Dockweiler State beach was fairly busy at 11am on a Saturday morning, all of the usual California clichés, joggers, people walking designer dogs, rollerblading, cyclists and so on. Scanning the area I could see several groups of birds, mixed Gulls including Heerman’s and Western, and then a few sleeping waders that appeared to be Willet. Willet not being Gulls, I headed towards them, dragging my wheeled camera bag behind me – on reflection the backpack would have been significantly better for this part of my trip, though with so many airports on the route I did come to be thankful for it in the end. There were Willet, and lots of them, but more excitingly there were lots of Marbled Godwit, believe it or not a full-fat world lifer – wooo!Thankfully the weather was cool and overcast, in marked contrast to Washington DC which had been an oven, and which would have completely prevented any bird photography at all. I had banked on the coastal affect in late August, and it was absolutely perfect. I got to work, and in between all the human activity managed to get a few nice ones. A lowlight was a lady with a dog who walked up to near where I was lying, and then took it off its lead and told it to chase the birds. Which it then did with some relish. You could not have made it up. I mean even if had not been there obviously taking photos of them why would you do that? I jumped up and laid into her, the only thing missing was actual physical violence. I held nothing back Lost it. I called her every name under the sun until a nearby lifeguard arrived and threw her off the beach. There was probably cause to throw me off as well, but I am guessing she had seen what happened and realised where the problem lay. That was it really, the Willets, Godwits and a single Long-billed Curlew had flown about a mile (as would I if somebody had released a greyhound at me) and with my bag being somewhat sand-challenged I did not fancy it. That left the Gulls, and much as I dislike them you can’t really argue with adult Heerman’s, even going into winter plumage.
|Yes I have a very long bill|
|Not too bad for a Gull|
Once I tired of these, and with my demeanour somewhat shattered by the dog lady, I decided to leave the beach and go birding at the nearby Ballona Wetlands. Quick spot of lunch at a nearby eco-café and then I headed off inland. I had not bargained on there being no pavements. I know, what was I thinking? This is the US of A, where people walk precisely nowhere. Being wheeled, I had to drag the case along the road for about 20 seconds, and then retreat to the safety of the soft shoulder whilst the cars roared by for a couple of minutes, and then I’d have another 20 seconds, presumably on a lights change, in which to make a bit more progress before diving for cover again. When I eventually made it I discovered that the sodding reserve was closed and probably had been for some time! Thanks LA! I walked the perimeter, birding in the gaps, and in this manner picked up Bushtit, my second lifer of the day. It was overall quite quiet though, mostly I suspect due to the time of day and the coastal murk finally having been burnt off by the sun meaning it was now quite hot. Time to flag a cab and retreat to the cool of the American Airlines lounge – a shower and then a series of cold drinks helped restore my mood, and I started tucking into my Hawaiian field guide in anticipation of the next couple of days.