Robert J. van de Hoek
International Humanities Center
The area covered in the present report includes El Segundo beach and sand dunes, Playa del Rey beach and salt marsh, and that portion of the Pacific Ocean, within a mile or so of shore, bordering on the Playa del Rey - El Segundo region. Because the ocean and salt marsh play such important roles in governing the occurrence of a large proportion of the bird life of El Segundo sand dunes, it was deemed best to include them in the survey of the avifauna.
In preparing this paper, the objectives I have attempted to keep in mind have been to assemble and present information that would indicate: (1) the species and subspecies of birds occurring within the region, (2) the relative abundance and distribution of these forms within the area, (3) the factors determining the presence and habitat distribution of the various kinds, and (4) the annual cycle of activity of each kind in the region.
The relative completeness of the present list is due, not so much to the observations of members of the El Segundo Sand Dunes Survey group as, to the fortunate circumstance that, in the early part of this century and up to 1923, members of the Southern Division of the Cooper Ornithological Club did a large amount of field work in this area. Their specimens, many of them deposited in the Los Angeles Museum, constitute an extremely valuable source of information on the birds of this territory, particularly as regards forms which are not readily identifiable in the field. Among the men who did the greater part of this early field work are included: Dr. Louis B. Bishop, W. Lee Chambers, Frank S. Daggett, Dr. Joseph Grinnell, Dr. John Hornung, Antonin Jay, Dr. Loye H. Miller, George Willett, and Luther E. Wyman. Primarily, their work was with water birds and, it was so thorough that I devoted the majority of my time in the area to making observations on, and collecting, land birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.
To some it may seem that the present list is unnecessary and superfluous, as Grinnell's list of the birds of the Pacific slope of Los Angeles County was published in 1898 and, more recently, Willett's list of the birds of southwestern California appeared in 1912 and , in revised form, in 1933. Little, if any, is added in the way of general information especially in regard to the water birds, to the value of Willett's 1933 list. The latter paper, however, is much broader in scope than the present one in treating the distribution of species and in area covered, and it is more concerned with problems of taxonomy than is this one. On the other had, it deals with ecology only in a very general sense and, furthermore, it is not always available to those who are particularly in the fauna and flora of Playa del Rey- El Segundo region. Therefore, for the benefit of those who do not have access to Pacific Coast Avifauna No. 21, and in order to add to the completeness of the series of papers covering this survey, I have consented to prepare this list at the request of Dr. W. Dwight Pierce, leader of the El Segundo Sand Dunes Survey group.
To the following persons I wish to express my sincere appreciation for their assistance in the field and in reporting observations: Granville P. Ashcraft, Gus F. Auguston, George G. Cantwell, Ronald H. Coombs, Frances L. Cramer, Mrs. E.H. Crane, Chris Henne III, J. Ernest Lewis, Lloyd M. Martin, Dr. W. Dwight Pierce, Mrs. Dorothy Pool, Dr. Robert L. Rutherford, James O. Stevenson, Bonnie Templeton, and Paul E. Trapier.
In addition to the breeding resident birds in the area, we recognize several other groups, as regards occurrence. These are: non-breeding residents (present throughout all seasons, but nesting elsewhere); summer residents (nesting here and wintering elsewhere); summer visitants (present in summer, but nesting outside the area);
Records of specimens from this area which have been used have been examined by the writer are here included and, unless otherwise stated, they are in the collection of the Los Angeles Museum. In so far as possible, reference is made to the areal distribution and relative abundance of each avian species found in the region, known dates of arrival and departure of migratory birds; and extent of the breeding season for those kinds which are known to nest there.
Order GAVIIFORMES - Loons
2. Pacific Loon.
3. Red-throated Loon.
4. Horned Grebe. Fairly common winter visitant off-shore.
5. Eared Grebe. Common winter visitant off-shore, in tidal sloughs of salt marsh, and occasional in Ballona Creek
6. Western Grebe. Common winter visitant off-shore and lagoon of the salt marsh.
7. Pied-billed Grebe. Occasional off-shore in winter, but more common in tidal sloughs of the salt marsh and in Ballona Creek.
