Ballona Photography | The 2015 Fall Migration & Pacific Flyway Perils

The 2015 Fall Migration & Pacific Flyway Perils

March 30, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

By Bev-Sue Powers, © All Rights Reserved (

Living next to the Ballona Wetlands is a special treat during migration season.  In another article, I lamented the absence of the Brown Pelicans. The 2015 fall migration season started in September and ended in mid-November.  Birds traveled from as far as the northern Artic for nesting grounds to winter here.  Others will pass through the Ballona Wetlands for a brief stay to refuel before they continue as far south as South America winter destinations.  For the many species will stay here for the winter, the best places to spot birds are in the Ballona Wetlands’ fresh water marsh, salt pans, along the Ballona Creek jetties and beaches, the Marina Del Rey harbor, and the Del Rey Lagoon in Playa del Rey.  Most spots are an easy bike ride or walk from Fisherman’s Village, the Playa Del Rey or Playa Vista parking areas. 

Drought’s Impact on Migrating Birds

While researching this article, I discovered that wildlife refuges in the Pacific Flyway are the bottom priority for water allocation, with agriculture, industries, and communities ahead of them.  This, along with the severe drought in California, has had a compound impact to the Pacific flyway weigh stations the migrating birds rely on to make their annual treks. Habitat loss, water shortages, diminishing food sources, and climate change all threaten the birds along the Pacific Flyway. In just one example, these charts compare normal conditions vs current conditions of California’s Central Valley, a major weigh station on the Pacific Flyway.1

If you do spot our wintering neighbors, be delighted!  For these are the hardy ones who’ve endured some very challenging conditions to make it back to the Wetlands.  I’ve included some pics of some of my some favorite transient neighbors from last winter. Let’s hope many of the birds are strong enough to return!  Here are some handsome wildlife neighbors who returned from the 2015 summer nesting destinations.

Black Brant. Breeds in the Arctic tundra.  Winters in California & Carolina coasts.

Red Breasted Merganser. California, northern New Mexico, Great Lakes, and northern New England. Winters in northern Mexico, along Gulf coast, & So. Cal coast.  

Hooded Merganser. Breeds from southern Alaska south to Oregon & Montana. Winters along

Pacific, Atlantic, & Gulf coasts

Northern Pintail. Breeds primarily in Alaska and Labrador south to Maine, Nebraska, & sometimes California. Winters south to Central America & West Indies.


1Birds Are Dying As Drought Ravages Avian Highways, by  Jane Kay, National Geographic, Published JULY 16, 2015,


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