Monthly Archives: April 2012
April 29, 2012
The work party in Elyria Canyon Park today had a modest attendance, and those who came to work watered plants and put some seedlings into the butterfly garden, including bush lupines and bush sunflowers. Bunch grass seedlings were also planted in an approximately 10 square foot patch in the meadow near the red barn. These tender plants will need to be watered with some regularity during the hot summer to ensure that they can survive their first year, but after that, they will need only sporadic care, most significantly weeding to keep non-native plants from competing for precious water.
After much searching, members of the beautification committee eventually located some native stinging nettles. This is not a plant that is normally available at nurseries, and the committee wanted to introduce the plant into Elyria Canyon Park as part of the butterfly garden since it is a native larval host for the Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta, a cheerful dark colored butterfly with bright orange-red bands on each of its wings. Though there have been Red Admiral sightings in Elyria Canyon Park this season, the fast flying butterflies have proven very elusive and they have not been willing to pose for the camera. This somewhat tattered specimen was photographed in a private garden on Burnell Drive where they frequently sun themselves in the late afternoon hours.
April 21, 2012
While on the bird walk hosted by Julian Donahue, folks who were looking at the ground saw this lovely, low growing plant with yellow flowers at the entrance of the park where Elyria Drive dead ends. Sensing that it might be a native, it was photographed and afterwards correctly identified by Julian, Clare and Lynnette. Here is Julian’s comment: ”I’ve now looked closely at Daniel’s photo, and it looks like the flower is a native called Golden Yarrow (Eriophyllum confertifolium). I’ve heard the name mentioned before, but guess I never realized that it belonged to this plant, which isn’t a yarrow at all.”
Six MWHA members who enjoy the wonders of wildlife attracted to the open space we have on Mt Washington joined Julian Donahue for a second bird walk in Elyria Canyon Park. Several new species that were not spotted the previous week thrilled those lucky enough to see them.
The first new species spotted by the group was a beautiful male Western Tananger that flew across the Elyria Drive several times. A second more drab individual was seen in the same area, and it might have been a female or an immature male. The elusive creatures, though conclusively identified, did not sit still long enough to be photographed or for Julian to view them through the scope. This photo taken by Kathy shows the group trying to get a better view down the hill into Elyria Canyon Park.
In the same general area of Elyria Drive as the Western Tananger sighting, the group got to watch a pair of Band-Tailed Pigeons, a native species not to be confused with the introduced city pigeons. Band-Tailed Pigeons are much larger than the introduced pigeons and they can be recognized by the white band at the edge of the tail.
A pair of tiny Bushtits was seen searching a California Black Walnut tree for insects. During much of the year, Bushtits travel in flocks that are nearly always heard before they are seen. They miraculously appear in trees and shrubs where they forage for insects, and then they seem to just as quickly vanish from view, reappearing in some other nearby tree. Julian noted that during mating season, which is occurring now, the Bushtits stop flocking and they pair up to build a nest and raise a brood.
The group then caught a quick glance at a Lazuli Bunting, but this fleeting view did not allow for any photos. This taught Daniel a very good lesson. He had stopped on a nearby bench to remove foxtails from his socks and missed the unusual sighting.
The final new sighting on this trip was of a California Thrasher that Julian heard and finally located at the top of a hill where it was perched in the top branch of a California Black Walnut tree. The distinctive downward curving bill immediately identifies this relative of the Northern Mockingbird, another common species that was sighted throughout the walk. Please try to join us on upcoming MWHA bird walks that have been scheduled to coincide with spring migrations, a time that brings many nonresident species to our neighborhood. The open spaces and parks that the community has worked so diligently to preserve over the past twenty years provides a perfect habitat for native species and seasonal migrants. Here is a complete list of the species spotted on Saturday, April 21, 2012 as provided by Julian Donahue.
Account of the 18 Species Observed
Band-tailed Pigeon. Good views of this gorgeous native resident, not to be confused with the domestic pigeon (now known as Rock Pigeon)
Mourning Dove. They’re everywhere, and their mournful song can be heard all over the hill.
Anna’s Hummingbird. Good scope view of a male on his lookout post in the canyon. When he flashed his gorget it looked rose or mauve, although it usually appears orangeish.
Allen’s Hummingbird. Good scope view of a perched bird on Elyria Drive.
Nuttall’s Woodpecker. One seen on Elyria Dr. by Julian at the end of the tour after the group disbanded.
Black Phoebe. This handsome flycatcher was hanging around the house on the corner of Elyria and San Rafael before the group fully assembled.
Western Scrub-jay. Conspicuous and noisy; several perched atop trees surveying their territory.
Common Raven. The common large black bird on the hill; a marvelous vocalist.
Bushtit. They seemed to be all around us on Elyria Drive.
Northern Mockingbird. Several of these gray-and-white songsters hurling their songs to the heavens.
California Thrasher. Great find–a lone bird singing from the top of a tree. Requires brushy habitat, so there may only be one or two of these birds on the hill.