SHEARWATERS and FULMARS
8. Slender-bill Shearwater.
9. Sooty Shearwater.
10. Black-vented Shearwater.
11. Pink-footed Shearwater.
12. Pacific Fulmar.
13. Black Petrel.
14. Ashy Petrel.
PELICANS and CORMORANTS
15. Brown Pelican. A common coastal resident.... Occasionally a dead bird is found washed ashore and often individuals may be observed sunning themselves on the beaches or resting at the edge of the salt marsh lagoon.
16. Double-crested Cormorant. Common coastal resident. Frequently seen on the ocean off-shore, on the beach, and in the salt marsh lagoon; occasionally observed in swift flight over the sand dunes, inland bound.
17. Brandt Cormorant.
18. Pelagic Cormorant.
HERONS, EGRETS, and BITTERNS
20. Great Blue Heron. Frequently observed in the meadow area and in the salt marsh. Occasionally individuals may be observed on the beach or flying overhead.
21. Great Egret. Occasionally seen in all seasons in the salt marsh. Rarely observed flying over the sand dunes or beach.
22. Snowy Egret. Rarely observed in the Playa del Rey salt marsh. One seen perched on the Hyperion Pier, October 31, 1931.
23. Green Heron. Occasional in spring and fall in tule-bordered ponds one mile north of Playa del Rey. Specimens taken at edge of Ballona Creek, near Playa del Rey, February 2, 1929, by the writer.
24. Black-crowned Night Heron. Occasionally seen flying over the sand dunes and meadow in early morning or just at dusk; frequently observed roosting in willow thickets of the salt marsh area. Specimen taken by Wyman at Hyperion, November 15, 1916.
25. American Bittern. Fairly common in fall, winter, and spring in the tule swamps of the salt marsh area.
26. Least Bittern. Formerly rarely seen in late spring and summer in vicinity of tule-bordered ponds and sloughs in the salt marsh. As a result of the elimination of many of the tule patches, this species may no longer occur in the area under consideration.
27. White-faced Ibis. Occasional visitant. Two specimens taken by S. Flintham, October 10, 1921, in the salt marsh at Playa del Rey.
SWANS, GEESE, and DUCKS
28. Mallard. Occasional winter visitant in vicinity of the salt marsh lagoon and Ballona Creek. Has been observed here in small numbers from early October to early April.
29. American Wigeon. Common winter visitant on the salt marsh lagoon and occasional on ocean.
30. Northern Pintail. Abundant winter visitant on salt marsh lagoon. Formerly bred in the salt marsh in small numbers as attested by downy young collected by P.E. Trapier in May, 1928, and an addled egg found by L.A. Sanford, June 13, 1931. Since reclamation of a large part of the marshland for agricultural purposes and the development of a large oilfield, this species may no longer breed there.
31. Cinnamon Teal. Common spring and fall migrant in the salt marsh, a few remaining throughout summer and fall. Occasionally breeds there.
32. Redhead. Occasional in winter on the salt marsh lagoon.
33. Canvasback. Fairly common in winter on the salt marsh lagoon.
34. Lesser Scaup. Common in winter on the ocean and at the salt marsh lagoon.
35. American Golden-Eye. Occasional visitant. Approximately 12 seen at Playa del Rey, April 23, 1928 (Scneider, 1928, p.282).
36. Bufflehead. Occasional in winter on the salt marsh lagoon. Generally arrives in fall migration in late October and leaves in spring in latter part of March or early April.
37. White-winged Scoter. Common winter visitant. Six specimens from Hyperion. Present from mid-September to late April.
38. Surf Scoter. Abundant throughout winter from October to April. Twelve specimens were examined from Hyperion.
39. American Scoter. Rare winter visitant. Adult female taken at Hyperion, November 24, 1915, by Wyman, in Bishop Collection (Wyman, 1916, p.203).
40. Ruddy Duck. Common winter visitant on salt marsh lagoon and on ocean. Formerly nested in the salt marsh and may still do so in small numbers.
