Grand California: Aug 11—26, 2018

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Price: $6,195
Departs: San Francisco
Tour Limit: 7
Operations Manager: Greg Lopez
Download Itinerary: PDF (2.2 MB)

Route Map


Tour Leaders


Jeri Langham

Jeri M. Langham has a Ph.D. in plant ecology from Washington State University, and afte...

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Register for this Tour

Register for this tour by phone (800/328-VENT or 512/328-5221), or by downloading a tour registration form. Signed and completed forms can be faxed, mailed, or scanned and emailed to the VENT office.

Yellow-billed Magpie

Yellow-billed Magpie— Photo: Brad Schram

Scenery alone makes this trip memorable and unique. Highlights include the tallest (Muir Woods), largest (Yosemite National Park), and oldest (White Mountains) trees in the world; tufa towers at recovering Mono Lake; and incredible Sierra Nevada forests and mountain ranges, all with specialty birds.

Along the scenic coast near San Francisco we will search for specialties like California Quail, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, California Thrasher, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Wrentit, Hutton’s Vireo, California Scrub-Jay, and California Towhee. In the vast Central Valley, we will look for White-tailed Kite, Burrowing Owl, White-throated Swift, Black-chinned and Anna’s hummingbirds, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Bushtit, Oak Titmouse, Phainopepla, Tricolored Blackbird, Hooded Oriole, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, and the endemic Yellow-billed Magpie.

Climbing into the Sierra Nevada, we will search for Mountain Quail, Calliope Hummingbird, White-headed Woodpecker, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and MacGillivray’s Warbler. At higher elevations we may see Clark’s Nutcracker, Mountain Bluebird, Green-tailed Towhee, and the thick-billed race of Fox Sparrow. After dropping into the Great Basin, Chukar, Juniper Titmouse, and Gray Flycatcher are all possible.

Mono Lake could be covered with thousands of Eared Grebes, Wilson’s and Red-necked phalaropes, and nesting California Gulls. In nearby rolling hills and expansive flats, we may encounter Greater Sage-Grouse, Sage Thrashers, and Sagebrush Sparrows, while Brewer’s Sparrows twitter endlessly from the sage.

From Lee Vining, we will ascend into Yosemite National Park to search for Northern Pygmy-Owl, Great Gray Owl, Sooty Grouse, Black and Vaux’s swifts, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Black-backed Woodpecker, American Dipper, Hermit and Townsend’s warblers, Pine Grosbeak, Cassin’s Finch, and Red Crossbill. On the last morning we will visit a magnificent grove of Sierra redwoods before driving across the Central Valley to Monterey.

On our first full day in Monterey, we will target California Condors, Mountain Quail, and Lawrence’s Goldfinches at the scenic Pinnacles National Park, and later, shorebirds and Tricolored Blackbirds at Moss Landing. Time spent along the coastline should yield Surfbird, Wandering Tattler, and Black Turnstone. The second day will be spent on a boat in Monterey Bay. For many participants, a highlight of the Monterey visit is a Debi Shearwater Monterey Bay pelagic trip, scheduled at the optimal time for Sooty and Pink-footed shearwaters, Sabine’s Gull, Arctic Tern, Cassin’s and Rhinoceros auklets, Red Phalarope, and all three jaegers. Other possibilities include Black and Ashy storm-petrels, Buller’s Shearwater, and Black-footed Albatross.

On the last morning, we will drive south to the Andrew Molera and Big Sur areas where, if we still need to, we will search for the recently released California Condors, seen on nine of our last eleven tours.

A few long travel days; no chiggers but some mosquitoes; some days with options to remain at the hotel during a morning, afternoon, or evening outing; early morning starts; birding along roadsides and relatively short hikes; wide range of temperatures from hot in the Central Valley to chilly in the higher portions of the Sierra Nevada.