Ballona Institute
322 Culver Blvd.
Playa del Rey, CA 90293
American Bald Eagle
2005 Publication

Will Judson Birdwatching Between 1894 and 1897:
Recreation and Leisure in Los Angeles
More Than 100 Years Ago, With Notes For
Future Redondo Wetlands Genuine Restoration
Future Ballona Wetlands Genuine Restoration

Robert Jan "Roy" van de Hoek
Conservation Biologist, Avian Ecologist, Biogeographer, Environmental Historian
Ballona Institute

Will Judson was an avid birder of Los Angeles County in the 1890s and into the early 20th Century. I have been able to piece together an eclectic environmental history and scientific natural history of Los Angeles by investigating Will Judson through the writings of various scientific naturalists. For example, Harry Swarth wrote a brief narrative biography, which is presented here at the end of this essay. Another example is Joseph Grinnell, who wrote a report regarding Los Angeles County birds that gives Will Judson credit for his discoveries many times. Grinnell also acknowledges Judson as shown by the following passage:

"I am also indebted to the following observers for more or less extended local lists or notes: Ralph Arnold, Walter E. Bryant, Lee Chambers, A.J. Cook, Evan Davis, Chas E. Groesbeck, Frank J Illingworth, Frank B. Jewett, Will B. Judson, Harry J. Leland, A.I. McCormick, Virgil W. Owen, Earl D. Parker, Howard Robertson, Edward Simmons, Frank Stephens, Harry S. Swarth and M.L. Wicks, Jr."

In fact, a careful perusal of Grinnell's 1898 report, shows that Will Judson found at least 18 kinds of birds in 3 years between 1894 and 1897. It also shows that Will Judson traveled quite a bit around Los Angeles County. We can document nine collecting localities. These places include: Ballona, Pasadena, Redondo Beach, Dominguez Slough, Los Angeles River, Santa Monica, Highland Park, Los Angeles, and Mt. Wilson. Listed below are the known locations visited by a calendar chronology with the name of the bird found there, along with a brief note in parenthesis about the bird:

01... May 16, 1894...(Wed) ..... Ballona ... Clapper Rail (nest with 6 slightly incubated eggs collected).
02... Oct. 26, 1894...(Thu) ..... Pasadena ... Red-eyed Junco (single female)

03... May 30, 1895...(Thu) ..... Santa Monica ... Marsh Wren (nest with 5 fresh eggs).
04... June 19, 1895...(Wed) ..... Redondo Beach ... Common Moorhen (nest with 9 eggs).
05... June 26, 1895...(Wed) ..... Dominguez Slough ... American Avocet (nest with 4 eggs).
06... Aug. 27, 1895...(Tue) ..... Los Angeles River ... Solitary Sandpiper (migrant).
07... Aug. 31, 1895...(Sat) ..... Santa Monica ... Eastern Kingbird (immature male).

08... Oct. 31, 1896...(Sat) ..... Los Angeles ... Blue-winged Teal (female adult).

09... May 09, 1897...(Sun) ..... Los Angeles ... Black-headed Grosbeak (nest with 3 eggs incubated slightly).
10... May 16, 1897...(Sun) ..... Mt. Wilson ... Ash-throated Flycatcher (West Fork, San Gabriel River, nest with 5 fresh eggs).
11... May 23, 1897...(Sun) ..... Mt. Wilson ... Band-tailed Pigeon (nest with 1 egg)
12... May 29, 1897...(Sat) ..... Mt. Wilson ... Yellow-rumped Warbler (nest with 5 fresh eggs)
13... May 29, 1897...(Sat) ..... Mt. Wilson ... Brown Creeper (nest with 3 eggs)
14... June 11, 1897...(Fri) ..... Mt. Wilson ... Olive-sided Flycatcher (nest with 3 eggs.
15... Aug. 10, 1897...(Tue) ..... Highland Park ... Grasshopper Sparrow (adult).
16... Aug. 00, 1897...(xxx) ..... Santa Monica ... Sooty Shearwater (found many dead birds on beach).

Before 1898
17... 1894-1897..... Santa Monica (Magnificent Frigatebird (found dead on the beach)
18... 1894-1897..... Redondo ... Glaucous-winged Gull (immature specimen collected).