41. Hooded Merganser. Rare winter visitant on the salt marsh lagoon. Adult femalel taken by A.E. Jackson at Playa del Rey, November 27, 1913 (Chambers, 1914, p.62).
42. American Merganser. Moderately common winter visitant on the ocean and salt marsh lagoon.
43. Red-breasted Merganser. Fairly common in fall, winter, and spring on the salt marsh lagoon and the ocean. Occasional in summer as attested by three immature individuals observed near Playa del Rey, June 25, and July 2, 1929 (Stevenson, 1932, p.229).
VULTURES, HAWKS, EAGLES, KITES, HARRIERS, FALCONS
44. Turkey Vulture. A common resident, though not a breeding species, of the sand dunes region. Most frequently observed in soaring flight over the meadow and largest sand dunes. Five specimens taken by Wyman at Hyperion, one each in the months of March, May, June, July, and Augsut.
45. Sharp-shinned Hawk. Occasionally seen in late fall, winter and spring in meadow area, usually perched on some vantage point such as a telephone pole or wire. On October 25, 1931, a sharp-shinned hawk was observed to swoop into the midst of a covey of California Quail, striking and instantly killing a female just after she burst into flight. The hawk was shot a few minutes later as it circled to return for its prey and both specimens were preserved by the writer.
46. Cooper Hawk. Although the Cooper Hawk may be present in this region throughout the most of the year, only once has it been observed here by the writer. On the morning of August 22, 1931, an adult (female?) was seen perched on top of a telegraph pole near the intersection of Imperial Highway and Manhattan Boulevard; therefore, in the meadow area.
47. Red-tailed Hawk. Resident, but not common. Often observed in soaring flight above the dunes and meadow. An occupied nest was found high in a eucalyptus tree near Palisades del Rey on March 6, 1932. It was not determined whether there were eggs in the nest at the time, but on April 10, 18, and 30, of that year, the adults were observed bringing ground squirrels and cottontail rabbits to the nest.
48. Bald Eagle. "Occasionally observed in soaring flight over the dunes, beach and salt marsh. One individual that was unable to fly due, apparently, to oil on its plumage, was observed near the salt marsh lagoon on July 22, 1928."
49. Northern Harrier. Resident in small numbers. Frequently seen foraging in the salt marsh, meadow, and sand dunes. Two specimens taken at Playa del Rey, January 3, 1923, by O.M Thurston.
50. Peregrine Falcon. Rare fall and winter visitant. Two specimens, as follows: ... skin of an adult female taken at Playa del Rey by H. Washeur, September 5, 1939.
51. American Kestrel. Common resident, nesting in the meadow and sand dune areas in April and May. Forages in the salt marsh as well as in the meadow and sand dunes, feeding on grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, lizards, and small mammals.
PHEASANTS and QUAIL
52. California Quail. Common resident of the meadow and meadow slope of the dunes. Nests here between middle April and late June. Adult birds with coveys of young observed in the meadow in July and August, 1931; in May, 1932; and in May, June, and July, 1939 and 1940.
53. Sandhill Crane. Rare migrant;; probably no longer occurs in this region. There is an adult male in the Bishop Collection taken near Culver City.
54. Light-footed Clapper Rail. Resident of the salt marsh, breeding there in April and early May. Adult male taken at Playa del Rey, August 29, 1933, by Mrs. A.V. Dedrick.
55. Virginia Rail. Resident of the salt marsh. Two sets of fresh eggs collected by W. Lee Chambers at Ballona, April 13, 1902 (Willett. 1933, p.52).
56. Sora Rail [Sora]. Present in small numbers throughout the year in the salt marsh, most frequently being found in vicinity of tule-bordered ponds and creeks. Breeds in April and May
57. Black Rail [California Black Rail]. Rare, or at least inconspicuous, resident of the salt marsh. Records for this area are as follows: one seen by G.F. Morcom, May 16, 1895 (Grinnell, 1898, p.16); adult found impaled on barbed-wire fence by Joseph Ewan, February 25, 1928 (Ewan, 1928, p.247).
