Ballona Photography | Fall Returns to the Ballona Freshwater Marsh

Fall Returns to the Ballona Freshwater Marsh

October 29, 2017  •  5 Comments

Our migrating neighbors have started returning to the Ballona Wetlands area for the winter.  Each year the ducks, seabirds, long-legged waders, sparrows, and many others start arriving in August, with most coming September though late November.  Many of these birds fly over a thousand miles, 300-400 miles a day, over the course of one to three months just to be here!  Imagine that! 

The Ballona Wetlands’ freshwater marsh – located on Jefferson and Lincoln Blvd. -- is an anchor destination for dozens of wintering species. Though the current freshwater marsh is a fraction of Ballona’s original freshwater wetlands, the safety of the mini islands and reed clumps along with the tiny fish, reptiles, insects, invertebrates, and aquatic plants make it a rich, multi-layered ecosystem, constantly circulating the food chain, starting at the low end with the algae and other microscopic creatures living in the marsh.  In the spring, the ducks and Bittern shown below head north, where they spend summers breeding and raising their broods.

Fortunately, many migrating birds still choose to make this either their winter home base or one of their refueling stopovers on their way to more southern destinations of Mexico, Central, or South America.  Some of the most visible species you can spot in the freshwater marsh now through next March are shown.

Many birds who winter here can be found in the freshwater marsh, the Del Rey lagoon, the Ballona Creek, and in the marina.  Here are some of the wintering birds that stay more in the freshwater marsh than the other locations mentioned. An “*” by the name indicates this is a climate-endangered species

  *Cinnamon Teal.  Winters in the US Southwest marshes, ponds, and streams bordered with reeds, with some traveling as far as the Southern American tropics.  Each spring, Cinnamon Teals head to British Columbia, and Montana.

Green-winged Teal. Winters in Southern coastal states of the United States and in Eurasia. Each spring, Green-winged Teals head to northern Alaska and Canada.

*Northern Shoveler. Winters in marshes from Oregon across southern half of the United States t and as far south as Central America. Each spring, Northern Shovelers head to Alaska, northern Manitoba, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and even California.

*Gadwalls. Winters in freshwater and saltwater marshes, ponds, and streams across much of the United States. Each spring, Gadwalls head to Southern Alaska, British Columbia, and Minnesota, but can be found as far south as California and western Texas.

 Ruddy Duck. Winters on marshes and in shallow coastal bays along both North American coasts, as far north as British Columbia and Massachusetts, and as far inland as Missouri. Each spring, Ruddy Ducks head north to British Columbia and Quebec or as far west as southern New Mexico and southern Texas, where they breed on freshwater marshes, marshy lakes, and ponds.

   *Least Bittern. Winters from southern California, the lower Colorado River, the Gulf Coast, and southward to South America. Each spring, the Least Bitterns breed locally in California and the Southwest, head north to Manitoba, Canada, or east from Texas to the Atlantic coast. The Least Bittern is a species of high concern in the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan and is a U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service migratory bird of conservation concern in the Northeast.


Sara Nichols(non-registered)
Thank you! You made my day! Can you believe this is Los Angeles?
Eugene Nutt(non-registered)
Love dem gadwals
Leslie Oliver(non-registered)
Wow! Thank you! What beautiful birds... and photos! How many of these have you seen return this year? I'm concerned...
Ruth Gonzales(non-registered)
Amazing pictures, Bev-Sue!!!ove your monthly blogs!
Justin St.Denis(non-registered)
Great work! Thank you
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