In August, an American Golden-plover appeared in the LA River in downtown Los Angeles. For those unfamiliar with it, the LA River is not so much a proper river as it is a large concrete drainage ditch. It's heavily littered and generally polluted, but, as the only water for miles, the shallow flow does attract a fair number of ducks, shorebirds, and gulls. The river also attracts countless homeless, most of whom reside under the various overpasses that span it. Interactions with the homeless are unavoidable when birding the LA River, but I've never personally had any problems with any of them. On the contrary, they've helped me to widen my perspective.
LA River diagram. From Hollywood to Long
Beach is about 25 miles, for reference.
Some stretches look like this....
....while others look like this.
After Sonia's mom passed away (see last post), the hospice folks said they couldn't reuse or recycle the mattress they provided for her. I hate letting anything with potential utility go to waste, so I took the mattress with a plan to clean it and take it to homeless camp in South Central. I put the folding, semi-portable mattress in the back of the car seat and forgot about it.
Fast forward to two weekends ago. I decided to spend a morning looking for a locally rare Yellow-throated Warbler at Earvin "Magic" Johnson Park in Compton (Yep, Compton, its been cleaned up quite a bit from the NWA dayz). I arrived at 7am and spent the better part of the next 3.5 hours searching for the wayward warbler. There were at least a dozen birders present, but we were collectively unable to relocate the bird. Returning to my car, I saw the mattress in the back seat and realized I was already halfway to the homeless camp. I hopped back on the 105 Freeway, veered north onto the 110, and rolled into the camp 5 minutes later. The guys were admittedly a bit skeptical as I hauled the mattress out of the back seat, but a quick explanation dispelled any suspicions they had about me or the mattress. One dude laid claim to it, and they all thanked me for bringing what was otherwise trash to them.
At the precise moment I was passing the park on my way home, I received a phone call informing me that the warbler had resurfaced. I swung in and collected the bird after a bit of additional searching. Though not a believer in anything divine, spiritual, or the like, I did take a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing that my effort to help someone else indirectly led me back to the warbler. It was karma at its finest.
Yellow-throated Warbler - record shot only
Last weekend I made a quick stop at my local patch, a small park that backs up to the San Gabriel River. As far from a proper river as the LA River, the scrubby foliage that owns the ditch is also popular with the homeless. However, on that most recent visit, many of the regulars were missing, presumably ousted by the local authorities as is periodically customary. As I viewed this apparent former dwelling, birding again seemed insignificant in the grander scheme of things. To me the park and adjacent river is a convenient but generally crappy place to find birds; To others, it is - or, at least, was - home.
San Gabriel River about a mile
from my apartment in Norwalk
Vacated dwelling on the river bank
All of these stories remind me that as much as I love my various birding lists and photographic adventures, at the end of the day it's just birding. Our lives are going to go on regardless of what birds we do or don't find/photograph. LA birding certainly leaves much to be desired from an aesthetic standpoint, but it's also served as a constant reminder of just how insignificant are most of my so-called problems. I'm am going to try to remember this during the holiday season. I hope you will too.
For the record, my best LA River bird to date? I did not find this, I just poached it in mid-November. It stayed for two weeks.
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper - record shot only
Not even a lifer! Saw one in NYC a few years back.