58. American Coot. Abundant in winter, less common in summer, on sloughs and lagoons in the salt marsh; occasional on the ocean off Playa del Rey and Hyperion. Breeds from mid-April to mid-June.
SHOREBIRDS, GULLS, TERNS
59. Snowy Plover. Common resident of the strand and embryonic dunes. Nests from April to August on sandy beaches. Three specimens taken by Wyman at Hyperion in October and November.
60. Semi-palmated Plover.
62. Golden Plover.
63. Black-bellied Plover. Common spring and fall migrant along shore and in the salt marsh, small numbers remaining throughout winter. Eighteen specimens examined from Hyperion.
65. Ruddy Turnstone.
66. Black Turnstone.
67. Long-billed Curlew.
68. Northern Curlew.
69. Hudsonian Curlew (Whimbrel).
70. Spotted Sandpiper.
71. Wandering Tattler.
72. Western Willet.
73. Greater Yellow-legs
74. Lesser Yellow-leg
75. American Knot.
76. Pectoral Sandpiper.
77. Baird Sandpiper
78, Least Sandpiper
79. Red-backed Sandpiper
80. Eastern Dowitcher
81. Long-billed Dowitcher
82. Western Sandpiper
83. Marbled Godwit
85. American Avocet. Moderately common migrant in the salt marsh area; occasional in winter. Rarely seen along ocean shore. Two specimens taken by L.F. Moss at Playa del Rey, November 1, 1916.
86. Black-necked Stilt. Summer resident, nesting in the salt marsh though not so commonly as in former years; rare in winter. Occasionally seen along shore.
87. Red Phalarope. Abundant migrant off-shore, occasionally wintering on the lagoon and sloughs of the salt marsh. Six specimens taken by Wyman at Hyperion, three each in May and November.
88. Wilson Phalarope. Common late spring and early fall migrant along shore and on the salt marsh lagoon. Several published records for this area (see Willett, 1933, p.70).
89. Northern Phalarope. Abundant migrant off-shore, along shore, and on the salt marsh lagoon and sloughs.
JAEGERS and SKUAS
90. Parsitic Jaeger
GULLS and TERNS
91. Glaucous Gull.
92. Glacuous-winged Gull.
93. Western Gull
94. Herring Gull
95. Thayer Gull
96. California Gull. Common in fall, winter, and spring along shore, but most abundant in the salt marsh. Frequently seen in large numbers, following the plough, when fields are being cultivated in the meadow area. Seventy-five specimens from Hyperion: earliest in fall, August 11; latest in spring, June 23.
97. Ring-billed Gull
98. Short-billed Gull
99. Franklin Gull
100. Bonaparte Gull. Common along shore and salt marsh lagoon in late fall, winter, and early spring. Twenty-six specimens from Hyperion; earliest, November 12; latest May 26.
101. Heermann Gull. Present along shore the year around, but least common in March and April. At this time the majority of the populaiton, contrary to all our other species of gulls, goes south to breed on islands off the Mexican coast. Forty-eight specimens from Hyperion, as follows: .....
102. Pacific Kittiwake.
103. Sabine Gull.
104. Forster Tern. Common along shore and in the salt marsh in fall, winter, and spring; occasional in summer. Three specimens examined from Hyperion, taken Octobver 21, January 29, and February 22.
105. Common Tern. Common migrant off-shore, less common along shore and in the salt marsh area. Three specimens form Hyperion, taken October 21, and May 24, and 29.
106. Least Tern [California Least Tern]. Moderately common summer resident along shore, though much less common than formerly. A few attempt to nest each summer on the beaches at Playa del Rey and El Segundo. They frequently are seen throughout the summer, foraging over the salt marsh lagoon. One specimen, a breeding male, collected by Wyman at Hyperion, June 4, 1917. Latest fall record; birds seen at Playa del Rey, October 15, 1927 (Schneider, 1928, p.23).
