It could have been a long day. I had no car and June gloom hung like a shroud outside. I had counted on driving to the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area while my grand-daughter was at preschool.
Well, I thought, I suppose I could walk over to the soccer fields in the Sepulveda Basin Recreational Area, just a block from my son’s house. I could explore the edge of the fields that backs up to the Los Angeles River. Maybe, I could even walk over to Lake Balboa, where Carolyn from the San Fernando Audubon Society had suggested I might find a Tri-colored Blackbird.
As I entered the park on Oxnard Blvd., three birds were foraging in the grass next to the tennis courts. I peered at them through my binoculars. The white eye of the Brewer’s Blackbird caught my attention. Carolyn had told me that Tri-coloreds like to hang out with Brewer’s, so I focused on the next bird. It had red, and what looked like white, wing bars and the third bird, a female was darker and smudgier than Red-winged females. I took a photo and then zoomed in on it to make sure of the coloring. A life bird!
I thought about all of the times I had walked across this park to the children’s play area with my grand-daughter, barely paying attention to the Brewer’s Blackbirds that are always foraging in the grass!
Things were looking up – and I only had walked a block.
While I stood there, a Bullock’s oriole flew into a tree near the blackbirds, its bright orange plumage contrasting with the green foliage. Barn Swallows swooped back and forth across the fields.
Before I knew it, I was at Balboa Blvd. I crossed under the road on bike trail, side stepping as a bicyclist whizzed past me, and then scrunching along the edge of the trail where a group of nine moms were doing exercises on one half of the trail, while their strollers were parked on the other side.
Lake Balboa was delightful – a popular place for people of all ages to enjoy their morning strolls or power walks. Almost right away, I saw group of Brewer’s Blackbirds – with one Tri-colored mixed in. A Double-crested Cormorant was perched on each piling across the lake. A Great Egret flew in to stand watch on the opposite bank, and was soon joined by a Snowy Egret. A few Pied-billed Grebes and Coots joined Mallards on the lake. An occasional Western Gull flew by. American Robins and Great-tailed Grackles strutted on the grass.
Further along I saw a Great-blue Heron rookery in the tops of some eucalyptus trees along the river. One was perched on the edge of the creek below.
“How do I get to Woodley?” I asked a grounds-keeper who was taking a break from blowing leaves.
“Follow along this path until you get to the bridge over the creek,” he replied. “Then you walk along the road leading from the golf course. It is probably a mile.”
Undaunted, I walked on, making note of the restaurant sign on the side of the club house in the public golf course. Before long I was on Woodley; however, I was just south of Victory, so it was further than I thought to the entrance to the Sepulveda Wildlife Area. But, I had walked this far, so I kept going. The tubular flowers of the Desert Willows lining the parkway were in bloom, and I checked them for hummingbirds, hoping for an Allen’s. I did see an Anna’s.
Fortunately, a median divided the busy road just beyond the entrance of the wildlife area, which made it possible for me to cross four lanes of fast traffic.
The wildlife lake was quiet and felt even more subdued with the gray skies. I began to scan the bushes where Carolyn suggested I might find an Allen’s Hummingbird, but none of the flowers were in bloom. As I started down the trail, one of the bushes was alive with the chittering of Bushtits. They began to exit one by one and seemed to follow me down the trail, picking off insects as they went.
I wandered down one of the informal trails towards the lake. A mother Coot was swimming near the edge with three squeaking juveniles. One of them followed her as she came on shore to check things out.
Further along Song Sparrows hopped out from the underbrush and bobbed along the trail before ducking back under cover. A couple of scruffy juveniles popped out above it, and then quickly disappeared. They looked as if they were surveying the outside world for the first time.
Double-crested Cormorants were lounging on the end of the island, and a Great Egret stood on the edge, never taking its eyes off the water.
A flock of Cliff Swallows flew round and round near the edge of the water, sometimes darting into the woods – one almost clipping my head.
Further along the trail, a Yellow Warbler popped out of the under brush, a bright spot on a dull day.
A woodpecker flew across the trail, recognizable by its ‘breast-stroke’ flight pattern. When it landed in some bare twiggy branches, I focused my binoculars on it – a Downey Woodpecker.
I worked my way back on the trail that borders the area of natural grasses, sages and wild flowers. The smell of damp sage filled the air. Lesser Goldfinches buzzed and mewed in the sun flowers. As I crossed the cricket field, a Bullock’s oriole flew into a nearby tree. Red-winged Blackbirds and European Starlings foraged in flocks on the grass. A Western Kingbird flew on and off its perch at the edge of the picnic area.
It was time to head back.
I trudged up Woodley, stopping to scan the Desert Willows. Nada. As I walked along the trail bordering the road into the golf course, I was literally picking up one foot, then setting it down, and repeating with the other foot. I kept the club house in view, knowing I could soon stop and rest my legs.
While I was sitting by the window over looking the gold course, I was rewarded with an Allen’s Hummingbird that flew into a bird of paradise type of plant right outside the window. It hovered long enough for me to get a good look. Another life bird!
Only another two miles back to BJ’s house. That evening when we added up every where I had wandered; BJ figured that I had walked at least six miles. In a land of endless freeways, I had walked most of the distance of the 2,000-acre Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, enjoying a cross-section of its natural wonders. A delightful day indeed.