Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Upper Newport Bay

A tide was rising in Newport Back Bay. It would continue to do so until after midday when the heavenly effects would pass and the waters would flow back to the ocean.
Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve commands a view up and down the estuary from a raised position on the west side. At this time of day, the sun’s position and the reserve’s distance did not favour viewing of the incoming tide, however we stopped long enough to note someWestern Meadowlarks, Common Ravens and a hovering White-winged Kite.
Jerry, my generous companion for the day used to be a competitive glider pilot and we took a while to enjoy the Turkey Vultures which, most of all the soaring birds, make flight look effortless.

Back Bay Drive is a one way road, running from south to north with a 15mph speed limit. There is nothing much there except for the estuarine marsh, so most of the other road users had similar intent to us.
Proximity and sun position in the morning and early afternoon make for much better viewing than at the reserve. Since the road’s main purpose seems to be recreational marsh watching, there are plenty of pull offs along the route. From our first stop, at a raised position at the north end, we noted a few Redhead and Bufflehead amongst the more numerous Green-winged Teal and American Wigeon. On a distant sandbank, hundreds of waders were roosting in anticipation of high tide. American Avocets stood out as a pied patch, some bulky warm brown birds were probably Marbled Godwit, but distance denied us getting to know the other birds by name.
The northern end of Back Bay Road runs into East Bluff Road, which allowed us this little bit of back-to-fronty, but then we had to abide by the rules of the road and circle round to the southern end and start from there.

Once into the one-way section we noted Northern Pintail, Common Yellowthroat and a good number of Great and Snowy Egrets gathered in what must have been a productive spot.
At Big Canyon there is a car park and a short boardwalk. Sadly someone put up the birds that habitually roost close in and we watched hundreds of Willet and Marbled Godwit take to the air and disappear up the estuary. From across the road, a freshwater marsh and pond drain into the brackish water of the bay. Coots were gathered here to get a salt-free drink.
This was the most productive area along Back Bay Road and would warrant a little more time on a subsequent visit. A few of the waders had returned to a small beach and counted a Long-billed Curlew amongst their number.
While I was trying to get a picture of some American Wigeon, Jerry noticed a tightly packed flock of Snowy Egrets. The photographs here were enhanced when a latecomer arrived and tried to make a position for itself in the group.
I am beginning to think that it might be me. I have had to send off my Canon 50D for repairs twice already and it failed on me again today as we reached the top end of Back Bay Road. Currently, it refuses to take any pictures and it has been sent for repair for the third time in 14 months. This is in addition to my lens having been to the menders twice as well as my previous DSLR! Hopefully all will be better soon or the blog might go a bit quiet.

The Google Earth ref for the south end of Back Bay road is; 33* 36’ 55”N 117*  53’ 20”W . Arrival shortly before high tide would be most productive I would guess. Check tide times and heights at http://www.easytide.com/  Today’s tide was only 1.5m. A higher tide might force a few rails (potentially Sora, Virginia, Black and Light-footed Clapper) up and into view.

A last quick look over the fence at Shipley Nature Center accounted for the Townsend’s Warbler and Peregrine Falcon noted in the list below. Here, I had to say goodbye to Jerry who had been a great birdy buddy for the day and I would like to thank him very much for his company and his generosity.

Bird species; 34

Double-crested Cormorant 20, American Great Egret 4, Snowy Egret 15, American Wigeon 120, Green-winged Teal 80, Mallard 30, Northern Pintail 8, Blue-winged Teal 10, Cinnamon Teal 15, Northern Shoveler 150, Redhead 12, Bufflehead 12, Ruddy Duck 12, Turkey Vulture 12, White-tailed Kite 1, Red-tailed Hawk 3, American Kestrel 2, Peregrine Falcon 1, American Coot 40, American Avocet, 150, Marbled Godwit 40, Long-billed Curlew 5, Willet 40, Western Gull 1, Caspian Tern 1, Black Phoebe 4, Common Raven 2, Yellow-rumped Warbler 6, Townsend’s Warbler 1, Common Yellowthroat 2, Lesser Goldfinch 6, American Goldfinch 1, White-crowned Sparrow 4, Western Meadowlark 15.

Upper Newport Bay, Los Angeles, LAX, Orange County, California, USA