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L.A. River Trip Report: 8 Sep., 2012

September 14, 2012

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Our third annual field trip along the banks of the lower reaches of the L.A. River turned out to be relatively quiet.  Our leader Dick Barth had urged us to set an early start time of 7:30 to avoid the seasonal heat. We were glad we did–it was quite warm by mid-morning. Some of us were stuck behind an accident clearing traffic break on the I-405 and we didn’t make it for the official start time near the Willow Street bridge.

Notice the self-make whirlpool behind this basic-plumage Wilson’s Phalarope (J. Waterman 9/8/12)

This first stop features a look at the most vegetated area of the River, where the willows and other plants have succeeded in blocking most of the view of the Harbor’s huge derricks only a couple miles downstream. The brushy habitat provides cover and food for bush birds, and sediment makes many pools and sandbanks for ducks and waders.  Even though there were fewer ducks than last year, almost all expected species were there. Hundreds of Black-necked Stilts browsed in the shallows of the river. The treat was a number of Wilson’s Phalaropes, in and out of the water. As we moved back toward the cars, we got to compare the features of a Red-necked Phalarope – juvenile moulting into basic plumage (see slideshow photo) – and compare it to the Wilson’s.

The most uncommon bird for this location was – oddly enough – a Brandt’s Cormorant. We see this normally pelagic species  in small numbers on most Malibu Lagoon trips, swimming or sitting on the offshore rocks. Dick said he is unaware of any prior records of Brandt’s this far (3 miles) up the river.

Hoping to see some of the rarer

The bill of the Greater Yellowlegs has a slight upturn (unlike the slim straight bill of the Lesser). Fairly common at the Willow St. spot. (J. Waterman 9/8/12)

sandpiper species that have been spotted in the past few weeks, at 9AM we skipped all the way upstream to the Allondra bridge in Paramount. Our 40 minutes there gained us a few new species and we were able to spend time studying the proportions of the Lesser Yellowlegs which – at 3-4 birds –  were almost abundant.

We then traveled back down river by car to De Forest Park. The park trees held only a few Yellow-rumped Warblers and our observations of the river were a repeat of the earlier species of our walk. At 11AM, just as we were preparing to leave, we saw a two-minute hunt from a juvenile Peregrine Falcon, followed by a Red-shouldered Hawk overflight.

Red-shouldered Hawk seems very interested in that tree to his left (J. Waterman 9/8/12)

We didn’t try to estimate numbers this trip. The most abundant birds, by far, were Black-necked Stilts and Long-billed Dowitchers.

Many thanks to Richard Barth who knows this area better than anyone. His knowledge and enthusiastic explanations of difficult plumage are invaluable, especially during migration season!

Link to 2011 LA River Trip Report
Link to 2010 LA River Trip Report
Link to Map of Trip
[Lucien Plauzoles]

Los Angeles River Trip 8 Sept., 2012 – 56 species
Mallard Long-billed Dowitcher
Cinnamon Teal Wilson’s Phalarope
Northern Shoveler Red-necked Phalarope
Northern Pintail Ring-billed Gull
Green-winged Teal Western Gull
Ruddy Duck California Gull
Pied-billed Grebe Rock Pigeon
Brandt’s Cormorant Eurasian Collared-Dove
Double-crested Cormorant Mourning Dove
Brown Pelican Anna’s Hummingbird
Great Blue Heron Peregrine Falcon
Great Egret Black Phoebe
Snowy Egret Western Scrub-Jay
Green Heron American Crow
Black-crwned Night-Heron No. Rough-winged Swallow
Turkey Vulture Cliff Swallow
Red-Shouldered Hawk Barn Swallow
American Coot Bushtit
Semipalmated Plover Northern Mockingbird
Killdeer European Starling
Black-necked Stilt Common Yellowthroat
American Avocet Yellow-rumped Warbler
Spotted Sandpiper California Towhee
Greater Yellowlegs Song Sparrow
Lesser Yellowlegs Red-winged Blackbird
Western Sandpiper House Finch
Least Sandpiper House Sparrow
Short-billed Dowitcher Orange Bishop
One Comment
  1. September 15, 2012 1:03 am

    love it that you saw a peregrine falcon. My most recent sightings of peregrines in LA were:

    At Paramount Ranch just north west of the intersection of Mulholland and Cornell. A peregrine caught a ground squirrel and took off from the ground toward a nearby oak tree. A red-tail hawk swooped down and attempted to snatch the squirrel away from the falcon. The falcon made some radical evasive maneuvers, entered the canopy of the tree, and the hawk flew away.

    At the 500 block of Vernon Avenue in Venice Beach. A peregrine flew right over my and perched on the stem of a palm tree right across the street. It stayed there for about ten minuted while a crowd gathered to observe it.

    On the 4500 block of Halibrant Avenue between Moorpark Street and Camarillo Street in Sherman Oaks, San Fernando Valley. A pair has nested in a tree in the front yard of a gardening client and raised two young to adulthood each year.

    Some people in the neighborhood regret the fact that all the squirrels are gone. Most people in the neighborhood are glad the the squirrels are not eating the fruits, nuts, and vegetables that they are attempting to grow in their gardens.

    The people that park their car directly beneath the nest and nearby roosting sites accept the mess on their car if it means they have falcons in their community.


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