107. Royal Tern.
108. Elegant Tern
109. Caspian Tern
110. Black Tern
111. Ancient Murrelet
112. Cassin Auklet
113. Rhinoceros Auklet
PIGEONS and DOVES
114. Western Mourning Dove
115. Roadrunner [Greater Roadrunner]. Resident of the meadow and sand dunes. Nests in April and May, usually in patches of cactus [Opuntia littoralis]. Adult male collected by Willett at Playa del Rey, December 29, 1908, and adult female taken in the meadow by the writer, February 13, 1932. An old, but well preserved, nest of this species was found in the midst of a patch fo tuna cactus on the seaward slope of the dunes by G.P. Kanakoff, October 26, 1939.
116. Barn Owl. Common resident of meadows, sand dunes, and salt marsh. On numerous occasions individuals of this species were observed at dusk as they flew overhead, sometimes uttering racuous shrieks. They nest from February to early June, but chiefly in March and April. Four to six eggs are laid.
117. Burrowing Owl. Common resident of the dunes, meadow, and drier portions of the salt marsh. In the meadow area and on the established foredunes, these owls occupy old burrows of the California ground squirrel. In the northern part of the meadow slope of the dunes, near Playa del Rey, they live in cavities excavated under the pavement. Around the entrances of holes occupied by these birds were found accumulations of detritus, including pellets, droppings, and feathers. Examination of some of the pellets, revealed them to contain chiefly the indigestible chitinous remains of insects, such as Jerusalem crickets, mole crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles. Occasionally a few identifiable mammal bones were found and twice remnants of lizards were discovered, once parts of a brown-shouldered lizard (Uta) and the other time a head of a horned lizard (Phrynosoma). Mammals, represented by skeletal remains, were : pocket mouse (Perognathus longimembris cantwelli), harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis limicola), and white-footed mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus gambelii). The burrowing owl nests here from early April to early June. They lay from 4 to 11 eggs, 9 being the usual number.
118. Long-eared Owl. One record: specimen found dead on highway at Playa del Rey, December 31, 1929, by H.N. McCoy. Probably a wanderer into the region.
119. Short-eared Owl. Winter visitant in the salt marsh and occasionally in the meadow. An adult female collected at the latter place by the writer, February 13, 1932.
120. White-throated Swift.
121. Black-chinned Hummingbird
122. Costa Hummingbird
123. Anna Hummingbird
124. Rufous Hummingbird
125. Allen Hummingbird
126. Western Belted Kingfisher [Belted Kingfisher]. Resident of the salt marsh and commonly forages along shore between Playa del Rey and El Segundo. An adult female taken at Hyperion, October 15, 1917, by Wyman, and adult male collected at the same locality, February 13, 1932, by the writer. May nest in the palisades at Playa del Rey, but this is not definitely known.
127. Red-shafted Flicker [Northern Flicker]. Resident of the sand dunes, meadow, and willow bottoms of the salt marsh. Frequently noted on the ground, feeding on ants. Also eats aphis, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, cicadas, etc. Nests in a variety of situations as, in holes in willows or in telegraph poles, and in corners under eaves of old houses. Nesting season extends from late April to mid-June, four to five eggs being laid in a set. Four specimens collected in the meadow area by the writer. FLYCATCHERS
128. Western Kingbird.
129. Black Phoebe.
130. Say Phoebe.
131. California Horned Lark. Common resident of the dunes and meadow area; also found in the drier, open portions of the salt marsh. Five specimens taken at Hyperion in January and February by Wyman. Adult male caught in mouse-trap set in the meadow, May 1, 1932. Additional specimens taken in latter locality in October, 1932, and February and April, 1932, by the writer. The breeding season is quite long, extending from March to June. Three to four eggs constitute a set and usually two broods are raised annually.
132. Northern Rough-winged Swallow.
133. Barn Swallow.
134. Cliff Swallow
135. American Raven
136. Western Crow
137. Least Bush-tit
138. Pallid Wren-tit
139. Western House Wren
140. San Diego Wren (Bewick's Wren)
141. Western Marsh Wren [Marsh Wren]. A fairly common migrant and winter visitant in the salt marsh.
142. Tule Wren. Common resident of the salt marsh; ... Nests in Tule patches, along edges of ponds and sloughs, .... Usually builds two or more "fake" or dummy, nests before the one in which the eggs are laid. .... (Playa del Rey specimens from salt marsh sloughs, El Segundo specimens from the meadow.
