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A Chilly Sepulveda Basin Trip: 12 December, 2015

December 13, 2015
Both male & female Belted Kingfishers were present (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

Both male & female Belted Kingfishers were present (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

Some newcomers showed up for this hastily organized field trip, which replaced the Carrizo Plain trip canceled late yesterday: Austin – fairly new to birding but quickly catching on – is a chapter member, and Wayne, who is not a member, but is a blog reader, and who escapes the Halifax, Nova Scotia winters for five months every year by staying in L.A. and looking at birds.

Say's Phoebe busily flycatching by the fence (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

Say’s Phoebe busily flycatching by the fence (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

While waiting for potential late arrivals, we checked the lawn & trees near the parking lot, turning up a variety of SparrowsChipping, Lark, Savannah, and White-crowned. Near the south fence bordering the nature reserve we happened on a large flock of Western Meadowlarks, most of them out in the field, who flushed and re-lit farther away. A Merlin then flew by in the distance. On our way to the reserve entrance we found

California Towhee (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

California Towhee (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

Spotted Towhee (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

Spotted Towhee (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

California & Spotted Towhees, Black & Say’s Phoebes, a Song Sparrow, the first of many Ruby-crowned KingletsAmerican Goldfinches, House Finches and some of the ever-present wintering Yellow-rumped Warblers hopping through the foliage and shagging flies from the canopy.

This Great Blue Heron almost picked our pockets (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

This Great Blue Heron almost picked our pockets
(Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

We made it all of 20 ft. into the reserve before hitting a low wall of sparrows – more of the same as earlier – who worked the pathway before us, joined by a California Thrasher. I haven’t read of any problems in the thrasher population, but I don’t see nearly as many Cal Thrashers as I did decades ago. Anna’s and Allen’s hummers shot in to perch on twig ends above us. A Downy Woodpecker popped in and out of a Cottonwood tree.

The pond was populated by the usual suspects: various ducks, grebes, coots, pelicans, cormorants and egrets (see the list below for their exact names). The Black-crowned Night-Herons hid among the reeds, occasionally flying across the pond. An

American White Pelican & Black-crowned Night-Heron (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

American White Pelican & Black-crowned Night-Heron (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

Osprey flew past in the distance, and a small group of Turkey Vultures roused themselves on this chilly morning from the leafy dark of the island floor. It turned out, oddly enough, to be a very good day for both Turkey Vultures and California Towhees.

This juvenile Red-tailed Hawk is likely the bird sitting in the tree. (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

This juvenile Red-tailed Hawk is likely the same bird pictured below, sitting in the tree.
(Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

Red-tailed Hawk's mottled back (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

A Red-tailed Hawk’s mottled back (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

As said, it was rather chilly, with temperatures  in the low 50’s (F) – my apologies to those of you currently suffering in cold climes, who would gladly snap off a frozen arm to be here now. Gloves felt good. I’ve read that in Norway this time of year the locals make great sport of catching scoters – called scoter-fanger, I believe – swimming through the ice-strewn fjord, wearing only swim fins, breath-holding for extraordinary lengths of time, rising under an unsuspecting scoter as it paddles past icy gray rock walls, catching the bird’s feet with their teeth and yanking them underwater. But we don’t do that here. The closest we come is downing an iced cola and hot dog drowned in chili sauce while reclining at the movies.

We spotted a very dark Red-tailed Hawk sitting in a tree, and later saw one soaring: dark brown head and belly with dark reddish brown chest. It was nearly a dead ringer of a bird photo’d two years ago at the same location. Unfortunately we did not see the immature Bald Eagle reported a few days ago.

