The three birders had just arrived at the main trail that leads through the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve. The hummingbird was so well disguised, that it was difficult for them to locate it.
It was an Anna’s Hummingbird. We could see the red throat patch above the edge of the nest.
“Do you live around here?” I inquired. John and Joan were from Pacific Palisades and Kathleen was from New Jersey. We ambled along together.
It was a beautiful spring-like morning and the sounds of spring were all around us.
“Goldfinches,” John pointed.
“They’re Americans,” I commented after scrutinizing them.Song Sparrows sang from the bushes and occasionally scurried out in the open. A Red-shouldered Hawk circled overhead.
As we approached the first trail leading to the lake, an Osprey flew overhead – low enough to clearly see its eye-stripe. It must have wintered here as I had seen it in November shortly after it arrived.
American Coots and Pied-billed Grebes swam in and out of the reeds at the edge of the lake.
Back across the main trail, we followed the tapping of a woodpecker in a creek-side tree.
“They are always on the back side of a tree,” Joan laughed.
Finally, it worked its way around to the front – where we could see its zebra-like back.
“A Ladder-backed Woodpecker,” I stated. “No, they don’t have Ladder-backs here; it’s a Nuttal’s.” I noticed that the side of its face was darker than the Ladder-backs I see in New Mexico.
Further along Haskell Creek, I flushed a Green Heron and called the others to take a look.
At the next lake turn-out, we had a good view of the cormorant rookery. I counted 63 cormorants among those swimming, brooding, sunning and flying in and out.
“Joan, look they’re feeding the chicks. You can see them stuffing food down their little mouths,” Kathleen exclaimed.
Two Canada Geese and eight American Wigeons rested on the island beneath the cormorants.
At the next turn-out, we focused on a small bird flitting in a tree next to the lake.
“Look at its wing bars. I think it is a kinglet,” Kathleen stated.
“It looks like a vireo beak,” I responded. “I think it is a Hutton’s Vireo.”
John was hopeful that it was a life bird, but discovered he had seen one in Arizona.I pointed out a Cassin’s Kingbird perched on the top of a perpendicular branch. We moved where we could get a better view.
“I can see the white under its bill,” John said.
“Common Yellowthroat,” I signaled pointing to the bushes next to the creek.
“I hard its wichity-wichity,” Kathleen replied.
At another turn-out, I flushed a Great Egret. It flew to the opposite shore, near where a Great Blue Heron kept its patient watch. A Belted Kingfisher rattled out from a limb, hovered like a helicopter over the water, and then nose-dived – emerging with a small fish in its bill.
Yellow-rumped Warblers darted in and out of the trees and several Allen’s Hummingbirds buzzed by. A few Northern Rough-winged Swallows swooped over the lake.
“There’s a Wood Duck next to the inlet,” a photographer gestured and then continued shooting pictures of a Snowy Egret.
I returned by way of the trail that skirts the scrub habitat, still in its winter garb. Two Turkey Vultures cruised low over the area in search of carrion.
When I emerged from the wildlife area, my new birding friends were enjoying lunch under the trees.
“We finally saw the yellowthroat,” Joan said.
As we sat there, a small flock of Western Bluebirds joined us, making forays from the trees to scrounge in the grass, along with a few Yellow-rumped Warblers.
It is wonderful to have this wildlife preserve in the middle of the bustling city. It is always a “must visit” destination on my regular trips to the San Fernando Valley.