Big Year Update - 242 Species

After birding the Antelope Valley this morning, my year list for Los Angeles County now stands at 242 species.

April 4, Coastal Los Angeles County

BBI has a project site on the coast that I am surveying for birds for a full day, twice per month. While the site is heavily disturbed, it is surrounded by tidal wetlands and mudflats, and a given visit invariably results in a list of 50+ species. On this site visit, I found the following new species for the year:

  • Cliff Swallow
  • Caspian Tern
  • Semipalmated Plover
  • Snowy Plover

April 11, Charlton Flat, Angeles National Forest

While performing trailwork in the Angeles National Forest (a requirement to run the Angeles Crest 100 trail race), I heard the following two new species:

  • Black-chinned Sparrow
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher

April 12, Run to the Top of Mt. Wilson and Back

I can see Mt. Wilson from my neighborhood. I run there all the time, always driving to some trailhead. As I am a distance runner, I wondered why I don't just run to the top from house and run back home? On this day, I did just that. Over the course of the 43 miles round-trip, I observed the following new species for the year:

  • Nashville Warbler (in a residential neighborhood)
  • Hammond's Flycatcher (Mt. Wilson Toll Road at about 4,000 feet)

In addition, as this does not merit it's own subject heading, I picked up my first Brown-headed Cowbird of the year at my home the next day.

April 14-20, Santa Clara River

While conducting riparian bird surveys, I observed the following new species over several days:

  • Bullock's Oriole
  • Lazuli Bunting
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Bell's Vireo
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird
  • Yellow-breasted Chat
  • Western Tanager
  • Marsh Wren
  • Wood Duck
  • Blue Grosbeak

Santa Clara River. Photo by Marcus C. England.

April 22, Verdugo Mountains

While on a ten mile loop run in the Verdugo Mountains, I observed the following new species:

  • MacGillivray's Warbler
  • Violet-green Swallow
  • Western Wood-Pewee

April 23, Elyria Canyon Park

Elyria Canyon Park is next to my house. I bird there frequently. On this morning, I closely observed my first definitive Rufous Hummingbird of 2015. Note that this species is difficult to separate from the abundant Allen's Hummingbird unless you get a good look at the tail. The bird was preening over my head.

April 24, Legg Lake and Montebello Hills

I stopped at Legg Lake to see what I could find. The only new species was Vaux's Swift. The Montebello Hills Oilfield is nearby. This oilfield supports a large California Gnatcatcher population (I was the lead biologist on the gnatcatcher habitat project there for many years). While I no longer have access to the oilfield directly, I probed the streets surrounding it until I finally heard one calling.

April 26, Angeles Crest 100 Training Run (22 miles from Chilao Flat to Chantry Flat)

There were a lot of birds on this run. Because this was a group run, I didn't keep a full species list, but I did make mental note of the new things I heard and saw during the run, all of which were present on the climb up the Edison Road to Newcomb Pass.

  • Hermit Warbler
  • Townsend's Warbler
  • Hutton's Vireo
  • Cassin's Vireo
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher

View looking west from the Edison Road, on the way down from Shortcut Saddle. Photo by Marcus C. England.

April 28, Santa Clara River

Again conducting riparian bird surveys for work, I managed to find some new species:

  • Bank Swallow
  • White-tailed Kite

May 2, Running/Hiking/Birding Mash-up in the Angeles National Forest High Country

I spent the day with a heavy, but runnable, backpack with binoculars and my good camera. This was the first time I ever carried binoculars on a run. The entirety of the run, between Lightning Ridge and Vincent Gap, was above 7,000 feet. These sorts of high mountain areas are my favorite place to spend time in. I observed the following new species:

  • Green-tailed Towhee
  • Red-breasted Sapsucker
  • Calliope Hummingbird
  • Costa's Hummingbird

Mt. Baden-Powell and the Angeles Crest Highway from Lightning Ridge. Photo by Marcus C. England.

May 3, Targeted Birding at Madrona Marsh, Ballona Wetlands, and Alondra Park

Headed to Madrona Marsh to search for Red-necked Phalorope, Bonaparte's Gull, and Clay-colored Sparrow, and ended up just getting Bonaparte's Gull. Then, I headed to Ballona Freshwater Marsh for Least Bittern and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, getting neither, but picking up a Sora (a rail) for the first time this year. Then, to the Ballona Channel near the beach where I hoped to get Least Tern, Elegant Tern, and Wandering Tattler. I got the second two of those in about five minutes, then left because of the crowd. Finally, I headed to Alondra Park, where a Canvasback was reported the previous day.

Canvasback at Alondra Park Reservoir. Photo by Marcus C. England.

May 4, Targeted Birding in the Antelope Valley

Since I had no fieldwork this morning, but a conference call that I just listen in on, I decided to chase more new species in the Antelope Valley. Went to the Lancaster Water Treatment Plant for a reported White-winged Scoter, and picked up both that species and Black Tern (not expected) in about ten minutes. I then went to a spot where a pair of Swainson's Hawks was observed a week ago. I went there, got out of my Jeep, and one was above me on a utility pole. I then headed to Holiday Lake near Neenach where 6 Yellow-headed Blackbirds were reported two days ago. The number of Tricolored Blackbirds was ridiculous (thousands). I spent about 30 fruitless minutes looking around, then finally found a female Yellow-headed Blackbird in a tree near the lake. 242 for the year.

Swainson's Hawk, Antelope Valley. Photo by Marcus C. England.