Bay-breasted Warbler Los Angeles, CA

Spread your wings and fly, little buddy

Cheating on my 5MR for some spice-y warbler action

I’ve been bored birding my 5MR recently. There, I said it. It’s not that it hasn’t been a good year in the 5MR. To the contrary, it has. It’s going to end up being my #2 year for species seen by the time the year is up. And I’ve added more 5MR lifers this year than I did last year. But I haven’t been enjoying it. Part of it has been the lack of vagrants – or, more likely, my inability to find the vagrants. While the gas guzzlers are chasing Manx Shearwater and Ruff and Bobolinks and Painted Buntings, I’m wandering my 5MR finding nothing. It’s been particularly disappointing for warblers. While folks are reporting megas like a Dusky Warbler in addition to Chestnut-Sided and Blackpoll and Lucy and Blackburnian and Magnolia and Virginia and Palm and Prothonotary and Canada Warblers, I’m stuck with endless Yellow-rumpeds and some Townsend’s Warblers.

So when a report came in Friday of a Bay-breasted Warbler near Long Beach, I decided that I needed the trip. I’d only ever seen one before, during a trip to Texas, so it would be a L.A. County lifer. I couldn’t go on Saturday because my son’s 13th birthday party was scheduled, and there was a bunch of prepping and shopping to do (and I wasn’t missing out on laser tag). I rose early on Sunday (the clocks fell back, and the eight thirteen-year-olds “sleeping” in tents in our backyard were up at the crack of dawn, hungry for pancakes), checked the listserv for a report of the Bay-headed that morning (check!), and headed out. 

Finding the bird was delightfully easy. I parked in the area where the bird had been seen, and saw 2-3 birders spread out scanning the trees. Figuring it wasn’t  in someone’s sights at the moment, I walked toward a couple tall leafy trees, and there it was. 

Bay-breasted Warbler Los Angeles

There are benefits to being a split-second slow on the shutter

It was a hyper-active bird, constantly in motion. It was mainly moving through the trees, in an area about the size of a football field. A couple of times, it went to the ground and fed, allowing for some nice close looks. 

Bay-breasted Warbler Los Angeles, CA

Bay-breasted Warbler blending in with Yellow-rumpeds

Bay-breasted Warblers summer in Canada and winter in Cuba and South America, and are mainly seen during migration in the eastern United States. The breeding makes look nothing like this bird: they’ve got a grayish back, a brick red cap, throat, and wash on the sides, and a creamy collar.

Sometimes it takes a little spark to get the birding mojo back. Hopefully this Bay-breasted Warbler was that spark. Like magic, during an afternoon bike ride to Playa del Rey beach the same day, I spotted a Long-tailed Duck that had been reported once a week ago. They’re pretty rare in Santa Monica Bay. Hoping the next few weeks includes more good finds. 

Long-tailed Duck Playa del Rey, CA

Long-tailed Duck at Playa del Rey beach