Tag: Ballona Creek (Page 3 of 4)

Black-necked Stilts on Ballona Creek

Black-necked Stilt Ballona Creek

Black-necked Stilt, Ballona Creek, July 2020

Black-necked Stilts on Ballona Creek

Today, I went for a bike ride along Ballona Creek. There is a bike path along the concrete creek. It runs from the beach at Playa del Rey about 6 miles inland to a park in Culver City. We live halfway between the beach and the end of the path. Instead of heading from my house toward the beach, which is my usual path, I went inland. There’s rarely a lot of bird ac

tion on this section of the creek. It is almost entirely devoid of dirt, mud, or vegetation, so there isn’t much to attract the birds other than a drink. One section has had Solitary Sandpipers during fall migration, and there are often a handful of Greater Yellowlegs and Killdeer around. Besides the Northern Rough-winged Swallows, the predominate bird on this section of the creek is Black-necked Stilt. 

Black-necked Stilt Ballona Creek

Black-necked Stilts breed on the creek. On my ride today, I saw at least 16 juvenile birds, ranging in age from a week or so to approximately 8-10 weeks. It was pretty fun to be able to see the development of Black-necked Stilts in one short bike ride. As you can see from the picture at the top of the page, they are mostly legs at first, and a speckled white color. But as they grow, the black feathers come in. Before they get jet black feathers, though, their backs and wing feather have a rusty fringe.

Black-necked Stilt Ballona Creek

As development proceeds, they retain a white arc above the eye. The legs just keep growing, and slowly evolve into the pink stilts of adult birds.

Adult Black-necked Stilt

Adult Black-necked Stilts

Ballona Creek Culver City

The Ballona Creek in all its concrete glory

Southbound Migration Already

Migrating WIllet Ballona Creek

First movers

Southbound Shorebird Migration Begins

Northbound spring migration has just ended, and there are still plenty of songbirds singing. But the Willets are already done breeding and moving south. Their June breeding site departures are one of the earliest of all North American birds. They start showing up in L.A. every year just after the middle of June. And every year it seems too early for “fall” migration. Two days ago, I saw a dozen sharply plumaged Willets in a group along Ballona Creek. Today, the group had grown to 38 birds. Only three of them were plain gray winter plumaged birds. By the end of June, there will likely be hundreds of them staging on the creek. I’d be curious to learn what leads individual birds to be early migrants. Did these birds fail to breed? Are they older birds, or those who breed early?

Willets are a species that may get split into two species: Western Willet and Eastern Willet. The populations apparently have no contact on breeding grounds. The western birds breed inland in prairies and grasslands in the Great Basin and north to the Canadian Plains. The eastern birds breed along the coast. There are also visual and slight vocal differences between the two. The western birds get spotted all along the East Coast, but there aren’t any eBird records for the Eastern Willets in California.

In other shorebird sightings, I also recently saw this Sanderling on the Playa del Rey jetty. It’s showing breeding plumage. Sanderlings breed in tundra habitat in the Arctic. They usually don’t start showing up in L.A. until late July. The bum wing on this one suggests to me a northbound straggler instead of an early southbound migrant. 

Sanderling Playa del Rey Jetty

Sanderling – a rare June find in the county


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