Saturday, April 16, 2016

Back to Avalon

This guy was little like the "Lady in the Fountain" from the movie, "Under the Tuscan Sun".  He was a bit "off"
We left LA in the darkness and quickly headed towards the cute beach town of Dana Point. There we would take a ship across the Pacific and look for the last reliable colony of Spotted Doves in the US. 

The islands off of the Southern California coast are some of the best places to visit. Surprisingly they, unlike their neighbors on the nearby coast, are not overcrowded with people. Once we arrived, I knew we were going to have fun birding this island. 

Again, the people fascinated me.  They were a different group.  The lady below was busy chatting with a friend from her porch.  That's not something you see much of these days anymore!

We wandered some along the rocky coastline and found our very own Wandering Tattler!  

Wandering Tattler
We watched this shorebird hunt for crabs.  I think I like the shorebird diet a lot. 

We had some cloudy weather the first day, but it cleared up on the second.  In the pic below, you see the old casino.  It's an entertainment building for movies and weddings, etc. It actually doesn't have any gambling at all. 

It was easy to get distracted here, but our mission was to find the last stable colony of Spotted Doves.  In 1917, these birds were introduced and had established themselves over the years in the LA area.  But as time has gone on, these birds have almost completely vanished from the urban sprawl of Southern California. They are rare now in much of LA County with only a few left at the Colonel Leon H. Washington Park and several other nearby locations. And of course there are random sightings "here and there". We were on vacation and I didn't want to be spending it in LA. Several California birders came to Arizona in January and tipped me off that there was still a reliable place to find these birds.  Catalina Island. 

Spotted Dove
It didn't take long to put a plan together.  A pelagic opportunity, an island trip searching for endemic subspecies and oh....the lifer Spotted Dove!  It was a win win scenario.  And sure enough.  We found our doves!  Lots of them!  Everywhere!

Once we found our doves, it was time to relax and enjoy the rest of our vacation. 

We hiked along the shores. And eventually we went into the rugged interior of the island. 

Striped Shore Crab
People watching was the best. Sipping on my Bloody Mary, we watched people live their lives.  

Crack kills
The road sharply curved around several areas, but we kept our eyes out for the bison known to live on this island.  With all the rain California has received, the island was rather green. 

Eventually we found a small group of bison.  Keeping our distance, we snapped pics. 

With our mission accomplished, it was time to return back to the mainland.  On our way back on the Catalina Express, I found a super rare Red-billed Tropicbird!  I struggled with my gear, but I was able to snap off some ID'able shots of the bird before it disappeared.  It was a rare bird alert for the U.S.!  Getting a pic for these situations is important.  For one, it lets people know that you aren't making it up.  And second, it erases any doubt that the bird may have been ID'd incorrectly. 

Red-billed Tropicbird
All of it can be exhausting.  My eyes had bags under them because it was all new birding territory.  It's hard not to look around you.  After all, it's not every day I get a chance to visit new places.  I love exploring!

The express took us home and it was back to Arizona again.  For the Catalina Island report click here. What an amazing adventure!  Until next time.......

And never let this happen to you:)  Thanks Magill for the laugh!


  1. Tropicbirds are just stunning are they not! Nice post.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  2. What an adventure you have had and it was lovley tosee all that you experience on the way. I am glad you did not get too near the Bison because you can see what they can do to a car, you would have been flattened!! Have a lovely weekend

  3. Wonderfully interesting post with stunning photos. It looks a very beautiful island and a great place to spend a few days. So glad you saw the Spotted Doves and well done on the rarity :) Love the video - really made me laugh :)

  4. A quiet island experience seems perfect. How unexpected to have a Bison run into your car.

  5. Congratulations on another lifer, Chris. I'm delighted to see that you didn't have to suffer too much to get this one!!!

    Had a good chuckle at the video clip - even though you can see it coming a mile off.

    Best wishes - - - Richard

  6. I like your writing and photos!
    Congratulations on Spotted Doves and Red-billed Tropicbird!

  7. Gorgeous scenery and lovely birds!

  8. Nice to see the Wandering Tattler eating the crab.

  9. A stunning area and fascinating birds.

  10. Congrats on seeing those fine birds! We went to Santa Catalina once -- great place!

  11. Wow...getting out of "town" on Catalina Island yields some treasures! Bison???? Beautiful spotted dove! Loved the "crack kills" picture, though, and boy that Bison attack on the car in the video was something else! He was having none of that car being on his road!

  12. Beautiful images, especially the birds, fantastic.

  13. Hey Chris, that was one special place to visit. There is something quite magical about islands, especially when they are new to us and need a little exploration.

    You hit the jackpot with all those doves, not to mention the Tropicbird - nice find and fame at last!

    The last shot is a real stunner Chris.

  14. Are spotted doves quite rare to spot over there Chris.. I have them in my back garden everyday. This destination looks so much better than LA, quieter :) Blimey it would be a little unnerving to have a Bison coming straight at you like that!!

    1. They were introduced in LA years ago and became invasive but are now extremely rare in the area thanks to our Cooper's Hawk populations:) But there are not predators for these doves on the island so there are safer.

  15. I really enjoyed your trip description! Congratulations on a life bird and great job on reporting a Tropicbird. Looks like you had a really great vacation.

  16. Great trip. You fulfilled your quest one more time.
    The Wandering Tattler seems to have my favorite food in its mouth!


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