I had a project in Los Angeles to work on and time spent on a beach is never wasted and there always birds...though many of them were gulls (not my favorite). But I thought I would use it as opportunity to focus on the super common gulls I rarely get to see rather than trying to tease out something rare, hybridish or just odd as--gull experts are want to do.
Here's a nice comparison of a western gull (biggest gull) and a California gull (smaller gull in front). But the beach was a great time.
I was excited to pick out this guy, a young Heermann's gull! I've seen the adults before in San Francisco and though this bird wasn't in breeding plumage, I felt it was a triumph of the human spirit that I was able to pick it out. I'll never be a true laruphile, but I'm better than I was.
Even more exciting than the beach was all the fun stuff floating just off the shore. At least exciting to a usually land locked girl like myself. I have a tendency to take my spotting scope out more than the average birder (yes, that will be me at Biggest Week with a scope on the boardwalk) but spotting scopes are perfect for sea watch birding. There were some loons right off the shore, here's a red-throated loon, but even more exciting was a Pacific loon, that's a life bird for me. I wasn't able to digiscope it but fun to add a bird to the list.
The best part of the day was getting up close and personal with a surf scoter. These are crazy looking sea ducks to begin with. This particular bird was living up to name by coming in on the surf and then actually landed on the beach. It tried eating whatever is behind it...sea crap? But the bird is quite awkward out of the water...walking doesn't come naturally to these birds.
I think when the bird noticed we were watching it thought it best to sit so as not to embarrass itself any further. Those feet, so perfect for swimming, so not meant for walking on land. But what fun to get such great looking birds so close to the Los Angeles airport. This was my first trip to LA and I cannot believe how everywhere you turn, somebody is filming something. At one point there was a small two engine plane with a helicopter right next to it racing past. Was it a high speed chase? No, one of my colleagues pointed out, "They're just filming that plane."