Ballona Wetlands - 2016 Wintering Wildlife Neighbors

March 30, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

By Bev-Sue Powers, © all rights reserved (www.ballonaphotography.com)

This winter, I was delighted to have spotted birds new to me in the Ballona Wetlands.  I even noticed a Turkey Vulture for a few days, but didn’t get a good pic. Some of the new birds I’ve seen during the 2016 winter season are:

  • Long-Tailed Duck (Oldsquaw). Breeds on northern Alaska and Canadian arctic tundra. Winters along both North American coasts, portions of the Gulf Coast, and on the Great Lakes. Feeds on mollusks, shrimps, and crabs (in winter) and roots, buds, seeds (when nesting). Ducklings feed on insect larvae. Considered a common bird, it is now on the steep decline watch list (meaning they’re likely to be extinct within 40- 50 years). This is mainl due to habitat loss, human interference (e.g., caught in fishing line & nets), compounded by climate change impacts. 
  • Green-Winged Teal.  Breeds in Alaska, throughout Canada, and south to California, Colorado, Nebraska, and New York.  Winters along coastal southern states. Feeds on marsh seeds.
  • Gadwall. Breeds primarily in the Great Plains and prairies, but also from southern Alaska, British Columbia, and Minnesota, south to /California and western Texas.  Feeds on aquatic plants.
  • Cassin’s Kingbird.  Breeds from Montana south to southern Utah and Southwest. Winters in southern California. Feeds on flying insects and some fruit.
  • American Kestrel. Breeds from Alaska, Canada, and northern Midwest of the US. Winters throughout the US and into the South American tropics. Feed on insects, other invertebrates, small rodents, and small birds.

For the birds listed along with many others, the LA area wetlands have been their centuries-old winter home. While I am thrilled they’ve returned to the Ballona Wetlands, the very limited number returning this year is indicative of how tenuous their survival is due to the drought and habitat losses along the Pacific Flyway (i.e., migration path), not to mention significant habitat loss in the Ballona Wetlands itself the past 10 years. It remains up to us to ensure our winter neighbors have a robust place to return to each year.  I encourage you to get to know your beautiful urban wildlife neighbors while they're still here.  Bring your neighbors, kids and grandkids. If nothing else we can still witness to the beautiful living creatures that, through the eons, have inspired art, music, dance, and many other forms of creative expression.

The best places to spot birds in the Ballona Wetlands are the freshwater marsh, in the salt pans, along the Ballona Creek bike paths & levees, along the jetties and beaches, in the Marina Del Rey harbor, and the Del Rey Lagoon in Playa del Rey.  There are also other species in the Riparian Corridor (sandwiched between the Westchester Bluffs and the adjacent properties of Playa Vista, Playa Runway, & the Campus at Playa Vista). 

Resources:

  • Download Cornell University’s ebird and Merlin Bird ID apps, which easily help identify and report sightings of birds in your area.  The sighting data is used by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and LA’s Natural History Museum among others, to inventory the populations of native and non-native species.  It’s an easy and enjoyable way to explore and get to know these important wildlife neighbors.
  • Friends of Ballona is an organization devoted to the Ballona Wetlands protection, restoration, and public and educational involvement.  They offer public and private tours, many volunteer opportunities and are a rich resource for teachers and educators.  They coordinate the mentioned activities with the local Audubon, wildlife rescue groups, and many other organizations and agencies.  See www.ballonafriends.org for more info.
  • 1st Saturday of the month, 9 a.m. to noon, the Los Angeles Audubon Society hosts “Open Wetlands”, at the Ballona Salt Marsh with Cindy Hardin at cindyhardin@laaudubon.org or call (310) 301-0050.
  • 3rd Sunday of the month, 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Los Angeles Audubon Society hosts bird walks, Del Rey Lagoon; Leader: Bob Shanman and Friends; Contact: Bob (310) 326-2473; wbutorrance@gmail.com

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