This Dark Red-tail Hawk from two years ago was a dead ringer for one we saw today. (T. Hinnebusch 11/9/13)

This adult Dark Red-tail Hawk from two years ago was a dead ringer for one we saw today. (T. Hinnebusch 11/9/13)

We encountered many more kinglets, gnatcatchers, sparrows and finches south of Burbank Blvd. on our way to the Los Angeles River, along with a lovely Black-throated Gray Warbler. The vegetation, mostly willows and cottonwoods, is beginning to recover from the

Black-throated Gray Warbler seizes a vermiform (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

Black-throated Gray Warbler seizes a vermiform (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

havoc wreaked several years ago by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when they decided to remove most of the trees, failing to notify anyone of their intentions. (“We don’t have to,” they said, in a remarkable impersonation of Lily Tomlin’s telephone operator character, “we’re the Army Corp of Engineers.”)

Song Sparrow (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

Song Sparrow (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

More ducks, mostly American Wigeons, the ubiquitous Mallards, and a few Bufflehead. A pair of Greater Yellowlegs worked one stream edge, some Spotted Sandpipers the other, a few American Pipits the stony stream-islands between. A flock of Least Sandpipers then flew in and began eagerly foraging at the water’s edge. We searched the reeds and grasses for Orange Bishops, but saw none.

White-crowned Sparrows were common (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

White-crowned Sparrows were common (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

On the way back to our cars we saw a few more Red-tailed Hawks and many Turkey Vultures soaring on the thermals. By the time we finished, it was nearly warm enough to support human life.

Many thanks to Ray Juncosa for his photographs. [Chuck Almdale]

Los Angeles River looking SW towards Sepulveda retention dam (L. Johnson 11/9/13)

Los Angeles River looking southeast towards Sepulveda flood control dam (L. Johnson 11/9/13)

Trip Lists Sepulveda Basin – Ponds & L.A. River areas
Name Scientific Name 11/9/13 12/12/15
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 7 45
Wood Duck Aix sponsa 2
Gadwall Anas strepera 2 8
American Wigeon Anas americana 8 60
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 50 50
Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris 1
Bufflehead Bucephala albeola 4
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps 20 18
Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis 6
Western Grebe Aechmophorus occidentalis 1
Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus 30 35
American White Pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos 12 28
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias 4 3
Great Egret Ardea alba 4 3
Snowy Egret Egretta thula 2 2
Green Heron Butorides virescens 3
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 5 5
White-faced Ibis Plegadis chihi 2
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura 8 12
Osprey Pandion haliaetus 2 1
Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii 1
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis 2 4
American Coot Fulica americana 10 35
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus 3
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius 2 2
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca 2
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla 15 40
Western Gull Larus occidentalis 4
California Gull Larus californicus 10 4
Rock Pigeon Columba livia 15 10
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura 8 30
Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna 3 2
Allen’s Hummingbird Selasphorus sasin 10 3
Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon 1 2
Nuttall’s Woodpecker Picoides nuttallii 2
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens 1
Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus 4 1
Merlin Falco columbarius 1 1
Yellow-chevroned Parakeet Brotogeris chiriri 8
Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans 20 18
Say’s Phoebe Sayornis saya 4 2
Cassin’s Kingbird Tyrannus vociferans 3
Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica 2
American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos 10
Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis 24
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 6
Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus 8
Bewick’s Wren Thryomanes bewickii 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea 2 10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula 6 15
American Robin Turdus migratorius 1
California Thrasher Toxostoma redivivum 1 1
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos 5
American Pipit Anthus rubescens 12 4
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas 6 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler Setophaga coronata 40 35
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina 10
Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus 5 6
Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis 8
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys 30 50
Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis 10 2
Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia 10 5
California Towhee Melozone crissalis 8 15
Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus 2 2
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus 4
Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta 15 40
House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus 30 15
Lesser Goldfinch Spinus psaltria 4
American Goldfinch Spinus tristis 30 25
House Sparrow Passer domesticus 6
TOTAL SPECIES – 70 61 50
One Comment
  1. December 13, 2015 9:21 pm

    Great trip and great report, with beautiful photos. Thank you!  Wish I’d been there. Best, Enid Hayflick Ridgewood NJ


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