Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Birding Jewel in Los Angeles

The wonderful thing about birding is that you can do it anywhere. I saw my first green woodpecker on the lawn of a hotel just under the wingtips of planes landing at London Heathrow Airport and a Eurasian jay in the ruins of Troy, in Turkey.

But I identified my first white-crowned sparrow in my backyard in the suburbs of Los Angeles. You can travel all over the world looking for exotic bird species, but sometimes the places close to home can offer even greater diversity.

great blue heron
One of my favorite birding locations is in the middle of the suburban bustle of the San Fernando Valley. The Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge is a flood basin along the Los Angeles River. Formerly a sod farm, the low-lying area has been set aside by the Army Corps of Engineers to collect water in the years when we have unusual amounts of rain and the basin floods. 

The sod farm is gone and now native scrub surrounds a pond and riparian habitat. The refuge has become an amazing location to see a wide variety of southern California's bird life and a major stopover for migrating birds. Recently on a Saturday morning in early October, I spotted 37 bird species during a short 2-hour walk.  There were the locals: California and spotted towhees, lesser goldfinch, Anna's hummingbird and black phoebe. The pond provides feeding areas for five species of herons and egrets, and now a belted kingfisher pair. There was even a lone white-faced ibis hanging out with some mallards.

The travelers have begun to pass through and the wildlife area provides important refuge, food and water for migrating species. A beautiful adult male yellow warbler came within a few feet; close enough that I could see the red streaking on his breast without my binoculars. The first of the white-crowned sparrows were in the underbrush, while double-crested cormorants were sizing up the island for nesting and three species of grebe were patrolling the water.

Birds of prey are numerous here as well. I can't think of too many locations where in two hours time you can see an osprey, red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk and an American kestrel.

Sepulveda Basin never disappoints me. Whether it is the osprey diving for fish or a family of 22 bushtits making their way through the underbrush, there is always something to thrill and amaze. Take a Mini Birdwalk with video. This birding jewel in the middle of Los Angeles offers numerous bird species anytime of the year and provides easy access to some of California's unique species. Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge in Feb.

Oct. 8,  2011 Species List
domestic mallard
pied-billed grebe
eared grebe
western grebe
double-crested cormorant
great blue heron
great egret
snowy egret
green heron
black-crowned night heron
white-faced ibis
turkey vulture
red-shouldered hawk
red-tailed hawk
American kestrel
American coot
mourning dove
yellow-chevroned parakeet
Anna's hummingbird
belted kingfisher
Nuttall's woodpecker
black phoebe
Say's phoebe
Bewick's wren
northern mockingbird
European starling
common yellowthroat
yellow warbler
yellow-rumped warbler
spotted towhee
California towhee
song sparrow
white-crowned sparrow
house finch
lesser goldfinch 

Other So. Cal birding areas: Bolsa Chica, Malibu Lagoon, Serrania Park

1 comment:

jengod said...

You have to come down to the Ballona Wetlands when you have a chance, you'd love it! Thanks so much for the tip about this spot--I'll definitely haul my toddler out there one of these days for some "ducks! ducks!" which is his general term for wildlife. :)