It is quite clear that Will Judson had an avocational interest in bird collecting and egg collecting. His collections can be used today as a guide for genuine and truthful restoration in Los Angeles. As an example of the utility of Judson's collecting as presented in Grinnell's report for ecology and restoration in the 21st Century, I will describe Judson's record of the Common Moorhen at the lagoon in Redondo Beach. However, if one wants to genuinely understand the habitat of the Common Moorhen, it is also important to know reedbeds, namely tules and cat-tails. And I can do no better than to let you read the quotation by Joseph Grinnell from his 1898 report:

"Moorhen ... Common resident on large tule-bordered ponds. Wherever there are Coots this species is likely to be found, though its secretive habits render it far less conspicuous than the Coot. Nests in tule beds mostly in May. W.B. Judson took a set of nine considerably incubated eggs, June 19, ('95), near Redondo."

We can ascertain, that at 110 years ago, the lagoonal pond at Redondo had a relatively large transitional brackish-freshwater component to its wetland, so much so, that it could support a female Moorhen with a tule-built nest of nine eggs. Keep in mind that the nest itself is built soley of the tule leaves. At this time, citizens of Redondo Beach are discussing a future vision of parkland with native vegetation when the demolition of the utility plant finally occurs. Informed citizens will need to influence their elected officials to do restoration for the Moorhen and tules. Unfortunately, most people are unclear, due to lack of education, as to what kind of restoration to do at Redondo Beach. Here then, is an example of the use of "birding history" to be able to shed light on restoration planning for "true and genuine" native vegetation at Redondo Beach.

A second example for future restoration is the Ballona wetlands where the Clapper Rail is a primary concern for conducting "genuine" and "true" restoration. Again, I can do no better than to refer you to a quotation by Joseph Grinnell from his 1898 report:

"Clapper Rail ... Tolerably common resident in the salt marshes along the coast. Among the lagoons between San Pedro and Long Beach, their loud cackling notes are frequently heard, especially at high tide, when they are driven to the higher ground. They probably nest in moderate abundance, though few eggs have so far been taken. W.B. Judson took a set of six slightly incubated eggs at Ballona, May 16, '94."

I would like to present to the readers that Will Judson features prominently because he found a Clapper Rail nest of a female with 6 eggs at the Ballona salt marsh on a wednesday, May 16, 1894 (see above list). His collection demonstrates that there was habitat for Clapper Rail at Ballona.

In fact, as early as 1937, Joseph Grinnell was among the first scientists to refer to any animal that returns to its ecosystem as restoration. After Grinnell's death in 1939 and following World War II, the term restoration begins to catch on in America. Other scientists also begin using the term restoration such as Aldo Leopold. He is often considered the father of restoration. Synonyms for restoration such as "translocation" and "re-introduction" also appeared in the scientific literature. However, by the 21st Century, the term "restoration" has become the predominant word for scientists to use when referring to the return of native fauna or native flora. A good example of this is at Yellowstone National Park where we say now that the wolf is restored to this great ecosystem. The two newest scientific disciplines that have emerged in the last 20+ years, namely "conservation biology" and "restoration ecology", have both come to focus on the term "restoration" in their literature.

In recent decades (1980s -1990s), after years of study and attempts at restoration of the Clapper Rail by various scientists, but most notably, Richard Zembal, it has been demonstrated that the Clapper Rail will nest in various kinds of marsh vegetation, including pickleplant, reed-beds, cordgrass, and tule-beds. Therefore, future restoration at the Ballona wetlands, if it is to be true and genuine, will need to consider the Clapper Rail in one or more of these vegetation types. It will also need to consider placement and maintenance of wildlife cages for the newly restored Clapper Rail to protect them from predators, similar to methods used in southern San Diego County by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

It will require restoration monies for scientific avian wildlife biology personnel to plan and implement the restoration of the "Light-footed" Clapper Rail to the Ballona Wetlands. It is expensive both in technical labor and equipment to implement. However, the Clapper Rail once occurred with nesting females at four locations in the City and County of Los Angeles, as recently as 55-75 years ago. So genuine, truthful, and honest restoration will need to bring back the Clapper Rail to Los Angeles. The four former nesting locations of female Clapper Rails included:

1. Playa del Rey (Ballona sloughs), females nesting until 1950s;
2. Wilmington-Gardena (Dominguez Creek sloughs in reed-beds), females nesting until 1930s;
3. Malibu (Malibu Lagoon sloughs), females nesting until 1930s?-no records;
4. San Pedro-Long Beach (Los Angeles River sloughs), females nesting until 1930s-estimate.

