Road Trip! – Boise, Idaho to Blythe, California

On June 11th Anna and I began our road trip from Boise, Idaho to Blythe, California. On the first day of the trip we drove to Kanab, Utah and slept there for the night. In the morning we started driving towards the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. As soon as we crossed the border into Arizona the habitat looked great for one of our target birds of the road trip; the Gray Vireo. We pulled over on a juniper-covered hillside and tried listening and calling for a Gray Vireo. Within seconds, we heard one calling nearby but were never able to see it. However at this stop we did see Western Scrub-Jays, Bewick’s Wrens, Black-throated Gray Warblers, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. We continued driving but tried a few more spots for Gray Vireo, but were unsuccessful.

Western Scrub-Jay


Black-throated Gray Warbler

By 11:00am, we had made it to the Navajo Bridge, which crossed the Colorado River near Lee’s Ferry. At the Navajo Bridge, there is a driving bridge and, alongside it, a walking bridge. As we began walking across the bridge, we were quite surprised to spot an adult California Condor perched under the driving bridge! This was a lifer for both Anna and I, and a species I have wanted to see for a long time. We watched the condor for over an hour as it preened, stretched, and yawned. We then continued driving to the Grand Canyon, which took about an hour and a half.

California Condor stretching its wing and showing off its number and transmitter


California Condor stretching its wings and showing off its number and transmitter

Once we got to the Grand Canyon, we stopped at all the overlooks and searched for more condors, but came up empty-handed. We did see some other cool species in the National Park though, like Juniper Titmouse, Rock Wren, Canyon Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler, Common Raven, Mountain Chickadee, and Spotted Towhee. That afternoon and evening we drove to Lake Havasu City.

Mountain Chickadee

The next day, we had three target species in the Lake Havasu area; Yellow-billed Loon, Tropical Kingbird, and Ringed Turtle-Dove. The Ringed Turtle-Dove was coming in to the front yard of the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Crew Field House, so we went over there first and within ten minutes, the dove flew in and began feeding alongside a Mourning Dove. White-winged and Eurasian Collared-Doves soon joined, which really provided a great comparison.

Ringed Turtle-Dove

Next we drove down to Parker Dam to search for the famous juvenile Yellow-billed Loon. This loon has been in the Parker Dam area since winter and recently has begun molting its wing feathers, so it temporarily cannot fly, which has restricted it to the area of the river below the Parker Dam. Anna and I crossed the dam and began driving downriver, stopping at all the overlooks to see if we could spot the loon. About 3/4 of a mile downriver from the US Post Office that is on the California side, Anna spotted the loon over on the Arizona side of the river! We drove back around to see if we could get closer for a photo. Luckily a path headed right to where we knew the bird was, and I was able to get some rather close shots!

Yellow-billed Loon - molting juvenile

Our final stop before going to Blythe was at the Ahakhav Tribal Preserve near the town of Parker, Arizona. Recently a pair of Tropical Kingbirds began nesting here in a large cottonwood. We quickly found the birds and watched them for about a half hour as they collected food and took it back to their nest.

Tropical Kingbird

Tropical Kingbirds

By noon we were in Blythe! Anna and I will be working here once again on the Yellow-billed Cuckoo project. We are here until late August and then we are heading back to Pennsylvania. Keep checking back often for updates on what we are seeing here in California and Arizona!

Black-chinned Hummingbird - adult female at our feeder in Blythe