Sunday, March 4, 2012

Marina Del Rey, February 18th

Marina Del Rey
Bird activity here always seems to be constant, but its the type of birds that fluctuate. Last time it was an all grebe show, but today it was other waterfowl. While driving to the location I had an interesting falcon fly over. It was not a Kestrel or a Merlin and it had no black "armpits" and it was fairly large. I could only assume it was a Peregrine, but I have no clue what they look like other than in the stereotypical perched pose since I had never seen one before.

In the car park I noticed a far-off shorebird which seems to be undeniably a Long-billed Curlew, but hazy and uncertain opinions from other birders puts me off. The bill seems far too long for a Whimbrel to me.


At the location I noticed some new ducks. Bufflehead had taken up residence on Ballona Creek, as had some Red-breasted Mergansers. Both little grebes, though mostly Horned, were still prevailing, but there was not a sign of the Western Grebes, and with the absence of Western Grebes went my hope of finding a Clark's. A flyby Willet was appreciated; you can never get bored of these attractive waders.

Eared Grebe

Next was another Willet, or so I thought. I passed it off as it had black and white wing markings (which I considered all varations of to be stereotypical to the Willet) but then I remembered that the Surfbird sported similar markings. The stubby bill seemed to match, but then I had a recollection of the Pluvialis plovers (i.e. Pacific Gold) having this wing pattern. In the end it turned out that it was a Pluvialis; a Black-bellied Plover. I was really hoping for one of the other two birds.

This gull is not yet identified. Its probably a California or a Herring.
And for the first time ever I had a male Red-breasted Merganser. I have probably seen about 15 females by now.

Royal Tern:
I had several other interesting gulls here, but I cannot get any ID for them, so I will exclude them from this report for now.

Backtracking, I found an interesting low-flying duck-like dark bird.
It was undoubtedly a Brent Goose (*cough* Brant *cough*) and it was completely unexpected. There had been previous reports of a single  Brant Brent Goose at this location for a while, but there was a fair gap between the last report and now. I wasn't looking for it because I already had decent Brent Goose pictures from SeaWorld in San Diego, but it wasn't something to ignore.

FYI I dislike the name Brant, which seems to have occupied the minds of birders outside of Europe. There is no "Brent Goose" in North America.

It flew out to sea and disappeared again, but later when I was walking down the rocks it flew over and landed right beside me. I can't think of any other place where you could get within 2 metres of a Brent Goose. They are just never this tame and even if they are they tend to be out at sea or in marshy wetlands which are downright unaccessible.

This picture was taken at 0% zoom just to show how close it was. If it helps, putting your hand so it
aligns with mine gives a better impression of distance.

And still no Surfbird. Someone who had visited on the same day as me had 80 of them. Where are an earth are they?

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