Los Angeles County Big Day – April 26th 2015

29 04 2015
Say's Phoebe - Luke Tiller

Say’s Phoebe – Luke Tiller

Sunday April 26th saw Catherine Hamilton, David Bell, Brittany O’Connor and I taking on a Birding Big Day in Los Angeles County. Our aim was to see or hear as many species of birds as possible in a 24hr period in order to raise money for the Pasadena Audubon Society. We started our day just before dawn and ended some eighteen exhausting hours later, well after the sun had gone down.

Our route planning was influenced as much by a desire not to just follow the typical route that most teams try but was also influenced by some scouting that we undertook pre-trip (though we managed to miss the two rarest birds that the group found whilst scouting: White-winged Scoter and Palm Warbler) . Our handy spreadsheet of stops helped keep our day on a airtight schedule and until we hit a rather sharp bump in the road we were a little ahead of it all day. Our main focus for much of the day was ruthlessly keeping on track and leaving sites with or without the species we needed from them once our allotted time was up: whether this was a two minute stop for a Canvasback or a thirty minute sweep of a renowned migrant trap.

I have to say that Big Days kind of go against my usual mode of birding. I like to bird locally and I like to thoroughly cover spots to make sure there is nothing there left unearthed. I soon opened my eyes though to the beauty and wonder of big days. It certainly doesn’t hurt that we had such a stunning visual backdrop to much of our explorations. In Los Angeles County you can easily go from shorebirds feeding on Grunion eggs, through standing amongst pines at 6000 plus feet looking at Clarke’s Nutcrackers and remnants of snow to enjoying views of beautiful desert birds like Scott’s Oriole and we did all that and more between sunrise and sunset.

Spotted Towhee - Luke Tiller

Spotted Towhee – Luke Tiller

Highlights on the day included those incredible swarms of shorebirds at Playa and a beautiful Mojave Green Rattlesnake that was sauntering across a private road in the desert half-light. The only rare birds we found on the day were a couple of flyover Common Ground Doves along the San Gabriel River. There were however some other interesting sightings: a late Greater Scaup near Playa Del Rey, a lost Acorn Woodpecker out in the desert near Lancaster and a baby Le Contes Thrasher (a notoriously secretive bird) at Edwards Airforce Base.

Of course you always miss some easy birds out on a long day like this and as a professional hawk watcher it particularly burned to not have pulled out either an Osprey, Swainson’s Hawk or Golden Eagle somewhere along our route. We won’t even mention the White-crowned Sparrow one of our group had at an early stop but forgot to convey to the rest of the group!

It still seems incredible to me to think that you can see or hear over 200 species of bird in just one single county in under 24 hours. In fact right until the end of the day our team had seen or heard every bird together until one of us was distracted by a jogger who was keen to know why we were running around a park with binoculars. Personally I think our team worked particularly well together and our different skills coalesced nicely to bring together different key elements to the group.

Red-tailed Hawk - Luke Tiller

Red-tailed Hawk – Luke Tiller

It was an amazingly fun day and showed off the outstanding diversity of habitat and birds that can be found in Los Angeles County nicely. Most outsiders when they think of LA think of city expanses, traffic and Hollywood. What they don’t think about are the majestic mountains, serene deserts as well as the river courses and green spaces where Angelenos play games, exercise, walk dogs and of course watch birds.

All in all a great days adventure. Even the bit where I learned how to rapidly change a tire on a Honda Odyssey! After carefully going over our list we discovered that in total we tallied 207 bird species (209 including non-countable birds: Yellow-chevroned Parakeet and Red-whiskered Bulbul).

The species list in full:

