and Idyllwild area was so beautiful, and I would love to come back.  Here is a series of pictures I took of the scenery of these mountains.

At 1:30, Dominic and I called it quits and decided to head back to Phoenix, which ended our epic 5 day birding trip of birding Southern California.  Dominic called it a "birding sample" of southern Cali.  This trip was one I'll never forget.  Lots was learned, about birds, food, music, and places I've never been to before.  A huge thanks goes out to my great friend Dominic Sherony for everything on this trip!.  Dominic taught me a lot birding wise and non-birding wise and we saw a lot of great birds, places, and ate at a variety of different restaurants on the trip.  Thank you Dominic!  Whenever Dominic and I have birded together, we have always been successful.

Before this trip, my life list numbered 433 species.  After the addition of 21 species, my list now stands at 454!  All in only 5 days.  The lifers I landed on this trip were Tricolored Blackbird, California Thrasher, California Towhee, Wrentit, California Quail, Oak Titmouse, Brandt's Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Black Turnstone, Wandering Tattler, Royal Tern, Black-vented Shearwater, Nelson's Sparrow, Allen's Hummingbird, California Gnatcatcher, Black Skimmer, Surfbird, Bay-breasted Warbler, Nuttall's Woodpecker, White-headed Woodpecker, and Mountain Quail.  What a great trip, one I'll never forget!  Thanks again Dominic!

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed this post since I'm planning a trip to the Idyllwild area. Can you tell me the specific birding hot spots you went to? Your 2 target species are the same I'm looking for. Any recommendations on where to stay?
    Thanks for the posts and the Maricopa Birding guide.