Birding the 5MR with Mom and Dad
After a year and a half, I finally saw my parents in person this past weekend. All juiced up on 2 doses of an mRNA vaccine, they drove out to L.A. from Texas and we welcomed them with open arms. Surprisingly, it felt completely normal to hang out with them. It was as if the last 15 months hadn’t lasted 15 months. We hugged. We hung out indoors. We took in the first little league game of the season. Grandma even jumped on the trampoline! It was a long-awaited reunion, and we’re hoping for more of the same in the weeks and months to come.
Having slowly but surely gotten my Dad into birding, we ventured out to some local spots for walks while they were here. Our first adventure was a walk along the Playa Vista Riparian Corridor. It’s a dirt road trail below LMU, and is often a good spot for migrating songbirds. We didn’t get there until 11am, and we’re still a bit early for good migration numbers around here, so we didn’t find anything good. The next day, we walked around the Ballona Freshwater Marsh. We heard a Bell’s Vireo in the willows (a lifer for Dad), but never got eyes on it. There were lots of swallows, a dwindling number of ducks, and the first goslings of the spring. The highlight was a dozen or so Yellow-headed Blackbirds flying back and forth amongst the reeds. Most were males, showing off their white wing patches in flight and making their extended buzzzzzzz calls.
Late Sunday afternoon, an email check revealed a generous and friendly head’s up from a devoted local birder named Naresh. The subject line was “Cattle Egrets on Ballona Creek.” The body of the message was equally succinct: “At the Centinela Creek confluence.” It meant more to me than he knew. Cattle Egret was a bird that’s conspicuously absent from my 5MR list. Indeed, I identified it as one of my 2021 targets in a previous post. Luckily for me, his message was just 30 minutes old. With a delicious dinner of soup dumplings on its way, my Dad and I hopped in the car and zoomed 6 blocks down the road to where he had reported it. As we walked up to the spot, the 2 Cattle Egrets were there waiting for us.
The zoomed in photo above makes it look like the egrets were wading through a field of vegetation. Zoom out, and you see that they were in a very human-shaped spot. The egrets were walking atop the island of bushes where a small concrete creek joins the bigger concrete Ballona Creek. It’s not a scene that will win any landscape awards, but the birds love it. It’s especially good at low tides when the mud is exposed.