  1. Greater White-fronted Goose
  2. Snow Goose
  3. Ross’s Goose
  4. Cackling Goose
  5. Canada Goose
  6. Gadwall
  7. American Wigeon
  8. Mallard
  9. Blue-winged Teal
  10. Cinnamon Teal
  11. Northern Shoveler
  12. Northern Pintail
  13. Canvasback
  14. Redhead
  15. Ring-necked Duck
  16. Lesser Scaup
  17. Greater Scaup
  18. Surf Scoter
  19. Bufflehead
  20. Red-breasted Merganser
  21. Ruddy Duck
  22. Mountain Quail
  23. California Quail
  24. Common Loon
  25. Pied-billed Grebe
  26. Horned Grebe
  27. Eared Grebe
  28. Western Grebe
  29. Clark’s Grebe
  30. Brandt’s Cormorant
  31. Double-crested Cormorant
  32. Pelagic Cormorant
  33. Brown Pelican
  34. Least Bittern
  35. Great Blue Heron
  36. Great Egret
  37. Snowy Egret
  38. Green Heron
  39. Black-crowned Night-Heron
  40. White-faced Ibis
  41. Turkey Vulture
  42. White-tailed Kite
  43. Northern Harrier
  44. Cooper’s Hawk
  45. Red-shouldered Hawk
  46. Red-tailed Hawk
  47. Virginia Rail
  48. Sora
  49. Common Gallinule
  50. American Coot
  51. Black-necked Stilt
  52. American Avocet
  53. Black Oystercatcher
  54. Black-bellied Plover
  55. Semipalmated Plover
  56. Killdeer
  57. Spotted Sandpiper
  58. Greater Yellowlegs
  59. Willet
  60. Whimbrel
  61. Marbled Godwit
  62. Ruddy Turnstone
  63. Black Turnstone
  64. Surfbird
  65. Sanderling
  66. Dunlin
  67. Least Sandpiper
  68. Western Sandpiper
  69. Short-billed Dowitcher
  70. Long-billed Dowitcher
  71. Wilson’s Phalarope
  72. Red-necked Phalarope
  73. Bonaparte’s Gull
  74. Heermann’s Gull
  75. Ring-billed Gull
  76. Western Gull
  77. California Gull
  78. Least Tern
  79. Caspian Tern
  80. Forster’s Tern
  81. Royal Tern
  82. Elegant Tern
  83. Black Skimmer
  84. Rock Pigeon
  85. Band-tailed Pigeon
  86. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  87. Common Ground-Dove
  88. Mourning Dove
  89. Barn Owl
  90. Western Screech-Owl
  91. Great Horned Owl
  92. Northern Pygmy-Owl
  93. Burrowing Owl
  94. Lesser Nighthawk
  95. Common Poorwill
  96. Vaux’s Swift
  97. White-throated Swift
  98. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  99. Anna’s Hummingbird
  100. Allen’s Hummingbird
  101. Lewis’s Woodpecker
  102. Acorn Woodpecker
  103. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  104. Nuttall’s Woodpecker
  105. Hairy Woodpecker
  106. White-headed Woodpecker
  107. Northern Flicker
  108. American Kestrel
  109. Merlin
  110. Peregrine Falcon
  111. Prairie Falcon
  112. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  113. Western Wood-Pewee
  114. Hammond’s Flycatcher
  115. Gray Flycatcher
  116. Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  117. Black Phoebe
  118. Say’s Phoebe
  119. Ash-throated Flycatcher
  120. Cassin’s Kingbird
  121. Western Kingbird
  122. Loggerhead Shrike
  123. Bell’s Vireo
  124. Cassin’s Vireo
  125. Hutton’s Vireo
  126. Warbling Vireo
  127. Steller’s Jay
  128. Western Scrub-Jay
  129. Clark’s Nutcracker
  130. American Crow
  131. Common Raven
  132. Horned Lark
  133. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  134. Tree Swallow
  135. Violet-green Swallow
  136. Bank Swallow
  137. Barn Swallow
  138. Cliff Swallow
  139. Mountain Chickadee
  140. Oak Titmouse
  141. Bushtit
  142. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  143. White-breasted Nuthatch
  144. Pygmy Nuthatch
  145. Brown Creeper
  146. Rock Wren
  147. Canyon Wren
  148. House Wren
  149. Marsh Wren
  150. Bewick’s Wren
  151. Cactus Wren
  152. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  153. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  154. Wrentit
  155. Western Bluebird
  156. Townsend’s Solitaire
  157. Swainson’s Thrush
  158. American Robin
  159. California Thrasher
  160. Le Conte’s Thrasher
  161. Northern Mockingbird
  162. European Starling
  163. American Pipit
  164. Cedar Waxwing
  165. Phainopepla
  166. Orange-crowned Warbler
  167. Nashville Warbler
  168. Common Yellowthroat
  169. American Redstart
  170. Yellow Warbler
  171. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  172. Black-throated Gray Warbler
  173. Townsend’s Warbler
  174. Hermit Warbler
  175. Wilson’s Warbler
  176. Yellow-breasted Chat
  177. Green-tailed Towhee
  178. Spotted Towhee
  179. Rufous-crowned Sparrow
  180. California Towhee
  181. Chipping Sparrow
  182. Black-chinned Sparrow
  183. Black-throated Sparrow
  184. Savannah Sparrow
  185. Fox Sparrow
  186. Song Sparrow
  187. Dark-eyed Junco
  188. Western Tanager
  189. Black-headed Grosbeak
  190. Lazuli Bunting
  191. Red-winged Blackbird
  192. Western Meadowlark
  193. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  194. Brewer’s Blackbird
  195. Great-tailed Grackle
  196. Brown-headed Cowbird
  197. Hooded Oriole
  198. Bullock’s Oriole
  199. Scott’s Oriole
  200. House Finch
  201. Purple Finch
  202. Cassin’s Finch
  203. Pine Siskin
  204. Lesser Goldfinch
  205. Lawrence’s Goldfinch
  206. American Goldfinch
  207. House Sparrow



One response

30 04 2015

Great ad for Los Angeles County!

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