Tuesday, 21 April 2015

ARIZONA 2015: LA-Vegas-Zion (20-21 April)

We arrived in Los Angeles as it was getting dark on a comfortable Air New Zealand flight from Heathrow. The Middle-Earth safety video was appreciated while a good selection of films kept us entertained.  We had booked a Travelodge nearby and had a bit of a wait for a courtesy bus.  After breakfast the bus dropped us at Alamo and soon we were off. First point of call was the coast at Del Rey, just north of LAX.  On the beach I saw my first California and Western Gulls (why do the juveniles of large American gulls have such dark and seemingly solid body plumage?) while a dark gull on the end of the distant breakwater was probably Heermann's it deserved a better view and only having a small spotting scope didn't help.  On the sea were 40 Western Grebes (also new) as well as Surf and Black Scoter.  A small lagoon just inland held Marbled Godwits, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers and 2 dowitchers while 2-3 Allen's Hummingbirds gave rather frustrating views. After an hour or so we drove to Las Vegas taking a northern route to avoid central LA.
first-winter Western Gull
second-summer Western Gull.  The shade of the mantle came as a surprise but shouldn't have as most around Los Angeles are the darker southern race wymani
a worn second-summer California Gull.  Another that wasn't quite as I was expecting
Western Grebe
at least 40 were just offshore but I didn't manage to find a Clark's amongst them
the non-birders in our party
a migrant empidomax flycatcher that appeared to come in off the sea and landed by the beach before heading inland.  I doubt a better view would have made me any clearer as to its identity
California Towee, a new bird
Marbled Godwit
Elegant Terns
It took six hours to drive to Las Vegas and check in to our motel near the Convention Centre.  I hardly saw anything on the drive, mostly through seemingly birdless desert. We ate then walked down the strip for the evening although I had seen as much of Vegas as I wanted on the drive in!  The fountains outside Caesar's Palace were quite impressive and I'll leave it at that.  Megan and I left Nessa and Josh to it before the crowds really built up and caught the monorail back to our motel.  That in itself was an experience, not so much the monorail which was quite fun but having to walk through a massive hotel lobby to get to it.  It was bigger than any supermarket I have been in and absolutely full of slot-machines (and addicts) - dreadful. 
heading down the Las Vegas strip

We had an early breakfast and left Las Vegas before the traffic built up.  We drove up the strip with very few other cars on the road, very much like an early Sunday morning.  A slow early morning drive through Vegas is about all that I could honestly recommend. The best thing I saw there were House Finches in the motel car park but one doesn't have to go to Vegas for that!  Having started in California and crossed into Nevada we briefly entered Arizona before entering Utah although in doing so we lost an hour.  After a lengthy but ultimately successful search for a supermarket in St George, not a big place just very spread out as we soon came to expect, we continued on to Springfield and the entrance to Zion National Park.  We bought an Interagency Annual Pass that would cover our entrance to several National Parks and caught a shuttle bus to the end of Zion Canyon.  We intended walking further up the river but it was rather busy so we decided to return halfway down the canyon and take the trail to the Emerald Pools.  It was a nice area but there appeared to be very few birds.  The time of day clearly didn't help and it was perhaps still rather early in the season?  After some frustration at hearing bird song but not knowing where I should be looking, or what for, I saw Yellow and Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Chipping Sparrow. We left Zion mid afternoon and arrived at Kanab just before dark.  A Western Kingbird in the motel car park was a new bird but somewhat disappointingly I had only seen 13 species all day.
the entrance to Zion Canyon
riparian woodland where the canyon narrowed at the road's end 
looking back to the Great White Throne
a more open part of the canyon
very Game of Thrones

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