Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Favorite Places

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
Huntington Beach, California
February 21st, 2011

One of my favorite places to go birdwatching in Southern California is Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach. It consists of over 1,200 acres of coastal wetlands and chaparral scrub and over a mile of trail that loops through the reserve. A walk through the reserve will allow you to observe native flora and fauna of Southern California. Throughout the year over 300 species birds migrate through or nest in the wetlands including the endangered California Least Tern. The reserve is also habitat for several mammal and reptile species including cottontail rabbits, Beechey ground squirrels, Pacific rattlesnakes, and Western fence lizards. If you find yourself in or near Huntington Beach, California I suggest you visit Bolsa Chica.

Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve
Los Angeles County, California
November 21st, 2010

Another one of my favorite places to go birdwatching is Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve in Van Nuys. The wildlife reserve consists of a 225 acres of riparian habitat,  chaparral scrub and an 11 acre lake. Late fall to early spring is the best time to visit the reserve for the purposes of birdwatching. According to the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserves website over 200 species of birds make migrate through the reserve yearly, many are actually found here year round. I personally have counted over 100 species during my many trips to the reserve. Besides birds you may also see several species of mammals and reptiles including  Beechey ground squirrels, Western fence lizards, and cottontail rabbits. Because of the proximity to my house this reserve is one of my most frequented locations. If you are in the area it is a great place to visit.

Del Rey Lagoon Park
Playa Del Rey, California
February 2011

Another place I love to visit, like Bolsa Chica is also near the coast. Playa Del Rey is a small beach community south of Marina Del Rey. At it's center is Del Rey Lagoon Park with a saltwater lagoon that ebbs and flows with the tide. I like to stroll around the lagoon looking for waterfowl and shorebirds. I then walk along the jetty watching the pelicans and other sea going birds, as well as the many fishermen fishing among the rocks. Occasionally I will walk along the beach path and check out the gulls and, in the right season, the terns who hang out on the sand. During the fall and spring migrations over 200 species of birds have been observed including several endangered and threatened species like the California least tern and the snowy plover. 

Just east of Del Rey Lagoon Park is the Ballona Wetlands which consists of both brackish and freshwater marshes as well as a riparian area. The sensitive estuarine and brackish areas are only open for visitation by appointment or during schedules community events. See the Friends of Ballona website for more details regarding community events or visits. The Freshwater marsh and riparian zone are open to the public. You can enter this portion of the wetlands at the corner of Jefferson and Lincoln east of Playa Del Rey. Since Playa Del Rey and the Ballona Freshwater marsh are so close to LAX, I will often visit here before or after picking up friends or family from the airport.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Curious Squirrel at the Park

Sciurus niger
Del Rey Lagoon Park
Playa Del Rey, California
February 19th, 2011

After a successful day of counting birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count, we were sitting in the park when this curious fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) came toward us. It was very tame and I suspect was used to getting snacks from passersby. I was able to get in quite close to the squirrel and take several photos of  before it scurried up a nearby tree.

The fox squirrel (S. niger) is actually not native to Southern California. Historically the squirrel's range was the Eastern United States, where it inhabited the interface of the deciduous forests and the prairies. Today it can be found as a common inhabitant of urban and suburban areas throughout the Eastern United States and has been introduced to California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. 

According to Julie L. King (2004), the fox squirrel was introduced to Los Angeles around 1904. The story goes that residents of the Sawtelle Veterans' Home brought several of these squirrels from the Mississippi Valley to their Veterans' Home. These squirrels subsequently escaped captivity or were purposely set free. Over the last 100 years, their population grown and their range has expanded east to San Dimas, north into the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valley, west toward Oxnard, and South as far as Newport Beach. Scientists are concerned that this expansion may be displacing the native western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus). 

below is a bonus image of this curious little squirrel.