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Venice Beach and Ballona

Venice Beach

I’ve gotten out a few times in the past week but I haven’t had any time to post blog updates… I monitored the Least Tern population on Venice Beach last Friday – however, I didn’t see a single Least Tern! Strange… I know there’s a large population down in Huntington Beach still actively feeding young… There wasn’t much else. I counted 15 American Crows in the general area. Lots of Heermann’s Gulls – mostly 2nd/3rd year birds, a few adults and a few 1st year.

Least Tern Nesting Area

Heermann's Gull
Heermann’s Gull

On the way home I encountered a Cooper’s Hawk that flew right in front of me as I was about to pull into my driveway. It swooped into a Yucca type tree about 20′ off the ground. I grabbed my camera and immediately noticed what appeared to be a medium sized nest of sticks and twigs hastily thrown together. At first I thought it might be the Cooper’s nest until I realized what it was doing…in a split second it grabbed all the chicks from the nest and flew off. It all happened too quick for me to focus so I only got one shot of him looking at me moments before he grabbed lunch.

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

For the past two weeks a baby Mockingbird has been waking us up every morning with it’s annoying little squeaking sound that it does… As if the adult singing all night long isn’t enough! It almost drives you mad until you see how cute the young birds are. Here’s a juvenile I photographed that finally made it out of the nest onto an open bush.

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

On Saturday I met up with some birders from Mira Loma to help scout the area out for friends that will be visiting from Australia in a couple of weeks. Needless to say, they have quite a few target birds in mind…Black Oystercatcher, Pelagic and Brandt’s Cormorant, Allen’s Hummingbird, Belding’s Savannah Sparrow and the extremely cooperative Little Blue Heron that has been occupying the Del Rey Lagoon and the Ballona Wetlands area for the past two months. We were able to get within 20′ of him!

Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron

I went back out yesterday and hiked about 2 miles from Playa del Rey up Ballona Creek in search of Red Knots or any other interesting early fall migrants that might be passing through. Although I only encountered HUNDREDS of Willets, Whimbrels and dozens of Marbled Godwits and Short-billed Dowitchers, 3 Ruddy Turnstones and a large group of Elegant Terns with mixed Caspians. I also came upon two Black Oystercatchers one of which that appeared injured and could not fly. It had worked itself back against the concrete tidal dam so I was able to get quite close to him. After taking a few photos I slowly retreated so as not to agitate him anymore than I already had.

Black Oystercatcher
Black Oystercatcher

I continued walking but didn’t really encounter anything else noteworthy… I did find a BCNH hunting in a small green patch of vegetation. The sun was probably 1-2 hrs from setting so it created beautiful lighting and I couldn’t resist trying to capture the Night Heron’s last hunt of the day. I waited around 30 minutes hoping he’d catch something that I could photograph but he must not have been that hungry!

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron

And I end this posting with a note of disgust… As I walked back to the car I noticed 3 Mexican fisherman. One in a boat using a large net to scoop up fish from Ballona Cr. and the two others just walking along the shore (scaring all the shorebirds up). I noticed they were approaching the Black Oystercatcher that I had photographed earlier. I stopped and waited to see what they would do… The one bird that could fly waited as long as possible as if trying to protect the other bird but finally gave in and flew up and behind them and me. As they got closer they realized the Oystercatcher would not fly..so what did they do? They picked up rocks and started throwing it at the bird. I shouted at them but they clearly understood no English. So I started to walk toward them…they eventually got the hint and continued walking down the creek. Fortunately it didn’t appear the Oystercatcher was injured in any way. The other bird quickly joined him as the fishermen moved on. It’s really sad there’s people like that in this world!

 

Posted by on July 21, 2009 in Photography Adventures

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Local Stuff

I started early Thursday morning looking for the Brant on Ballona Cr. – No luck. I then decided to mix things up a bit by looking for the wintering Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Lindberg Park in Culver City. Although I never found the Sapsucker, I found many White-throated Swifts, Northern Rough-winged, Cliff and Tree Swallows circling above the park. It’s always a challenge to capture fast moving Swallows and Swifts but I managed to come out with a few new, half decent photos.


White-throated Swift
White-throated Swift

Cliff Swallow
Cliff Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Today a report of a “possible” Laysan Albatross circling the Ballona Wetlands came through the wire. Soon as I heard I threw my camera on the passenger seat of my car and headed out. Not even a few blocks from my house, an accipiter zipped across the road and landed in a tree at virtually eye-level. I pulled over really quick and ended up snapping FULL-FRAME photos of an adult Cooper’s Hawk!


Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

 

Posted by on March 6, 2009 in Photography Adventures

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South Coast Botanic Garden

I visited the South Coast Botanic Garden early Thursday morning with Patrick Santinello. Our mission was to find the Thick-billed Kingbird that has been wintering here along with the Varied Thrushes recently seen in the pines of Yarrow Rd. We arrived just after 7AM to find out that the garden does not actually open to the public until 9AM! Fortunately a very nice ranger graciously allowed us to enter before everyone else. Her remarks as we left were, “You’ve got the whole place to yourselves!” We went straight to the lake where the Thick-billed Kingbird was being regularly seen. We spent 20 minutes listening and looking for the TBKI but no luck. We had a juv. Sharp-shinned Hawk fly by while we were observing a Fox Sparrow on the ground.

We decided to head over to the pines to find the Varied Thrushes. Again, after 30-45 minutes of searching we found nothing. 🙁 We did however stumble upon a female Purple Finch! They are irregular but sometimes come down from the mountains in winter, along the coast. Lots of Warbler activity, mostly Yellow-rumped (with the males starting to get their beautiful breeding colours). Also had a few Townsend’s, Orange-crowned, Yellow and lots of Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

Feeling a bit bummed that we still hadn’t found any of our target birds we decided to try our luck for the Kingbird back at the lake. After a few minutes, lo’ and behold I heard the definite call of the TBKI! I turned around and saw it flying up in the air and landing back in a nearby tree. We rushed over there and spent 15 minutes watching and photographing it. A little later we heard the cry of 3-4 Red-shouldered Hawks playfully circling over the trees above us. A juv. Cooper’s hawk and Red-tailed Hawk were also in the mix with a couple of American Crows that were not happy at all they were treading on their “turf”.

Thick-billed Kingbird
Thick-billed Kingbird

Gadwall
Gadwall

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

Oh, and before I forget. Some images from Wednesday afternoon…Dick Barth located a Brant at the Ballona Creek mouth that morning. I’ve been trying to get better photos of Brant for quite a while now so I decided to go look for it. No such luck. The US Coast Guard/Army were in the middle of dredging the sand out of the channel. So much for any hopes of finding a Brant there!! I did find a very nice adult Glaucous-winged Gull along with a 1st year bird with no manners!


Glaucous-winged Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull

Glaucous-winged Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull

Another treat was a Brandt’s Cormorant that was practically following me around. I kept moving backward since I couldn’t fit the entire bird in my lens, only to have it continue walking toward me. This went on until a large poodle decided to try and make friends with him. The Brandt’s Cormorant did not oblige and after a couple of snaps the poodle continued along it’s way (unleashed by it’s owner, of course). The Cormorant didn’t seem to mind that much though.


Brandt's Cormorant
Brandt’s Cormorant

 

Posted by on February 20, 2009 in Photography Adventures

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