To join Greg on one of these tours visit BigYearTours.com or call 888-875-9453

In 1998, Greg zig-zagged 130,000 miles across the USA, while trying to hold down a full-time job, aspiring to reach at least 700 species of birds in one calendar year. "The Big Year," a novel by Mark Obmascik detailed his travails alongside two competitors. The book was later turned into a movie of the same title that starred Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson!

Bay Area California – Day 6

Panoche Valley Rd, California
Panoche Valley Rd, California – photo by Greg Miller

 

We started the morning in Pinnacles National Park. Actually, no. Our drive from Hollister, CA to Pinnacles was interrupted by Yellow-billed Magpies. Pinnacles was very birdy this morning. Our first stop had a number of good birds from the parking lot. Flocks of Lawrence’s Goldfinches flitting about, a few Western Bluebirds nearby, a flyover Nuttall’s Woodpecker, a pair of Oak Titmice in a tree next to us, Acorn Woodpeckers calling loudly and putting on a real show, and a California Towhee. That was the first 15 minutes. Now what will we do with the rest of the day? More birds!

We had a calling Hutton’s Vireo near one of the restrooms, a Hairy Woodpecker, an Anna’s Hummingbird, and a flyover Phainopepla added to the excitement. We drove up to the Visitor’s Center and hiked up a canyon bounded by arid, scrubby hillsides. We added California Thrasher, Bell’s Sparrow, and Canyon Wren. On our exit we stopped by the campground for one last try to get a better look at the Nuttall’s Woodpecker, We didn’t find the bird again, but we did see a large, dark bird soaring above the adjacent ridge. Was it a…OH, MY! It is! It’s a condor! A California Condor!

From Pinnacles we headed back up the road to Tres Pinos for gas and lunch. From there, we drove the length of Panoche Valley Road. It’s a part of California unknown to most folks. I wanted to see it one last time before the scenery changes there. A large solar power area will be installed in the coming months.

We added Rock Wren along the way. And we got better looks at Nuttall’s¬†Woodpecker. As we were watching more Yellow-billed Magpies, three Golden Eagles soared overhead. The habitat becomes more arid on the eastern end of Panoche Valley and is more barren. A Say’s Phoebe and a Western Kingbird were all we picked up. Within about a mile of I-5 (which Californians refer to as “the five”. “The” goes in front of all the major highways like “the 101” or “the 680”) a Greater Roadrunner ran across the road in front of us. It was a good topper to a great trip.

The arid eastern end of Panoche Valley Road
The arid eastern end of Panoche Valley Road – photo by Greg Miller

 

The Bay Area of California again produces great birds and fabulously beautiful scenery. Today, the only new year bird was Yellow-billed Magpie bringing our total to 504 species.

And last night I was so tired I forgot to mention how exciting it was to see TWO blue whales and three humpback whales, as well as Risso’s dolphins on the Shearwater Journey’s pelagic trip into Monterey Bay.

 

Bay Area California – Day 5

Monterey Harbor, Monterey, California
Monterey Harbor, Monterey, California – photo by Greg Miller

 

We made it! Over 500 species for my Big Year tours with Wildside Nature Tours. This is trip #8 out of 11 one-week trips designed to see 500 or more species in the Lower 48 States in one calendar year…with tour participants. We have already reached our mark and we have 3 more trips still to come.

Today we did a pelagic trip–a trip to sea just to see birds that live only there. We did it with Debi Shearwater out of Monterey. We explored several canyons. What birds did we add?

  • 500 – Pink -footed Shearwater
  • 501 – Black-footed Albatross
  • 502 – Rhinoceros Auklet,
  • 503 – Cassin’s Auklet

Haha. I just fell asleep three times while typing this list. I think that is a sign that I should go to bed. With that, I will sign off.

Tomorrow is our last full of birding, Man, these trips jut blow right past!

Bay Area California – Day 4

California Condor along Highway 1 near Big Sur, CA
California Condor along Highway 1 near Big Sur, CA – photo by Greg Miller

 

Sooooooo close! We added two more species to the year list bringing the year total to 499 species. Today we added Black-vented Shearwater and California Condor.

Scenic Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur California
Scenic Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur California – photo by Greg Miller

 

The drive started out in beautiful Big Sur. But as we headed south we could see the smoke from the forest fires in the area. All the local forest roads are closed as well as the parks in the area. Highway 1 is still open. We were fortunate to find the condors at this roadside pullout.

