(Above- Hermit Thrush photo taken at Franklin Canyon)
# 92- Learn the name of five local bird species
Here in Los Angeles, you might think we have only three local bird species: seagulls, sparrows, and pigeons. You may think their only purpose is to steal your french fries and dirty your car. You would be wrong. We also have large crows who are interested in eating the other three birds.
Kidding aside, you may be surprised to learn that we have over 491 species of birds living in la la land. Here is a list put together by the Los Angeles Audubon Society. If you are dismayed (as I was) of the poor quality of the PDF file, feel free to hit the donate button on their website so they can improve their publications (as I did).
I live near the Anthony C. Beilenson Park at Lake Balboa in Encino, which is a small man-made lake that has a 1.3 mile walking path around the perimeter. There is something new to see each season at Lake Balboa. In the winter, we get to see white pelicans. In the spring, the cherry blossoms make the whole lake sparkle with pink reflections, and in summer you will see many families barbecuing and pedaling bicycles or surreys, complete with fringe on top. In the fall, leaves are falling and you will see ducks waddling through them looking for insects.There are longer bike paths around the perimeter of the park, there are big sprawls of lawn for picnics, and you can pedal boats or row kayaks or fish in the lake.
I like to take pictures of the birds at Lake Balboa, and it occurred to me recently that I know so few of their names. I read a lovely book by Terry Tempest Williams, called “When Women Were Birds,” where she described frequent bird watching outings that she would take with her grandmother, in Utah. I was astonished to learn that she knew the songs and names of hundreds of birds. Here is a podcast from the author that took place at the Central Library downtown.
For this exercise today, I decided to select a few of the photographs I’ve taken in the past and use them to try to determine the species of bird. This was far more difficult than I imagined. Try googling ‘small brown bird’ and you’ll see what I mean.
Luckily, my friend Erica gave me a Field Guide to Birds of North America earlier today, or I might have been stumped forever. Once I looked up the birds in the Field Guide, I was able to narrow it down, but it was still challenging to tell the exact species. For instance, there are 35 types of sparrows in North America. For every type of sparrow, there are subspecies.
My son, Ethan, then told me about Reddit, a social media site, that has a page called, “What’s this bird?” Within four minutes of posting the pictures in today’s post, I received confirmation from bird enthusiasts around the world telling me exactly what species I had photographed.
We’ll start with an easy one, our state bird, the California Quail. There was very little light when I took this picture, and the covey of quail that I spotted was darting everywhere. I was surprised that I caught it in the frame at all. This image was taken at Franklin Canyon.
If you click on the link (California Quail) you can hear the Quail’s song which sounds like it is saying Chi-ca-go!
This one’s for fun because it’s not exactly local…I believe it is a Long Eared Owl. I saw it nesting on an electrical pole in Kern County.
This is a Great Blue Heron.
This is an immature Black-Crowned Night Heron (below). It looks a LOT different when it matures.
This is an American Coot. Check out its blue feet.
This is a Great Egret.
This is a Song Sparrow.
This was a fun exercise and like many things in life, you peel back a tiny corner and beneath it a universe unfolds. There are whole worlds of things I will never know about birds.
Today, however, I got 5. Here’s one to get you started.
350 days to go!