California Thrasher at Crystal Cove Beach, Southern California
I grew up in Southern California, and had a good thirty years to learn something about the birds to be found there, and learned hardly a thing. I saw one of the last free-roaming California Condors before they were trapped for captive breeding (they were down to two dozen or so at the time, and now they are back in the wild). But that was about it. I could identify crows and mockingbirds, basically.
California is a good environment for birds, being at a cross-roads between the tropical environments to the south and the Mediterranean climate of the L.A. Basin. I don't have many chances to get back to the region, but I was at Crystal Cove State Beach early in the summer and had a chance to check out some local species. I walked out on the wilderness bluffs above the beach and didn't see much of anything. The drought has really put the hurt on the coastal chaparral. I walked back to the car, and there was a thrasher, not two feet from my front tires! I'm assuming it is a California Thrasher (Toxostoma redivivum). It is one of a fairly short list of California endemic bird species (I tend to group Baja and Alta California together). They've been noted in the Sierra Foothills and Coast Ranges in my area of Central California, but I've yet to see one there.
It was admittedly not the best day to be at the beach, given the overcast, but it was really nice to see an uncrowded beach in Southern California. Crystal Cove is a state park just south of Corona Del Mar in Orange County. Getting to the beach requires a walk of a few hundred yards, which is more than a lot of people want to do.