Monday, April 18, 2005

18th April - Touchdown

Today I arrived with my wife Vitty in LA for my first visit to America. It promised to be a fantastic holiday for me, with a vast array of birds and other wildlife which would be completely new. I've been birding in the UK for many years and have notched up most of the regular American vagrants, but here on the west coast most of what I see would be new.

That wasn't the case for the first three birds though, Starling, House Sparrow and Feral Pigeon. An inauspicious start, but it wasn't long before I'd found Mourning Dove, American Crow and House Finch on the way out of the airport. All three proved abundant, but lifers nonetheless.

I hadn't planned to do much on the first afternoon before meeting up with our friend Cat with whom we were spending the first night. I figured I needed gently breaking in to driving an American automatic car on American roads, and not to mention the American birds. So a trip to Marina del Rey, not far from the airport seemed like a good idea.

Here a muddy lagoon proved to be excellent for shorebirds including my first Willets, Marbled Godwits and Hudsonian Whimbrel. A flock of Western Sandpipers contained a couple of Least Sandpipers while Grey (Black-bellied) Plovers provided a touch of familiarity. There was a flock of what I thought at the time were all Long-billed Dowitchers, but checking the photos I think included at least one Short-billed.

Four of the six species of gull were lifers: Western, California, Glaucous-winged, Heermann's and Ring-billed Gulls were present and an adult Bonaparte's Gull flew through. The Ring-billed, although numerous here, proved to be the only ones seen all holiday.

Also present were Snowy Egrets and a single Great Blue Heron.

After all this there was only just time to look at the jetty which held Black Oystercatcher, 3 Surfbirds, Black and Ruddy Turnstones. Brown Pelicans were all around and a few Red-breasted Mergansers were feeding with a flock of Double-crested Cormorants in the channel.

The first hirundine was only a Barn Swallow but 2 Northern Rough-winged Swallows soon turned up. On the beach 4 Caspian Terns accompanied a flock of 250 Elegant Terns but it was now time to make our way. Arriving at Cat's we were greeted by a Northern Mockingbird (as well as Cat and Steve of course), my 19th lifer of the afternoon.