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