Saturday 18 November 2023

California add-on

The flight from Oahu arrived at six in the morning, a nasty red-eye in a recliner seat. With the flight back to London not leaving until about three in the afternoon there was plenty of scope for further birding. With this in mind I'd hired a car cheaply and with no hold luggage and no immigration we were on our way very quickly. I've spent a fair bit of time hanging around LAX and had a good list of sites to visit that were not too far away given the awful traffic in LA. Still, I just love California, kind of my 'home' State, the only place I've ever lived in the US for any length of time. If I can ever get my arse in gear to register to vote it would be here, but as it is staunchly Democratic there seems little point at the moment.

Anyway, our first stop was the Playa del Rey which is at the end of the runway. It's always a good spot to start a California list. Looking out to see we counted about ten Surf Scoter, at least 350 Western Grebe, and uncountable numbers of Double-crested Cormorants and Brown Pelicans. On the beach itself a few Gulls were loafing, and a Heermann's flew south. Also present were three Marbled Godwit and two cups of much-needed coffee. We upped the number of Surf Scoter by changing position and looking from the Pacific Avenue Bridge, and also found a pair of Red-breasted Merganser. The sheer numbers of birds on the distant breakwaters was a sight to behold, but no way to grill them properly without a telescope. An Elegant Tern flew past close enough to see it properly. 

The sea exhausted we headed just inland to Ballona Freshwater Marsh, no more than a two minute drive. When I was last here in January 2020 there had been a few people camping in their cars alongside the reserve. Now there is practically a village - beat-up campervans, wrecked cars, shacks, and predictably rubbish everywhere. Welcome to America in 2023, the California dream is not enjoyed by everyone and it was the same if not worse in San Diego. The birds don't seem to mind their human neighbours however, and we spent 90 minutes here racking up close to 50 species. There were lots of freshwater Ducks, including Cinnamon Teal, lot of waders including Wilson's Snipe, Long-billed Dowitcher and Western Sandpiper, whilst White-throated Swift carved through the sky overhead. Smaller birds in the bushes included Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-rumped Warbler and California Towhee, and I was pleased to see Bushtit again which had been a new bird for me at this very site not that long ago.  

Allen's Hummingbird

Green Heron

Our final stop was Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park, a little further south near Torrance. I'd never been and had chosen it from recent eBird lists - it was excellent, with both Anna's and Allen's Hummingbird, and many more smaller birds than Ballona. The full list is here, and you can get a feel for what was where from the table below. Yellow-rumped Warblers were particularly prevalent, and we also had a Hooded Oriole and an Orange-crowned Warbler in some trees at the south of the main lake. We had to call it a wrap far too soon, but missing the flight would not have been much fun and in any event we wanted to clean up and have showers etc before we left. We packed up our gear, broke down the cameras for the last time, and headed back to the airport. In our few hours we had managed 65 species, almost all of them different to what we had seen in Hawaii. Always nice to break up what would otherwise be a really long trip back home. So long California, hope I see you again soon.


  1. Well, you have at least one reader who enjoys these trip reports!

    1. Thanks Graham, appreciate that. It is funny, they probably take the most time of almost any posts I do, yet are probably the least relatable and as a result get fewer reads and far fewer interactions. But I tend not to worry to much about things like that, I'll just do what I want to do, no pandering to the masses! My current stupid goal is to make sure I surpass last year's pathetic 75 posts count. I've got so much travel blogging to do between now and the end of the year that I am going to blast through it. I just started Iceland and that was as far back as May!