 

Happy group after seeing California Condors with smoke of forest fires in the background
Happy group after seeing California Condors with smoke of forest fires in the background – photo by Donna Lamke

 

Tomorrow we are taking a pelagic trip with Debi Shearwater. It will be like a Big Year reunion. <grin> On September 5, 1998 during my Big Year, I took a pelagic trip with Debi of epic proportions. Yep. It was a 1 in 10,000 trip. I got on the boat with a year total of 696 species. I exited the boat with 701 species. What were those species I added?

  • 697 – Craveri’s Murrelet
  • 698 – South Polar Skua
  • 699 – Flesh-footed Shearwater
  • 700 – Red-billed Tropicbird
  • 701 – Xantus’s Murrelet

Trips like this keep one coming out to sea!

We finished the day on 17-mile Drive on the Monterey peninsula. It is awesomely beautiful!

Shoreline along 17-mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula
Shoreline along 17-mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula – photo by Greg Miller

 

Dreaming of 500. It’s gonna happen tomorrow.

Gotta go make some PB&J sandwiches…

 

Bay Area California – Day 3

Natural Bridges, Santa Cruz, CA
Natural Bridges, Santa Cruz, CA – photo by Donna Lamke

 

Did we make it to 500 yet? Nope. Not yet. Unofficially we added 1 new species today (Tricolored Blackbird). Unofficially? Yes. Everyone else has gone to bed. So I did the checklist myself. I may have missed a bird or two. We’ll have an official update tomorrow. So we are now at 497.

We started out along the rocky cliffs of Santa Cruz, CA this morning. Seas were rather calm. We were delighted to find a pair of Marbled Murrelets not far from shore. And a flock of Surfbirds. And Black Turnstones. And Black Oystercatchers. Yep. You can pinch yourself. You are in California.

It was another fun day birding. The temps are pleasant and the birding is fantastic!

Staying at a hotel tonight in Watsonville, CA.

Bay Area California – Day 2

Chicago Marsh, Alviso
Chicago Marsh, Alviso – photo by Greg Miller

 

Day 2 is in the books. This tour is now over 100 species. And today we added 3 new species bringing the year total to 496. We are edging closer to our goal of 500 species. Today we were fortunate enough to find the lingering Ruff at Chicago Marsh.

We also made a pit stop at the Palo Alto Baylands before heading west and crossing the coastal range. We stopped along California Highway 1 to search the rocky shoreline at Pescadero Beach. We also stopped at Pidgeon Point and we finished the day at Rancho del Oso, a part of Big Basin Redwoods.

More tomorrow!

 

Bay Area California – Day 1

  Ahh. California! More stunning scenery. More cool views. More great birds. What’s not to like? This is our 8th tour out of 11 one-week tours for this year. It was sunny and pleasant today. We got in a little birding this afternoon and evening after everyone arrived. We headed directly to Oakland to chase… Continue Reading

Southeast Arizona – Day 6

  Whoosh! Another week flies by. The last full day of birding was today. We started at Tubac on the De Anza Trail where we found Tropical Kingbird and 5 species of doves. Then we drove to Proctor Rd in Madera Canyon. There we found Varied Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Verdin, and Arizona Woodpecker.… Continue Reading

Southeast Arizona – Day 5

  Today was a loooooong day with many stops, lots of driving, and stifling heat. But, wait until you hear the stories! We began our day at Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve where we missed seeing any Thick-billed Kingbirds. That was a first for me. I have always been able to see them there. And there were… Continue Reading

Southeast Arizona – Day 4

  So long, Chiricahua Mountains. I will see you again soon. Today was Day 4. We started before sunrise and headed out to the desert near Rodeo, NM. Yup. We skipped the State line. Why? Well, we got to see Bendire’s and Crissal Thrashers. After our morning birding, we ate our last meal at the… Continue Reading

Southeast Arizona – Days 2 and 3

  Last night’s internet was spotty. Of course, we are in a wonderfully wild area with hardly any people. Tonight’s connection is better. I am doing updates for days 2 & 3. Wow. Just wow. So many birds already. And the scenery is stunning. I have to say that I am in my favorite part… Continue Reading

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