Tag: 5MR (Page 1 of 2)

Cape May Warbler in the 5MR!

Cape May Warbler LMU campus

Cape May Warbler in my 5MR!

Instead of getting up this morning and heading to Bear Divide to check out some early spring migration, I slept in. My reward (beyond the extra sleep) was being 5 minutes away from a reported mega-rarity for Los Angeles: a Cape May Warbler. Not only was I close, but I had something even more important: legal access to the spot where the bird was found – the still-closed campus of Loyola Marymount University. So I grabbed my binoculars and camera, my LMU ID card, and headed over. The report was one of those incredibly generous ones that includes GPS coordinates for the bird. And after parking and heading to the spot, I was delighted to see a guy underneath a tree “pishing” and holding up a smartphone.  This was going to be one of those easy ones.

The bird at first glance could be mistaken for a Yellow-rumped Warbler. It was grayish, with some chest streaking, a white throat like a Myrtle Yellow-rumped, and a yellow rump. But a closer look showed a bunch of important differences. It had a thin bill, a single white wing bar, a hint of yellow behind a gray cheek patch, a more prominent white eyebrow with a touch of yellow, a bit of yellow on its grayish back, and a short little stubby tail. It lacked yellow at the shoulder, and the undertail didn’t show the same bolder white pattern as a yellow-rumped. The bird also gave occasional high-pitched, short “seep” calls that were not close to the yellow-rumped call.

Cape may warbler Los Angeles California

The bird was active, but stayed in the same tree for all but 5 seconds of the 45 minutes I stood under the tree. And after I wandered campus for 45 minutes and came back to the tree, the Cape May Warbler was still there. So for those who are able to get on campus, this will hopefully be just as easy a find (assuming it has been wintering here, because it seems early for a wayward spring migrant).

It wasn’t a life Cape May Warbler, but it was an LA County first and a 5MR lifer.  Cape May Warblers are an eastern U.S. warbler that nests in Canada and winters in the Caribbean and the Yucatan. They’re super rare in Los Angeles. Indeed, legend has it that Kimball Garrett has never seen a Cape May Warbler in LA County (Kimball Garrett hasn’t seen one?! It boggles the mind). That means, for at least the time being, this is the one birding metric on which I outperform the legend of L.A. birding.

Cape May Warbler


Hooded Warbler in the 5MR

Hooded Warbler LMU

Hooded Warbler on the LMU Campus

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.

Hooded Warbler LMU

They aren’t all in award-winning shots. Some aren’t even in focus.

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.

MacGillivray's Warbler LMU

A MacGillivray’s Warbler working the same tangle

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.

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