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Lower Los Angeles River Trip Report: 6 September, 2014

September 8, 2014

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Fiery Skippers female & male  (J. Waterman 9/6/14)

Fiery Skippers female & male, warming their exoskeletons
(J. Waterman 9/6/14)

7:30am was not too early to begin our fifth annual walk along the banks of the lower Los Angeles River. We began at Willow St, about 3 miles north of Long Beach Harbor, ending about 6 miles farther north at Alondra Blvd. We usually visit 4 sites, but this year we skipped DeForest Park as our leader, Dick Barth, had visited the park earlier and found no warblers or other passerines at all in the trees. It was slightly overcast and about 70° when we started, clearing up and topping out about 88° when we finished at 12:15.

Birds & vegetation at Willow St. (C. Almdale 9/6/14)

Birds & vegetation at Willow St. (C. Almdale 9/6/14)

The most vegetation in this section of river channel is at Willow St., with sand and mud islands, floating rafts of water plants, wading egrets, ducks, and large flocks of shorebirds, gulls, the occasional tern, plus a few raptors and plenty of Barn Swallows and Rock Pigeons. The Orange Bishop can usually be found in the tall riverbed island grass in this area.

Orange Bishop at Willow St (J. Waterman 9/6/14)

Male Orange Bishop at Willow St (J. Waterman 9/6/14)

Just as we had finished checking out some Greater Yellowlegs, a pair of less-common Lesser Yellowlegs flew in, providing an opportunity to compare the two. Most of the difference noted was the size and shape of the bill: shorter and straighter in the Lesser. What we momentarily thought might be a Virginia Rail turned out to be a juvenile Common Gallinule (recently split from its Eurasian congener and renamed from Common Moorhen).

Avocets & Dowitchers in flight (J. Waterman 9/6/14)

Avocets & Dowitchers in flight (J. Waterman 9/6/14)

Among the numerous Long-billed Dowitchers we found a few Short-billed. At 34th St., our second stop, we found a few juvenile Short-billed in very fresh plumage, allowing us to check out the orange “tiger stripes” in their tertials. We hunted through the numerous mixed flocks of Least and Western Sandpipers for rarities, finally finding a single Pectoral Sandpiper, skulking in the brush and grass on a small island. For at least 20 minutes we entertained ourselves with persistent comments such as: “it’s head is poking out between those two stilts”; “which stilts?”; “the two on that little island”; “now the grass is moving to the left of the left stilt, watch that spot”; “now it’s under the rear end of the right stilt” and so on. Finally the bird walked out into the open water and we all got great looks.

Pectoral Sandpiper at Willow St.  (J. Waterman 9/6/14)

Pectoral Sandpiper at Willow St. (J. Waterman 9/6/14)

Gulls – mostly Western – continued to gather here, but we had to leave before the Laughing Gull, a local resident throughout the summer, arrived. We went north to 34th St. where we didn’t see anything new except a few juvenile Short-billed Dowitchers in very fresh plumage, allowing us to check out the orange “tiger stripes” in their tertials. We then went on to Alondra Blvd., next to the Home Depot. House Sparrows have found a fine foraging spot here, gleaning orts and pieces of bread from the ground around the groups of workers waiting for daily work.

Red-Necked Phalarope at Alondra Blvd.  (J. Waterman 9/6/14)

Red-Necked Phalarope at Alondra Blvd. (J. Waterman 9/6/14)

Another large gull flock was here, as well as many Least and Western Sandpipers flocks, through which spun a single Red-necked Phalarope. It didn’t so much spin – as they typically do in deeper water to create a vortex which lifts food to where they can snag it – as twisted in ankle-deep water. This looked a bit odd.
A very special thanks to Richard Barth who frequently birds this area. His knowledge and enthusiastic explanations of difficult plumages are invaluable, especially during migration season! I’m sure his upcoming program at Los Angeles Audubon this Wednesday, September 10, will be great.  [Chuck Almdale]

Prior Reports: August 2013September 2012September 2011October 2010

Lower L.A. River 9/6/14 Willow 34th Alondra Total
Species Street Street Blvd. Birds
Gadwall 2 2
Mallard 110 16 15 141
Cinnamon Teal 5 9 14
Northern Shoveler 8 8
Bufflehead 1 1
Pied-billed Grebe 1 1
Double-crested Cormorant 6 6
Great Blue Heron 2 2
Great Egret 2 2
Snowy Egret 5 5
Green Heron 1 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 2 2
Turkey Vulture 3 1 4
Osprey 1 1
Common Gallinule 1 1
American Coot 25 25
Semipalmated Plover 2 2
Killdeer 65 1 66
Black-necked Stilt 425 120 545
American Avocet 160 12 172
Spotted Sandpiper 14 14
Greater Yellowlegs 4 4
Willet 1 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 2 2
Western Sandpiper 100 125 225
Least Sandpiper 490 340 830
Pectoral Sandpiper 1 1
Short-billed Dowitcher 30 10 40
Long-billed Dowitcher 200 70 270
Red-necked Phalarope 1 1
Ring-billed Gull 20 5 25
Western Gull 100 280 380
California Gull 50 50
Caspian Tern 2 2
Rock Pigeon 130 110 240
Eurasian Collared-Dove 3 3
White-throated Swift 6 6
Allen’s Hummingbird 2 2
American Kestrel 2 2
Yellow-chevroned Parakeet 7 7
Black Phoebe 2 2
American Crow 6 6
Barn Swallow 45 15 12 72
European Starling 40 40
Savannah Sparrow 1 1
Red-winged Blackbird 20 20
Yellow-headed Blackbird 1 1
Great-tailed Grackle 3 3
House Finch 12 12
House Sparrow 12 12
Orange Bishop 1 1
 Total Species & Birds – 51 48 9 10 3276
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