Currently, all four of these locations have no female Clapper Rail, nor any male Clapper Rail either. However, with proper funding and avian restoration and wildlife techniques, Clapper Rail could be established currently at Ballona and Malibu.

I would like to conclude this brief biography of Will Judson and environmental history report with a direct quote about Will Judson by Harry Swarth. But first a little background about Harry Swarth. Mr. Swarth, a former ornithologist at the California Academy of Sciences, compiled a fascinating account of the History of the Cooper Ornithological Club from 1893 to 1928. It includes information about the early history of birdwatching as a form of recreation and leisure in Los Angeles and California, with several photographs, some of them of habitats as they looked more than a 100 years ago. Here then, is the quotation by Harry Swarth from 1928, about Will Judson, in its entirety:

"William B. Judson was one of the most enthusiastic of the young California collectors of the early nineties, and he was one of the very few who regarded eggs and skins with an impartial eye. No labor was too arduous and no place too hard to reach if there were birds or eggs to be had there. As regards the necessities of eating, though no one who had camped with him would depreciate his appetite, it was absolutely immaterial to him what the fodder was. There were weird experiments in eating on some of his camping trips. On one trip grebe eggs were literally the mainstay of the party for a period of weeks, and on another occasion sliced "niggerhead" cactus, fried, was served up as an experiment, an unhappy one. Birds of any sort, ground squirrels, and any kind of fruit were sampled as occasion arose. "Robertson and Judson" was an active bird-collecting partnership. Later, Swarth was admitted to the firm, and from then on Judson dragged or drove his two sweltering associates over mountains and through swamps in the search for specimens. Judson was at that time in correspondence with Major Bendire, and Bendire's letters were continually appealed to for the settlement of disputes among the trio. When Judson was about twenty years old the lure of the Klondike attracted him to Alaska, and on his return two years later the exigencies of a busines career gradually withdrew him from active collecting. His collection of birds and eggs was eventually given to the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Of late years he has shown signs of returning to his former allegiance, for members of his family have been encouraged to acquire extensive aviaries filled with rare parrots."

Example 1, Judson (1901):
Getting a Late Supper.--Returning from work on my wheel during the latter part of August, I picked up a tack in my front tire and after many stops to pump up the tire, reached home in a bad frame of mind to find a cold supper. After supper I concluded to repair the puncture which I did, commencing at eight o'clock and finishing half an hour later.
The first thing I did was to turn on the electric light on the front porch, and look for the puncture. While so engaged a shadow kept falling across the wheel and looking up, imagine my surprise to see a Black Phoebe sitting on a branch of a rose-bush about four feet over my head, biting the wings from off a large moth it had captured and eyeing the other insects which were darting about the light. After whetting his bill on the branch he selected another moth which was captured on the second attempt.
The electric light in question is eight candle-power and throws just enough light on the porch to attract a few insects. The phoebe did not seem the least bit alarmed at my presence and continued to catch bugs within two feet of my head, while I watched operations directly under the lamp. Soon I called my mother and brother but the bird paid no attention to the three of us standing near the lamp. I turned the light off for a few minutes and when I turned it on again he immediately started after the bugs. After watching him for half an hour I came to the conclusion that it was bad for birds to eat between meals, so put out the light and retired.--W.B. Judson. Los Angeles, California.

Example 2, Judson (1914):
Vermilion Flycatcher in the San Diegan District.--On October 1, 1913, while shooting on the Olympic Gun Club grounds, about one mile west of Westminster, Orange County, California, I saw six Vermilion Flycatchers (Pyrocephalus rubinus mexicanus). They were all females or else immatures, as there were no red males among them. Last winter, however, during the duck season, about half a dozen of the birds were seen at different times, and among them several males in brilliant plumage. It accordingly seems possible that careful search in the right places might prove this species to not be quite so rare a winter visitant west of the mountains as we have heretofore believed.--W.B. Judson, Los Angeles, California.

References Cited
Grinnell, J. 1898. Birds of the Pacific Slope of Los Angeles County. Pasadena Academy of Sciences, Publication II, 52p.
Judson, W.B. 1901. Getting a Late Supper. Condor 3(6):186.
Judson, W.B. 1914. Vermilion Flycatcher in the San Diegan District. Condor 16(1):14.
Swarth, H.S. 1929. The C.O.C. 1893 - 1928. A History. 78p. San Francisco.