Thursday, April 23, 2015

Post #21 - LA birding - local patch auditions, off to Boston

We are, finally, just about settled in LA. This past weekend I was able to sneak out for 2 mornings of birding and photography. I am very lucky in that we live right next to the freeways. This means that getting around is exceptionally easy early on weekend mornings when there is basically zero traffic.

On Saturday I headed to Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach. This spot is roughly 20 miles south of Norwalk (where I live) and took just 25 minutes to reach. Many folks in my photography network have recommended this spot despite the abundance of unbirders. I arrived just after sunrise and spent the better part of the next 5 hours familiarizing myself with the area. There is a decent diversity of birds, and, they appear, importantly for photography, to be relatively tolerant of people. At one point a Forster's tern hovered 3 feet above my head before landing just a foot to my right on the wooden boardwalk! Just birding casually, I tallied 46 species during my visit (eBird checklist here). In full disclosure I spent more time studying lighting conditions than I did birding. By the time I got it mostly figured out the sun was pretty high in the sky. I did manage to walk out with one nice shot of an Allen's hummingbird. All in all I think Bolsa Chica will become a regular spot in my rotation. It's close, has lots of birds, and is photo friendly. I can't really ask for much more!

Allen's hummingbird - Selasphorus sasin
Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Huntington Beach, California, 4/18/15
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 + 1.4x III on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 1600

Sunday I headed to San Joaquin Ecological Reserve in Irvine, CA. Very close to the 405 Freeway, this fantastic spot is just 30 mins from my apartment. Heavy cloud made photography difficult, so I focused a bit more on birding on this day. I was really surprised with the mix of birds on the grounds. There were the expected shorebirds, waders, gulls, terns, and, pelicans. I also found 2 Least bitterns, 2 Soras, and land birds such as Black-headed grosbeak and Ash-throated flycatcher. I ended up with 54 species for the morning, but I am sure I missed a number of things that were present (eBird checklist). The highlight of San Joaquin was certainly the courting/mating avocets. There was constant activity as they chased one another around for the better part of the morning. I will certainly be returning to this spot in the next few weeks - particularly once the avocet chicks hatch! 

This shot was taken in very harsh 11am light from quite a distance. It shows the mating behavior well, so I figured I would share it anyway.

America Avocets mating

Here is another fun behavior shot, again in less than awesome light. This is a male Mallard scaring a female Gadwall off a log. All I can think is "AFLAC!"

Interestingly, both Bolsa Chica and San Joaquin are the result of extensive engineering projects designed to create wetlands. They have been incredibly successful and should serve as models for additional projects moving forward.

I will be in Boston this weekend for a series of talks/event that center on the bike trip from last year. I'm really looking forward to speaking at the Brookline Bird Club Annual Meeting on Friday night and to making an appearance at the Hunt's Photography flagship store in Melrose, MA on Sunday morning. I will certainly squeeze in some birding as well. Hopefully I can get a nice shot of early eastern warblers since I'll miss them all once I return to California on Monday!