143. Rock Wren.
144. Western Mockinbird
145. California Thrasher
146. Western Robin
147. Alaska Hermit Thrush
148. Western Bluebird
149. Townsend Solitaire
150. Western Gnatcatcher
151. Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Common winter visitant on meadow slopers of the dunes, in the brushy portion of the meadow, and in the willow bottoms of the salt marsh. Also frequently found in trees and shrubbery in vicinity of houses.
152. American Pipit. Common winter visitant in the meadow, on the established fore-dunes, along roadsides and highways, and in more open portions of the salt marsh.
153. California Shrike [Loggerhead Shrike]. Moderately common resident throughout this area. Nests chiefly from March to May, four eggs being the usual number in a set. ... A young horned lizard (Phrynosoma) was found impaled on a sharp-pointed branch of a Croton californicus, October 26, 1939 by Mrs. D. Pool.
154. Hutton Vireo. Occasional winter visitant in the brushy portion of the sand dunes and in the willow thickets of the Playa del Rey salt marsh. Also found in shrubbery and trees around houses. An adult male taken December 5, 1931, on the meadow slope of the dunes by the writer.
155. Lutescent Warbler
156. Dusky Warbler (Catalina Island Orange-crowned Warbler). Common fall, winter, and spring visitant in brushy areas of the dunes and meadow, and in willow thickets of the salt marsh. An adult male was collected in the salt marsh, Feburary 7, 1934, by G.G. Cantwell, and an adult female on the meadow slope of the dunes, February 13, 1932, by the writer.
157. Audubon Warbler
158. Townsend Warbler
159. Tule Yellow-throat (Common Yellowthroat). Common resident of the salt marsh, occasional in winter in the meadow. Nests in tule patches along sloughs and ponds in the salt marsh in April and May. Four eggs comprise a normal set. Juvenal female taken in the salt marsh, June 16, 1929, by G.G. Cantwell; adult male and female, December 20, 1931, and adult male and two females, February 1932, collected in same area by P.E. Trapier; adult male taken in the meadow, February 13, 1932, by the writer.
160. Golden Pileolated Warbler
161. English Sparrow
162. Western Meadowlark. Common resident of the meadow and drier portions of the salt marsh. Occurs in large flocks in winter. Nests here chiefly in April and May.
163. San Diego Red-wing [Red-winged Blackbird]. Formerly a common resident of tule patches in the salt marsh sloughs, now much less common.
164. Arizona Hooded Oriole
165. Bullock Oriole
166. Brewer Blackbird
167. Dwarf Cowbird
168. Western Tanager
169. Black-headed Grosbeak. Moderately common summer resident in willow bottoms of the salt marsh and along Ballona Creek.. Occasional in spring in the meadow. Nests chiefly in May. Two to four eggs comprise a set, three being the usual number. An adult male was collected in the meadow, April 18, 1932, by the writer.
170. California Blue Grosbeak
171. House Finch
172. Willow Goldfinch. Common resident, nesting in the willows of the salt marsh and along Ballona Creek chiefly in May and June. Found commonly in small flocks almost anywhere in the regions during rest of year. Four to five eggs comprise a set. Two specimens were collected by the writer in the meadow, one each on February 13, and April 30, 1932.
173. Green-backed Goldfinch
174. California Brown Towhee.
175. Western Savannah Sparrow
176. Dwarf Savannah Sparrow
177. Belding Marsh Sparrow. [Belding's Savannah Sparrow]. Abundant resident of the salt marsh; occasionally wanders out onto beaches. An adult female was taken June 4, 1937, at Hyperion by Wyman. Six specimens were collected by the writer, July, 1928, January and February, 1932, and October, 1941, in the salt marsh.
178. Large-billed Sparrow. Common winter visitant in the salt marsh and along the seaward slope fo the dunes. Two specimens were trapped in the latter area, October 26, 1939.
