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Local Urban Birdlife observations

June 13, 2013

Tis the season for nesting, and in my neighborhood we have a lot to celebrate this year!  The Cedar Waxwing flocks hadn’t flown north in late May before we started seeing young Song Sparrows, followed by young Crows (boo!), and Oak Titmice (is that a legit plural of Titmouse?). But this week gives us even more to celebrate. From the tag-along behavior I’ve observed we probably have Nuttall’s  a n d  Downy Woodpecker families in the neighborhood! And last week I spotted a Cooper’s Hawk nest in the tall eucalyptus on 7th Street ( above the front yard at 702 7th. ) Dark-eyed Juncos are now common north of Montana from 4th to 14th Streets. Two weeks ago I observed immature and adult Western Bluebirds on Palisades Avenue near 4th Street. And when I posted notes in May about this diversity on L.A County Birds (the Yahoo! group) I received similar remarks from two other local birdwatchers within hours.

Nuttal's Woodpecker in my back yard How do we account for all these species that were not common at all 10 years ago in the same location? Global warming? Rampant development? Hardly. It is a sign of the maturing birder (that means white hair) that we take some local variations in stride. Some years there may be more of one species or less. We may alter our walking habits, even though I haven’t varied path nor time of my “patch” by much. And, …I think a lot has to do with the available habitat. I believe I’m in an urban forest that is reaching a level of maturity that encourages a number of native species to move from the wilder areas of the Santa Monica Mountains to our local back yards. I walk an area that is only half a mile from Santa Monica Canyon. As the urban forest of Santa Monica matures, it becomes more attractive to species which are cavity nesters (e.g. bluebirds, woodpeckers, owls) for example. Meanwhile,  a number of species have diminished or disappeared in our very local landscape (Spotted Doves, Mourning Doves, Western Scrub-jays).

I recently became a member of the Santa Monica Urban Forest Task Force and I have become very conscious of the maturity of trees and what it implies in maintenance and replacement costs, not to mention public hazards. I now look on the trees of my neighborhood as much more than just perches and nesting sites for birds. Of course I still have a rational soft spot for native trees. If you have any comments about nests,birds, trees in your community, please post them here. I and probably a considerable number of our readers are eager to know what you think of your urban forest.

P.S. I’m eager to know if any of you have seen or heard our Barn Owls yet. This would be the fourth year in a row that they are present in the north end of Santa Monica. Listen for the screech at 9PM! Look at the birds flying over the bluffs of Palisade Park at dusk.

Lu Plauzoles, Co-chair Conservation SMBAS

  1. June 14, 2013 9:23 am

    (posted by Lu on behalf of Tom Hinnebush of WLA)
    Nice posting, Lu! I’m reminded of a surprise I had as I walked to my dentist the other day. Nearing the northwest corner of San Vicente and Wilshire, I spied an unfamiliar bird foraging on the sidewalk with dozens of cars whizzing by! It turned out to be a hatch-year junco! Of course the VA campus is just across the street so that may help explain it’s presence. I’ve not seen juncos in my WLA backyard, but lots of other birds, including female hooded oriole feeding two fledglings two weeks or so ago, and an Ash-throated Flycatcher that’s been hanging out for almost two weeks ago. If I look at the neighborhood using Google Maps there’s a swath of mature trees & heavily vegetated yards running north from my backyard all the way up to the golf course, so I may be adding juncos to my backyard list one of these days soon. Also of note was a dead Long-eared Owl that a neighbor found in his backyard. It’s now a study skin in Kimball’s collection at the museum. So the urban landscape is full of surprises as Dick Barth and Ron Sterba know full well. Tom


  2. Mary Prismon permalink
    June 14, 2013 8:05 am

    Very interesting and encouraging report, Lu. Mary Prismon


  3. Paula Erde Kayton permalink
    June 13, 2013 6:36 pm

    In my yard and surrounding streets only a few blocks from Lu, we have lots of California Scrub-jays and Mourning Doves. In addition, I heard Great Horned Owls a few weeks ago for several days in the morning just before sunrise.

    Paula K



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