When a White Wagtail was found on 10 December at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, just south of Los Angeles, I was pretty stoked. After all, I would be arriving in southern California on 19 December, landing in Los Angeles at LAX, about thirty minutes from the site of the sighting. When it was reported each and every day after that up until the day before I arrived I was even more stoked. I had visions of adding this Eurasian species to my ABA list, inching me even closer to 500 birds in the ABA area.
I got off the plane, collected my luggage, caught the shuttle to the rental car agency, got my car, and was on the road. Driving freeways in southern California is fun, provided the traffic isn’t heavy, and it wasn’t on my quick cruise to Cabrillo Beach. I pulled in to the beach, parked the car, and started my search. I could not find the bird.
It’s not like I didn’t try. I walked the stretch of beach where the White Wagtail had been hanging out and feeding from washed up kelp over and over and over again. I concentrated on the ocean side, as that is where the bird had been seen, but expanded my search to the bay side, to the grassy areas in between, and down around Point Fermin. Sadly, the bird was not to be found. Frustrating, but at least I had seen some this year in Europe, though they, of course, did not count for my ABA list.
Despite the dip I still had a great time. Seeing some species, like Black Phoebe and Heermann’s Gull, for the first time in almost two years was awesome, as was just enjoying the southern California sunshine. A variety of shorebirds and gulls were around and so were a bunch of other birds. Honestly, it would just be wrong to complain about having two hours in the sun on the beach looking at birds.
Marbled Godwit Limosa fedoa
Western Grebe Aechmophorus occidentalis
Western Gull Larus occidentalis
I ran into a couple, one of whom was a birder also looking for the wagtail, and he reported no luck at all either. We parted ways and kept searching, all to no avail. It wasn’t seen on 20 December either so it looks like the wagtail has departed Cabrillo Beach. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit! There are lots of other birds to see!
Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans
Snowy Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Marbled Godwits Limosa fedoa
Heermann’s Gull Larus heermanni
Even when you miss your target bird on a twitch it is still a rare day when you are out birding and don’t see something worth seeing. Especially when you are birding a place for the first time in two years!
Expect lots more from southern California over the next couple of weeks.
Heermann’s Gulls are the best. California isn’t treating you too poorly.
I agree w/Mike. When I lived in San Diego, and had lots of gulls to gaze at, Heerman’s became my favorite. SO beautiful, and the young ones are so dark. Just gorgeous everyday of their lives. Sorry you dipped, but glad to hear that word again. Was trying to remember that bit of birding lingo during the Yosemite CBC (to share w/other participants), but blanked. So, a twitch is when one goes somewhere specifically to see a particular bird, eh? ANYhow, sounds like a lovely outing, dip or no. =) Great shots.
@Mike: I think they might be my favorite gull no matter which plumage they are in.
@biobabbler: I see you are also an aficionado of the Heermann’s Gull which indicates you have exquisite taste. And, yes, a twitch is a bird-chasing mission and this dip was easier to take than most.