179. Western Lark Sparrow
180. Bell Sparrow
181. Gambel Sparrow
182. Golden-crowned Sparrow
183. Lincoln Sparrow. Moderately common winter visitant, occurring most abundantly in the salt marsh. Two specimens were collected by the writer: ... (both caught in mouse traps).
184. San Diego Song Sparrow. Common resident of the dunes, meadow, and salt marsh. Breeds chiefly in April and May.
Ballona (Bayona) bird ecology is complex and is even more complex to communicate to the lay person. I would like to present two examples, the first is regarding the Ferruginous Hawk and the second example regards the Burrowing Owl.
The Ferruginous Hawk was not listed, nor discussed, by Jack Von Bloeker in his report, apparently not an oversight but rather that no one had observed the Ferruginous Hawk in the Playa del Rey - El Segundo - Ballona Valley region. Interestingly, it had been recorded in coastal areas both north and south of our region of consideration. Thus, the observation of the Ferruginous Hawk this December, 2004 for 20 consecutive days thus far, is an interesting situation. My daily observations of this individual hawk is enlightening and eye-opening simultaneously. It roosts at night in various pines in an apartment-condominium complex in Marina del Rey. Between dawn and sunrise, it flies out to the Ballona area to roost on a power pole along Culver Boulevard, just west of the two (1933 vintage) Culver Boulevard bridges. Shortly thereafter it spends most of the day on the ground amidst a high density population of pocket gophers in a prairie-like landscape, sandwiched between Lincoln, Jefferson, and Culver Boulevards. This piece of land consists mostly of weedy grasses which is the primary food of the gophers. By the way, the main staple of food for the gopher throughout the western United States is grasses. Other plants are less important. In the late afternoon, about 30 minutes before sunset, the Ferruginous Hawk flies back to a pine tree in the nearby apartment complex. The pines are heavily thinned-out of their branches, from a previous year, and the species of pine is the Canary Island Pine. It chooses a pine that is usually about 75' to 100' in height. It is occasionally mobbed by crows, but they finally depart to other locations to roost themselves for the long 14 hour night. The daily hunting area for the Ferruginous Hawk is under intermim restoration planning and management, and it is likely that many of the scientists are going to recommend that this area be returned to a salt marsh with pickleplant (Salicornia virginica) and associated species for restoration. This action of conversion of a coastal prairie to salt marsh would be disasterous for the Ferruginous Hawk and other prairie raptors such as the Burrowing Owl, and for smaller raptorial-like birds such as the Loggerhead Shrike. This area is also prime habitat for large flocks of Western Meadowlark and occasionally Horned Lark. This region should remain as coastal prairie replete with thousands of gophers. Furthemore, it needs to remain as short-grass prairie rather than tall-grass (bunchgrass) prairie, so that the raptors can hun effectively. The area would be suitable for California (Beechy) Ground Squirrel to join the pocket gopher population, if the Red Fox were eliminated from this area. Currently, the ground squirrel is extirpated (locally extinct) in the Ballona wetlands region. A small population of Audubon Cottontail Rabbits have a small refugium in the bushes (pampas grass and Saltbush) along the west-facing levee slope of Lincoln Boulevard because there is a hedge-like habitat vegetation. Along Culver Boulevard there are two giant Arundo stands of 30' high cane-like vegetation which harbors homeless encampments and is cover habitat for Red Fox. A few palms, arundo, and saltbush are beginning to invade the prairie-liek vegetation, which will be bad for the Burrowing Owl, Ground Squirrel, Ferruginous Hawk, and Loggerhead Shrike. If these arundo, saltbush, and young palms were removed, the red fox and human homeless habitat would vanish. The area would then become a prime area for Ground Squirrel again. The Ferruginous Hawk, in addition to preying on pocket gopher and insects, also hunts ground squirrels, and at one time in the past, was named the "California Squirrel Hawk." Let us hope this area remains as prairie and as salt marsh wetland. It should be noted that this region, located between Lincoln, Culver, and Jefferson Boulevards, in high precipitation years, is temporarily covered in a shallow sheet of water, at which time it becomes habitat for watefowl such as Mallard, Ruddy Duck, three kinds of Teal, and Pintail. This is only for a few days to a week or two, and then the area reverts back to prairie and the gophers dig themselves out from the water that covered the ground above them.
