For the second time, I joined the San Fernando Valley chapter of the Audubon Society for their monthly bird walk in the Sepulveda Basin this past Sunday. I was debating whether or not to go until 10 minutes before the walk was to start (I can delay till that late since I live like only half a mile away) because I had just gotten back from vacation the day before and was still tired from that and because I sort of wanted to do my own birding elsewhere. My motivation wasn’t really there, but I went anyway.
I’m thinking that if I want to get more involved with this group I should find out about their other activities or at least maybe join them when they do their bird walks in other areas. I felt a little bit bored this time. I think it’s because I already go birding at the Sepulveda Basin at least once per week on my own, and I’m already familiar with most of the birds there and where to find them. It’s not that I didn’t learn anything useful during this walk because I did, it’s just that the marginal returns weren’t as great as the last time I joined this group at this place.
I will say though that I was particularly proud when members of the group politely but firmly admonished passersby with dogs that they weren’t allowed and alerted others when they were in areas that were off-limits. I like that there’s a group of people willing to stand up and provide a voice for the protection of wildlife. I always see people bringing their dogs into the wilderness area when they’re not supposed to and people fishing where it isn’t allowed and people walking on paths that are closed. I feel powerless to stop any of that on my own (no one is going to pay attention to just me), and it saddens me that all this carelessness could ruin a viable, urban habitat for migratory birds.
These are some new things I learned during the walk which made it worthwhile and helped me to look past the boredom I experienced this time:
- Allen’s hummingbird swoops down and makes a broad U-shaped pattern when it swoops back up whereas Anna’s hummingbird swoops sharply down and makes a J-shaped pattern when it swoops back up.
- The Say’s phoebe is more graceful as it floats in the air to catch insects whereas the black phoebe is very jittery in its flight as it catches insects.
- Ravens have a sharp V-shaped tail that can be seen in flight whereas crows have a shofter, more rounded tail that can be seen in flight.
- Many of the species of migratory ducks that used to come to the Sepulveda Basin each winter aren’t coming around anymore. We don’t know why.
- After a fire, it’s better to leave the remnants (i.e. charred vegetation) to decay naturally than to clear them all away. This came up for discussion because after a small fire last summer in a section of the wildlife area the workers just cleared the sight bare. However, it was amazing to see that where old cottonwood trees had burned, many new ones are sprouting from the remnants of the old roots.
These are the 38 speices of birds that I saw (others in the group saw some I didn’t see, but I’m only counting the ones I saw myself including the ones in bold which I saw for the first time):
mallard, wood duck, American wigeon, American coot, pied-billed grebe, belted kingfisher, California gull, double-crested cormorant, great blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, green heron, black-crowned night-heron, ruby-crowned kinglet, blue-grey gnatcatcher, yellow-rumped warbler, common yellowthroat, white-crowned sparrow, song sparrow, California towhee, house finch, bushtit, American goldfinch, Anna’s hummingbird, Allen’s hummingbird, downy woodpecker, black phoebe, Say’s phoebe, red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk, Cooper’s hawk, common raven, turkey vulture, peregrine falcon, killdeer, spotted sandpiper, long-billed dowitcher, American pipit