Just last Sunday, my dad and I returned from what had been a whirlwind ten-day tour of Southern California and Southeastern Arizona.
Starting in the Los Angeles area, we made our way south to San Diego County and east to Imperial County and the Salton Sea area. After only four days, we boarded a plane to Phoenix and spent the next five days racing around Southeastern Arizona before heading home, exhausted but immensely satisfied after a long and successful trip.
Successful it was, as we were able to put together a trip list of 210 species, beating my previous record of 202 set on last summer’s trip to California. I was also able to notch a double-digit life bird total, a difficult accomplishment for me anywhere in the lower 48 these days.
I also enjoyed seeing many species I have only seen once before, birds I have dubbed “seen once only birds.” It is quite a pleasure to learn and get to know these birds a bit better, now that the pressure of obtaining them as a life bird is gone.
During our time in these two magnificent states, we encountered fantastic birding conditions, with sunny, mild weather and little or no wind. When we had the time, we also got to savor terrific non-birding aspects of these areas, including great food, and awesome scenery.
Our basic itinerary:
Day 1 – March 14: Late arrival in Los Angeles; night in LA
Day 2 – March 15: A fantastic boat trip out to the Channel Islands with fellow Connecticut birder Annette Jablonski, followed by a delicious seafood dinner in Malibu; night in LA.
Day 3 – March 16: We started the day birding a couple of spots in the LA area, before making our way south to San Diego; night in San Diego.
Day 4 – March 17: Full-day trip to the world-famous Salton Sea and its environs in hot Imperial County east of San Diego; night in San Diego.
Day 5 – March 18: Birded the San Diego area, starting in the Laguna Mountains and ending in La Jolla; night in San Diego.
Day 6 – March 19: Took an early morning flight to Phoenix and then made our way to the Sulphur Springs Valley for the afternoon; night in Willcox.
Day 7 – March 20: One of the best days of the trip. We spent a fantastic day birding the Chiricahua Mountains, before making our way to Rio Rico for the night.
Day 8 – March 21: Another great day. We hit the San Rafael Grasslands in the morning, before making our way to the Patagonia area and finally finishing with the Huachucas in the afternoon; night in Green Valley.
Day 9 – March 22: Birded Florida Canyon in the Santa Ritas, then moved north to Tucson, and then finally, to Phoenix for the evening; night in Phoenix.
Day 10 – March 23: Started a little late. Visited the Hassayampa River Preserve before rounding out the afternoon in Metropolitan Phoenix. We flew out later that evening.
While I’m sure it’s apparent that there were some occasions where we “bit off a little more than we could chew” so to speak, most everything went according to plan and we very rarely found ourselves behind schedule.
Just reviewing the basics of these days really gets the adrenaline flowing and reminds me of how amazing a trip this was. I’m looking forward to getting into more detail in the coming days and weeks, and reliving the memories of what was an unforgettable trip.