Birding Sepulveda Basin

I would be heading back to New Mexico the next day after a fun-filled visit with my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. They had headed back to work and preschool – and I had a day to bird in Sepulveda Basin adjacent to their home.

I headed west to the Soccer Complex, but instead of taking the paved path, I meandered along the Los Angeles River, where the orange feathers of Bullock’s Oriole flashed in the sunlight as they flew back and forth from the river side trees to the park.

I had intended to walk over to Lake Balboa after crossing under Balboa Blvd; however, on a whim, I decided to meander along the river a ways further before backtracking.

Black Phoebes called from their perches – both next to the river and from low branches just inside the golf course to the south. More Bullock’s Oriole’s stood out like beacons in the dense foliage along the river.

Movement on the golf course caught my attention – Western Blue Birds, both adults and juveniles sailed down from low branches to the grass to retrieve insects, then hopped back up again. The juvenile’s eye ring gave it a wide-eyed look.

After walking for about a quarter of a mile, I realized I could see Sepulveda Dam in the distance. It did not seem that far – maybe a mile and a half! Last year my trek to the Sepulveda Wildlife Area took a roundabout route of at least three miles. I had not intended to walk that far this year, but maybe…

Flocks of Bushtits visited the shrubs along the trail – sometimes as many as 16 whirling dervishes.

A female Black-chinned Hummingbird perched briefly on a small limb. More prevalent were Allen’s Hummingbirds. At one point a male Allen’s was doing a modified display flight back and forth, back and forth – it’s signal that another hummer was in its territory.

A couple of California Towhees appeared from the underbrush as a pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds landed above them.

A soft kek-kek-kek alerted me to a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk. I watched it perched high in one of the golf course trees next to the trail, and then it flew towards center of the park. At this time of year, Coop fledglings are beginning to expand their territories.

At Woodley Ave. I was able to cross at a light signal, and then it was only about a quarter of a mile on the sidewalk along Burbank Blvd. to the trail into the south end of the wildlife area.

A sign along trail calls the Sepulveda Wildlife Area an “Oasis in the Valley.” It is one of my favorite places to bird in San Fernando Valley and is indeed a peaceful oasis, particularly on a weekday.

I head north along the path, exploring each side trail as I went. When I got to a good vantage point, I sat on a concrete barricade next to the water to watch the cormorants. A few females were sitting on their nests, while a group of males lounged on ground below them. A short distance away, a group of juvenile cormorants gathered in what is called a ‘creche.’ From time to time, a cormorant would shoot out from the island heading out to search for food, or one would zoom in to feed its mate.

Mallards swam lazily in family groups. The males already had begun to molt. Pied-billed Grebes were dotted around the lake.

Juvenile Song Sparrows squeaked as they flew tentatively from shrub to shrub.

Bees buzzed from flower to flower in the wild roses lining the trail.

At the next stop, a father was helping his son learn metering on an evidently new camera.

I stopped at a picnic table to eat my energy bar and drink some water – and was treated to a Nuttal’s Woodpecker.

As I headed back along the trail, there was a Common Yellowthroat calling from the thicket along the creek and Yellow Warblers were singing nearby.

Then it was time to head back to the trail along the river.

Los Angeles River

Before entering the riverside trail, I paused at the Woodley overpass to gaze at the tranquil and lush river – a far cry from the stereotypical vision of the Los Angeles River.

On my return trip, I stopped to watch hungry Cassin’s Kingbirds clamoring for food. A parent would zip in, deposit an insect in the mouth of one of the fledglings, and then was off again.

A juvenile Red-tailed Hawk circled over the park beyond the river.

I always enjoy the opportunity to explore the Sepulveda Basin on foot, and today was no exception.

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