Phainopepla. A male of this slim, crested, black beauty flashed the white patch in his wings as he flew around us.
Western Tanager. Great views of an astonishingly beautiful male as he flew to and from a fruiting mulberry tree on Elyria; this migrant is only passing through, on his way to more northern breeding grounds.
California Towhee. A surprising number of these perky brown residents showed themselves well.
Black-headed Grosbeak. His song drew our attention to this stunner, who just arrived to spend the summer on the hill.
Lazuli Bunting. Barbara spotted a beautiful male that disappeared almost immediately, affording most of us only a brief look.
House Finch. Common, with many males showing their brightly colored breeding plumage, which can be very variable in color.
Lesser Goldfinch. Several at Monique’s thistle-seed feeder, including males in full breeding plumage.
Thank you all for sharing a fine birding day with me. And keep your eyes and ears open!
Mourning Cloak Suns itself after the Rain
Location: Elyria Canyon Park, Los Angeles, California
April 14, 2012
After a wonderful bird watching hike, Daniel headed home and spotted this beautiful Morning Cloak after he disturbed it from where it was sunning itself on the path that passes along “dirt” Burnell where four additional lots have recently been purchased and added to the total acerage for the park. The butterfly landed again and allowed itself to be photographed. The colors on this individual are so bright, it appears this is a newly emerged individual as opposed to an older individual that passed the winter in hibernation. The Los Angeles area had two significant spring rains this week, and Saturday was a partly sunny but cool day after the Friday thunderstorms. Dark butterflies like the Mourning Cloak sun themselves and absorb the heat on cool days. The Mourning Cloak was the featured butterfly in the January 2012 newsletter.
MWHA Bird Walk with Julian Donahue Saturday, April 14.
Twenty One species of birds spotted!!!!!
Eight lucky Alliance members, the first folks to sign up, showed up at 9 AM, binoculars in hand, to begin a short walk beginning at the SRF entrance on San Rafael Avenue, down Elyria Drive and into Elyria Canyon Park. After some preliminary instructions on using the binoculars and birding protocol (never walk in front of the leader) the group set off toward Elyria Canyon Park.
The sightings began immediately as the group assembled on the corner, and the list of species included several hawks, hummingbirds and others, but perhaps the most thrilling sighting was a male Black-Headed Grosbeak. There was an unfamiliar, especially melodic call coming from a large laurel sumac shrub on the side of the trail. Neither Clare nor Julian recognized the call, but the group eventually spotted a beautiful male Black-Headed Grosbeak deep inside the bush. When the sun emerged from behind a cloud and illuminated him, the subtle orange and yellow colors of his breast plumage was positively delightful. The group lingered at this exciting sighting for about fifteen minutes, as he continued to sing.
As the 11 o’clock hour arrived, the group began its walk back, and Clare suggested another trail where she had spotted a Phainopepla several weeks earlier feeding on the golden currant berries. Since many birds are territorial, especially during nesting season, the group was rewarded with a repeat sighting of the event Clare had witnessed several weeks earlier, a male Phainopepla in the same Golden Currant.
Here is a list of the twenty one species encountered on the April 14.
Cooper’s Hawk. Nice view of one soaring overhead.
Red-tailed Hawk. Good looks at an adult soaring overhead.
Mourning Dove. Several seen and heard; arguably the most common bird on Mt. Washington.
White-throated Swift. Several high overhead, migrating north.
Anna’s Hummingbird. Several, including a nice male flashing his gorget in the sun.
Rufous Hummingbird. One or two, passing through on their way north.
Allen’s Hummingbird. A few of this local resident. Smaller and paler below than Anna’s.
Black Phoebe. One on the corner of Elyria and San Rafael, and Clare heard another one.
[Western Kingbird. A flycatcher, possibly this species, on a quick fly-by overhead]
Western Scrub-jay. Abundant, active, and vocal, if not downright vociferous.
Common Raven. Common indeed. This is the bird most often seen soaring over Mt. Washington (crows don’t soar).
Bushtit. A small flock that Clare spotted, and we called back for closer inspection.
Bewick’s Wren. Daniel spotted one that we called in for a closer look.
Wrentit. Finally found this recent returnee to Mt. Washington, but he wouldn’t sit still for a prolonged look.
Northern Mockingbird. Several seen, including a pair defending their territory on Elyria Drive. Conspicuous and vocal, singing a medley of songs not to bring joy to our lives, but because its gonads are enlarging.
Phainopepla. A nice male heard, then found, dining on golden currant fruits. One of the few fruit-eating birds, usually preferring mistletoe berries.
[Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler. A brief look at a likely candidate; common here in winter, most have departed by mid-April]
California Towhee. Prolonged look at one in the middle of a lawn; usually in the brush and more difficult to see.
White-crowned Sparrow. Nice looks at this dapper winter visitor; most will have departed by the end of April.
Black-headed Grosbeak. His song gave away the location of this recently-arrived summer resident.
House Finch. Several seen; among the most common birds on Mt. Washington.