LOS AN­GE­LES It’s syn­ony­mous with the rich and fa­mous, but LA is also the per­fect lo­ca­tion for a bird­ing trip

Bird Watching (UK) - - Bird The World -

LOS AN­GE­LES IN ‘Cal­i­fauna’, as I like to call the state. The mere men­tion of this mega city’s name con­jures up images of op­u­lence, movie stars, pre­fect beach bod­ies, flash cars and wall-to-wall sun­shine. Let us not for­get its great mu­si­cal heritage, but can you imag­ine LA as an ur­ban bird­ing venue? Many peo­ple’s vi­sions of LA are ac­tu­ally of Hol­ly­wood, it­self just a city clus­ter within an even big­ger ur­ban conur­ba­tion. If you take a walk down Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard to stare down at the Hol­ly­wood Stars em­bla­zoned onto the pave­ment, or drift along the highly salu­bri­ous Rodeo Drive to ex­am­ine the bling in the store win­dows: look up! If you do, you may no­tice the ubiq­ui­tous Mourn­ing Doves and caw­ing Amer­i­can Crows head­ing over the streets, ac­com­pa­nied by the larger and de­cid­edly ur­ban Ravens. In­ter­est­ingly, the Ravens in Cal­i­for­nia, cur­rently deemed as be­ing of the same species as our very own birds, are now mooted as a po­ten­tial split. You may also no­tice pot-bel­lied Western Gulls pa­trolling the same skies as White-throated Swifts and, if you are re­ally lucky, you might sight a Band-tailed Pi­geon wing­ing its way to­wards the Hol­ly­wood Hills look­ing like a rakish Wood­pi­geon. As with all cities, not all its streets are paved with gold. Some of LA’S Down­town area looks and def­i­nitely feels ropey. But even here, if you glance up dur­ing the sum­mer, you could see a Pere­grine, the clas­sic in­ter­na­tional ur­ban rap­tor. You might also glimpse groups of Vaux’s Swifts hawk­ing among the high rises. This tiny swift that nor­mally breeds within caves and other crevices well out­side the city has re­cently been found breed­ing within the very sky­scrapers that they swirl around. It’s another case of an amaz­ing dis­cov­ery made right be­neath our noses. Con­trary to what you might imag­ine, LA is very much a sea­side city set in a desert. It is an ir­ri­gated oa­sis with a sur­pris­ing amount of avail­able habi­tat de­spite its huge pop­u­la­tion. Al­most any­where along its coast­line can of­fer good sea­watch­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially dur­ing mi­gra­tion pe­ri­ods. The bluey-grey Pa­cific race of Ful­mar and other tubenoses, such as Flesh-footed Shear­wa­ter, can be iden­ti­fied from the shore­line, along with al­cids like Rhi­noc­eros Auk­let. Brown Pel­i­can, Western and Heer­mann’s Gulls are givens. Ad­di­tion­ally, dur­ing the win­ter months, Pa­cific Diver, Glau­cous-winged Gull, Surf Scoter and Western Grebe can eas­ily be found. An early morn­ing visit to the beaches will re­sult in waders, terns and gulls, even at pop­u­lar spots like Venice Beach. You can get ridicu­lously close to Hud­so­nian Whim­brel, Wil­let, Mar­bled God­wit, Royal and El­e­gant Terns and Cal­i­for­nia Gull. There are many bird­ing sites within the city to dis­cover and not many of them are reg­u­larly birded. My favourite spot is Bal­lona, which is a 1,087-acre mix­ture of salt­wa­ter, brack­ish and fresh­wa­ter marsh­land sit­u­ated on the coast very close to LAX, the city’s main air­port. It is a ver­i­ta­ble ur­ban bird­ing par­adise and dur­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate sea­sons you are prac­ti­cally guar­an­teed Long-billed and Short-billed Want to see Acorn Wood­pecker? Try, for in­stance, Franklin Canyon

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