5MR Lifer – Hooded Warbler
On Saturday, a report for a Hooded Warbler on LMU’s campus showed up. LMU is in my 5MR circle, and Hooded Warbler would be new for the list. It’s not the rarest warbler for L.A. County, but they aren’t reported annually. It’s on the short list of really good finds. I’d seen one at Sand Dune Park in Manhattan Beach in 2018, which is 6 miles as the crow flies from my living room, just outside my 5MR.
The report was from an out of town birder making a mad dash around L.A. searching for rarities and exotics. He started at dawn at the parrot roost in Pasadena, headed to the Ballona area (Pacific-Golden Plover), and then made short stops at Madrona Marsh (European Goldfinch), Compton (Spotted Doves) and other spots. I’m not sure what he was doing walking the LMU campus, which is closed to the public and had only 1 eBird report in the past two months. Maybe he was searching for the Rose-ringed Parakeets. In any event, I had no reason to doubt the sighting, which included a photo.
I happen to be employed by LMU, so I logged in to LMU’s system to get my campus clearance for the day. With that in hand, I headed over. Within ten minutes of arriving at the reported spot (many thanks to the reporter for including GPS coordinates!), the Hooded Warbler appeared. It was darting around in a tangle of bushes, with about a dozen other warblers. Most were Orange-crowned Warbler, but there were a couple of Wilson’s Warblers and Common Yellowthroats in the flock, as well as a MacGillivray’s Warbler. A nice warbler haul, and a clear sign that it’s September.
The Hooded Warbler was gone 30 seconds after it appeared. About ten minutes later, it returned. And it did the same thing – move quickly amidst the branches and bushes, avoid any possible photograph, and disappear. The third time it showed up, I was ready with my camera. It wasn’t easy, and I didn’t get any great shots, but I managed two identifiable photos.
This quick turn of events on a Saturday afternoon illustrates a couple of the main wonders of birding to me. First, there are great birds to be found if you just get out there and look. Who knows how long this warbler was hanging around at LMU. All summer? Had it shown up that morning? Whatever the answer, someone had to be walking around and looking to find it. As I tell my kids in my best imitation of a Dad from the movies, “you can’t find the birds if you don’t go out birding.” On top of that, all the good birds are not just at the same old spots where everyone else goes to find good birds. They can be, and are, anywhere. We all love a successful chase, but nothing compares to finding a good bird all by yourself. So keep checking spots in your 5MR that might be hiding a good vagrant. It’s migration season, and who knows what’s waiting to be found.