2023: Another Good Year in my Bountiful 5MR
- Common Merganser – Since they prefer fresh water, Common Merganser are more likely to be found inland on lakes and rivers than in my coastal 5MR. nevertheless, one showed up at the Del Rey Lagoon in February. Despite the shallow water in the lagoon, it hung around for a couple of weeks, sometimes in the creek. This year’s duck addition.
- Cape May Warbler – An out-of-town birder was on LMU’s campus for his kid’s guitar recital in March. While he stood outside taking a break, and without binoculars, he recognizes the chip call of a Cape May Warbler. This is one of the rarest warblers in LA County. When I showed up, he was standing under the tree pointing his cellphone camera at it. The same bird (presumably) returned to LMU for the winter. This year’s warbler addition.
- Northern Fulmar – I stopped by Playa del Rey in April to check the beach near the jetty during a bike ride. While I was scanning some Western Grebes trying to pick out a Clark’s, I noticed an all-dark bird flying up the beach from the south. Honest to goodness, I thought (as I’ve thoughts many times before) “wouldn’t it be cool if that juvenile Heerman’s Gull was actually a Northern Fulmar.” And then the bird flew right up to the surf break, settled in the water, and it was a fulmar! I found several more of these tubenoses on the beach over the year, but they were all dead.
- Hammond’s Flycatcher – Honest to goodness, I didn’t know this was a 5MR lifer when I saw it at the Village Green in April. They are unusual, but not rare, in LA County, and it didn’t register to me that I hadn’t ever seen one in my circle. In fact, I don’t think I realized I’d added it to my list until June.
- Common Tern – This bird was a reminder to double-check big flocks. During a July visit to Dockweiler Beach, I found a big flock of Elegant Terns. They were skittish, flushing and settling multiple times. On the 6th or 7th time I scanned through the flock, I found a smaller tern with a black bill and a dark smudge at the shoulder. It turned out to be an LA County and 5MR lifer Common Tern. A surprising first record for Dockweiler Beach, given the year-round tern presence there.
- Pigeon Guillemot – The third beach find on the list. This bird had been spotted a couple of times, off shore but outside of my 5MR circle. A couple of weeks after it was first seen, someone reported seeing it from Dockweiler Beach, meaning it had wandered into my circle. I dipped a couple of times on it before finally spotting it one gray day. Given their preference for rocky coastline, this seems like a pretty unlikely bird for my circle.
- Grasshopper Sparrow – I’ve been looking for a fall Grasshopper Sparrow in my 5MR for years. Indeed, this was the only new 5MR addition that I had on my 2022 target list. The likeliest spot was somewhere in the fenced-off Ballona Ecological Reserve. At long last, in October, while birding a fenced edge of the reserve along the 90 freeway, I found one. Conveniently (for this usually skulky species) it popped up in a bush and then perched on the fence.
- Baltimore Oriole – I was not expecting any kind of oriole at Ladera Park when I visited in mid-November, much less a Baltimore Oriole (which winters in Central and South America). Surprisingly elusive in the trees despite it’s bright-orange color and deliberate movements. In a crazy coincidence, another Baltimore Oriole was found the same morning in Elysian Park. A post dedicated to the last three additions is here.
I usually treat this target list as those birds I think are likely to show up in my 5MR. This year, I’m going with a combo list. The first five are birds I think are in my 5MR but i haven’t found them yet. The last five are unlikely birds that I’d love to find close to home.