For a second example, consider the Burrowing Owl. Jack Von Bloeker did discuss this bird in his report (see above list), so we have some baseline information on which to make scientific hypotheses, analysis, and conclusions. This owl which cannot burrow itself, depends completely on the burrowing activities of the ground squirrel. Unfortunately, the ground squirrel is locally extinct at Ballona and consequently, so is the owl. So when does an owl actually have a chance to use a squirrel hole for raising its own family of young owls? It depends on a squirrel hole being found vacant due to death of a squirrel. Squirrels die of old-age, disease, and predation by coyotes and hawks, and it is shortly after a death of a squirrel that a Burrowing Owl gains a nesting place. Now you know why the Burrowing Owl is gone from Ballona but why is the Ground Squirrel gone? The Red Fox has been studied throughout southern California and each location where there is a population of Red Fox, there is no ground squirrel, and consequently no Burrowing Owl. Apparently, the Red Fox is a voracious predator of the Ground Squirrel. One small area at Ballona, on private land adjacent to Del Rey Lagoon harbors the last remaining vestige of a population of the ground squirrel, with an estimated population size of about 8 squirrels. Why hasn't the Red Fox discovered this squirrel population. The squirrels are protected by a fence that encloses the squirrel population and the lagoon which historically remained filled with water. However, for the last year, the tides have been allowed to flow in and out of the lagoon, so that now, there are times that the Red Fox can hunt and wander along the shore of the lagoon, right to where the squirrels have been holding on to a small refuge. The squirrel numbers seem less now in this area, and it may already be too late for them. Eventually, the Red Fox eats everything and then it too will disappear.
I would like to conclude this afterword with some obvious birds that Jack von Bloeker did not list and describe from El Segundo and Playa del Rey habitats. These include the Red-shouldered Hawk, which today is a frequent migrant throughout the Ballona Valley. And secondly, the Great-horned Owl which is now seen and heard occasionally throughout the Ballona Valley. Both of these raptors, are now present because of the increase of turf (lawns), trees, and trash, which attracts the prey that this owl and hawk select for and also perches from which to hunt and roost. It seems that we have made the Ballona Valley increasingly suitable for an owl that once upon a time, not so long ago, was absent, and simultaneously, we have made Ballona Valley unsuitable for the five kinds of owls that were present during the time of the fieldwork of Jack von Bloeker, only 60-80 years ago. How can it be that we have made the Ballona Valley so unbearable for his five owls and a good place for the Great-horned Owl, which is a common owl. Studies show that the Great-horned Owl displaces the five owls reported by von Bloeker by lethal predation and constant threat harassment. Is it too late to bring back the five other owls? Not at all. We need simply to reduce the number of trees, reduce the turf-lawns, reduce the trash, reduce the Great-horned Owl, and then increase wide open prairie-like areas, remove the fox which increases the ground squirrels, which in turn increases the owls. Four of the five owls that Jack von Bloeker found commonly in the Ballona - Playa del Rey - El Segundo region, are ground-nesting owls, hence vulnerable to Red Fox predation. Similarly, these owls also utilize ground squirrel burrow systems including their underground cavernous dens, but again, the Red Fox has eliminated the squirrels that dig out the burrows. Finally, the Red Fox is a good burrower and he digs out the owls and squirrels from their burrows. The Red Fox, single-handedly, more so than the developers, due to its insidious fox-like behavior, has caused a mass genocide on the native wildlife. The Red Fox is an imposter that was brought by Man from Europe via ship and railroad to California, so that fox farms were established to make furs for the growing Hollywood starlets that wanted fox furs to look "beautiful." Thus, indirectly, the loss of the owls and squirrels is due to the Hollywood phenomenon and human behavior. Are you surprised? Don't be, it is yet one other way that Ecology functions.