Though I have made several trips to southern California over the eight years I have been birding almost every trip has been  in December or January. The one exception, in 2006, when I had only been birding for one year, was in July. My novice birding skills and the heat of midsummer meant that I missed a bunch of likely birds and didn’t really appreciate the awesomeness that is birding southern California in breeding season. I hope to make up for what I missed back in 2006 this year and I am off to a pretty good start so far, with three lifers to show for my efforts. (Though, to be honest, I haven’t really birded all that much as this is a family vacation.)

Rather than do the usual “I went here and saw that and then I went somewhere else and saw something else,” I thought I would just use images to tell the tales of what I have seen so far in my one-and-a-half-days in the birthplace of Richard Nixon.

Yellow-breasted Chat in California

Yellow-breasted Chats are actually pretty easy to see in Carbon Canyon Regional Park. This bird had just landed after doing its flight display in perfect light for me to get photographs but, of course, I butchered the opportunity.

Western Gulls

Western Gulls like their seafood the same way I do – very fresh and in large quantities. These sketchy characters were spotted at Laguna Beach.

Western Bluebird

To further remind me that I am in the west I have been inundated with Western Bluebirds. This female refused to leave her perch as I walked up the trail towards her at Carbon Canyon Regional Park so I took full advantage.

Black-headed Grosbeak

This female Black-headed Grosbeak was my first since 2006. I wonder how many of these birds sneak past us in the east in the fall by impersonating Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. I bet it is a lot.


This is a lizard. It is sitting on a fence. It is in the west. Western Fence Lizard?

Allen's Hummingbird

Photographing this Allen’s Hummingbird at this angle put me at great risk of being pooped on. But I have always wanted to test my hypothesis that hummingbird poop tastes like Skittles. Sadly, I did not get the opportunity.

Orange-crowned Warbler

This hideous beast is, I believe, the world’s ugliest Orange-crowned Warbler. Look upon it with pity and disgust.

Bell's Vireo

You know what I like? Life birds! You know what I like even more? Self-found life birds! You know what I like even more than that? Self-found life birds identified by voice! You know what I like even more than that? Self-found life birds identified by voice that let me get a picture! So, yeah, I really appreciated this very bland bird, a Least Bell’s Vireo.

Anna's Hummingbird

This Anna’s Hummingbird was even more cooperative than the Wrentit at the top of the post. How could I not crush it? And how can these birds’ poop not taste like Skittles?

Southern California in summer is where it is at. Stay tuned for more…

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.