Monday 26 September 2016

LAX stopover

I planned my silly Hawaii trip with a couple of stops to break up the journey. The first of these was a very pleasant evening chez my Aunt in Washington DC, however as that does not involve birds and I am very strict about that on this blog, I don’t propose to spend any time writing about it. The second stop did involve birds, and was the beach at Los Angeles just west of the airport runway. I’d seen this on maps and done a bit of reading, and it suggested that there would be loafing birds and that it was very quick to get there by cab. Or it would have been if the cab driver had any concept of where anything was. I’m not sure he even knew he was in America actually, as “please take me to the beach the other side of the airport” meant nothing to him, and enhancing this with the name of the beach, Dockweiler, also did not help him pinpoint where I wanted to go. Maybe mine was an unusual request and most people want to go to Beverley Hills or Sunset Boulevard or something. Showing him a satellite map of the area was similarly futile, the only thing that would induce him to move was a road name he could put into his satnav and then follow blindly, so in the end I gave him the main road just outside the airport perimeter and once there reverted to “straight over”, “right here” and so on until we got to the beach. He is probably still there now, totally flummoxed as to how to return to LAX for another fare.

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!

Yes I have a very long bill

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.

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.

Regulation Gull

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