Category: Hikes/Walks (Page 1 of 3)

Red-necked Stint in L.A.

Red-necked Stint Malibu Lagoon

Red-necked Stint in the distant muck at Malibu Lagoon

Lifer Red-necked Stint in Malibu

Nothing puts a stop to regular birding walks like throwing out your back. And I threw out my back a couple of weeks ago. So I’ve been largely stuck at home, on a couch or my bed, doing my best not to twist, bend over, or god-forbid sneeze. Until recently, it was a significant accomplishment, achieved through suffering and very awkward positioning, to put on socks and shoes. So when word went out Monday that a Red-necked Stint was at Malibu Lagoon, I confronted a dilemma that I’m pretty sure I’d never faced before: was I physically able to go birding? 

All it required was a 15 mile drive and a walk down a dirt path and down a beach. But driving has been the worst activity, and walking was no picnic either. Balanced against that was the chance to add a lifer, and a bird that had only been seen in L.A. county twice before. I didn’t have to go into work on Tuesday, so I could drop off my kid at school, and drive out to the Malibu Lagoon and see it. I was hoping word would go out before I made the drive that the bird was present. Happily, someone posted on the LACO Birds listserv at 7:45am that the bird had been found. Confident it wouldn’t be gone by 8:30 when I’d arrive, I decided to risk my well-being and head out there. 

Red-necked Stint Malibu Lagoon

Too rufous to be a Least Sandpiper; too delicate and small to be a Western Sandpiper

As with all good super-rarities, there was a group of birders peering through optics when I made my way to the beach. I lined myself up with one of the guys with a scope, and picked out the Red-necked Stint amongst the peeps working the mire in the lagoon. It was pretty far away, so the binocular looks (and the photos) weren’t great, but the red neck was easy to make out. It spent its time feeding, occasionally flying short distances but never coming close. 

Red-necked Stints breed in Siberia and and the Russian Far East, and winter in Australia and southeast Asia. They don’t regularly appear in the lower 48. You can find them in Nome, Alaska, but there’s maybe one a year found somewhere along the west coast. 

I can’t say that it was a thrilling outing. Indeed, it might’ve been the least exciting lifer I’ve added in a long while. But I blame my back for that, and not the bird. There had been a juvenile Black Tern at the lagoon the night before that I was hoping had stuck around (that would’ve been another lifer). But I didn’t see it, and no one reported it during the day. 

Late Spring at the Marsh

Canada Geese Ballona Freshwater Marsh

A baker’s dozen cruising the marsh

Late Spring at Ballona Freshwater Marsh

The birding has been a bit slow recently in the 5MR. Spring migration has mostly moved through. And we’ve had cloudy morning after cloudy morning around here, which doesn’t inspire me to get out and about. That said, I had a nice walk recently around the Ballona Freshwater Marsh. The birds were all the usual suspects. Still, I saw things I’d never seen before – like this Ruddy Duck in full mating display, which included not just that ridiculous baby blue bill, but raising up two horns in its head.

Ruddy Duck Ballona Freshwater Marsh

The marsh in May is the best spot in my 5MR for two species: the endangered Least Bell’s Vireo, and Yellow-breasted Chat. There was a little doubt whether those birds would show up this year. A recent fire burned in the area where both are often found. The fire was likely associated with folks who live behind the marsh. It mostly burned an area of nonnative invasive pampas grass (good!). But it also burned some willows, including the exact location where the Least Bell’s Vireo nested last year (bad!).

Ballona Freshwater Marsh fire

A complicated ecological scene

Despite the fire, both Bell’s Vireo and Yellow-breasted Chat are out there singing again this year. There are at least two Bell’s Vireo and possibly three Yellow-breasted Chats there right now. Both are easy to spot by call, with the colorful chats more likely to be seen, too. 

Yellow-breasted Chat Ballona Freshwater Marsh

An Ash-throated Flycatcher was bouncing around the willows.

Ash-throated Flycatcher Ballona Freshwater Marsh

A female Great-tailed Grackle at the west end was busy foraging and was totally unbothered by my presence. She was so close, I couldn’t get her namesake in the frame.

Great-tailed Grackle Ballona Freshwater Marsh

In addition to the goslings pictured above, I spotted a baby Killdeer (Killfawn?) at the small dry overflow pond at the west end of the marsh. A vocal adult was protectively watching guard, though it didn’t give me the classic injured-wing feint.

Killdeer Ballona Freshwater Marsh

« Older posts