Anza–Borrego Birds and More

Trip Report—March 22-23, 2014

By Kurt Leuschner, Field Trip Leader

California-Quail by-kerry-morris web

California Quail, Photo by Kerry Morris

Despite the lack of rainfall this year, and a cooler than normal forecast, a group of intrepid desert travelers ventured to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park this past March and tallied some incredible sightings!  We started off by finding some early spring migrants at Tamarisk Grove and Yaqui Well including Black-throated Gray Warbler, Black-chinned Sparrow, Lucy’s Warbler, Western Kingbird and Ash-throated Flycatcher.  We also spotted a herd of 15 Peninsular Bighorn on the nearby hillside.  A few lambs were present and we enjoyed long scope views of this endangered subspecies.  The scenery in Anza-Borrego is always spectacular by the way! . . .

Scotts-Oriole-by-kerry-morris web

Scott's Oriole, Photo by Kerry Morris

At Scissors Crossing we walked along a riparian area and found Loggerhead Shrike, Wild Turkey tracks (and later the bird), Nuttall’s Woodpecker, and Red-shouldered Hawk.  Further up the hill at our Julian lunchspot we watched an Oak Titmouse as a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew by.  We also watched the live feed from an American Kestrel nest-cam (the first egg was laid the next day!) as we sampled the local apple pie. The Daffodil Festival was in full swing – we saw some blooming alongside the road (our lunch host Ken Wright’s daffodils won “Best in Show!”).

LeContes-Thrasher-singing-by-kerry-morris Web

LeConte's Thrasher, Photo by Kerry Morris

At Lake Henshaw we found White Pelicans and added a few ducks and waterbirds to our list, and as we were about to leave an adult Bald Eagle was spotted soaring high overhead, giving everyone great looks.  A hike to Cottonwood Spring through a freshly burned area produced a great assortment of blooming wildflowers including Showy Penstemon, Scarlet Bugler, and Parish’s Nightshade.  Also in the area were Cactus Wren, California Thrasher, California Quail, and a misplaced flock of migrating Savannah Sparrows.   A few butterfly species were seen in this area, the most notable being the Silvery Blue at Barrel Spring along the Pacific Crest Trail.

We started the second day with a bang by coaxing a LeConte’s Thrasher into the scope. Can you believe we actually walked away with the LeConte’s still in the scope? That’s how cooperative he was (did I mention it took us almost 2 hours to find him and we were on our way back to the cars to give up?). The sand dunes were covered with tracks from the night before: Kangaroo Rats, Kit Foxes, Coyotes, Scorpions, Darkling Beetles and Fringe-toed Lizards. Another highlight happened at 9:12am (12 minutes late!) when 10 Swainson’s Hawks took to the air and “lifted off” into a thermal from a spot we had staked out the night before. The lighting was excellent and the birds were close - a great sighting indeed. Some of these birds may have flown all the way from Argentina – they funnel into Borrego Springs for a pit stop before continuing north through Coyote Canyon and beyond.

A quick lap around the sewage pond produced Vesper Sparrow, Phainopepla, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, and American Pipit. At our last stop (Club Circle Resort) we added more ducks to the list but missed the recently reported Tricolored Blackbird. We also missed seeing the Great Horned Owl (we only found the pellets) but on the way out half of the group succeeded in finding an even more exciting Burrowing Owl – a rare bird in the Borrego area. A fitting way to end a successful weekend of exploration in the largest State Park in California. 88 bird species all together and lots of great memories! Please join us next March! 

Birds and Other Wildlife seen March 21-23, 2014 LAAS field trip.

List submitted by Kurt Leuschner This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

88 bird species

American White Pelican – LH
Canada Goose - Borrego
Mallard – LH, Club Circle Resort
American Wigeon – LH, CCR
Green-winged Teal CCR one female
Northern Shoveler – CCR, many
Ring-necked Duck – CCR one pair
Wild Turkey - Julian
Turkey Vulture – BS
Bald Eagle - LH
Sharp-shinned Hawk - Julian
Red-shouldered Hawk – Julian
Red-tailed Hawk – Sentenac Canyon Birding Trail
Swainson’s Hawk – BS 10+
American Kestrel – Julian, BS
California Quail – BS and elsewhere
American Coot – Julian, LH
Killdeer – Borrego Sewage Ponds
Rock Pigeon – BS
White-winged Dove – BS
Common Ground-Dove – BS
Mourning Dove – BS
Greater Roadrunner - BS
Eurasian Collared-Dove – BS
Burrowing Owl – CCR (seen by last two cars only!)
Great Horned Owl – pellets only - CCR
Costa’s Hummingbird – BS
Anna’s Hummingbird – Yaqui Well
Acorn Woodpecker - Julian
Northern Flicker – Julian
Nuttall’s Woodpecker – SCBT
Ladder-backed Woodpecker - SCBT
Black Phoebe – BS
Say’s Phoebe – BS
Ash-throated Flycatcher – Tamarisk Grove (heard)
Western Kingbird – TG
Loggerhead Shrike – BS
Steller’s Jay – Julian
Western Scrub-Jay – Julian, Culp Valley
Common Raven – BS
American Crow – Julian
Horned Lark – Old Springs Road
Violet-green Swallow – LH
Cliff Swallow – BS
Tree Swallow – sewage pond
Barn Swallow – sewage pond
Oak Titmouse – Julian
Mountain Chickadee – Julian
Verdin – BS
Bushtit – SCBT and nest
White-breasted Nuthatch – Julian
Bewick’s Wren – TG
Cactus Wren – BS
Rock Wren – Palm Canyon, Friday
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – one heard, Barrel Spring
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher – YW
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Old Springs Rd.
Western Bluebird – Julian
American Robin – Julian
Northern Mockingbird – BS
California Thrasher – CS
LeConte’s Thrasher – Old Springs Rd.
European Starling – BS
American Pipit – sewage pond
Phainopepla – TG, YW
Yellow-rumped Warbler – TG
Orange-crowned Warbler – Palm Canyon, Friday
Lucy’s Warbler – one seen, Yaqui Well
Wilson’s Warbler – TG
Black-throated Gray Warbler - TG
Common Yellowthroat – Sewage pond
California Towhee – CS
Spotted Towhee – sewage pond
Black-chinned Sparrow – one seen, Yaqui Well
Black-throated Sparrow - SCBT
Savannah Sparrow – CCR
Vesper Sparrow- Sewage Pond
White-crowned Sparrow – TG
Dark-eyed Junco – Julian
Western Meadowlark – LH
Red-winged Blackbird - Julian
Great-tailed Grackle – BS
Brewer’s Blackbird – CCR
Brown-headed Cowbird – CCR
Scott’s Oriole – TG
House Finch – BS
Lesser Goldfinch – TG etc.
House Sparrow – BS

Some butterflies:
Becker’s White
Painted Lady
Silvery Blue

Some mammals:

Peninsular Bighorn Sheep – Tamarisk Grove – 15!

Darkling Beetle
Kit Fox tracks
Fringe-toed Lizard tracks

Some Wildflowers:
Showy Penstemon
Scarlet Bugler
Cryptantha or Forget-me-Not
Checker Fiddleneck
California Primrose
Ceanothus blooming
Wild Heliotrope
Fremont or Desert Pincushion
Woolly Daisy
Desert Apricot
Milkvetch or Locoweed
Bajada Lupine
Pine Broom-rape
Desert Lotus
Hairy or Humble Lotus
Whispering Bells
White Sage
Rose Mallow
Parish’s Nightshade

Published Western Tanager Vol. 80 No. 5 May/June 2014