Wednesday, March 02, 2011

2 days in LA - Saturday 26th February

We found ourselves back in the USA, courtesy of an invitation from my employer to a weekend in Los Angeles. Flying Helen to LA for 2 days would be insane so like last year we decided to tag on a couple of days holiday to make the most of the travel and time.

I got to LA Friday lunchtime when it was still quite pleasant. Helen arrived around 4 hours later. I collected the hire car then picked her up once she'd cleared customs. We then spent an agonizing 2 hours driving around 11 miles in Friday afternoon rush-hour traffic in LA. The first hour was spent driving less than one mile on the exit road from the airport. It's fair to say you have to really want to be there...

Friday night a river appeared to materialise over the city and then descend. We got completely soaked walking half a mile to the restaurant for dinner and again on the way back to the hotel. Coats and jeans on drip-dry over the bath then!

We'd already decided to try to avoid the timezone acclimatisation as we had a number to do over a week or so, so had an early-ish night (9:30pm local) and an early start (5am local). First-up we wandered around downtown looking for a hearty but reasonably priced breakfast then we hung around the mall until Macy's opened. Helen's new jeans in hand we headed back to the hotel, grabbed the car and headed out...

I'd done a lot of research via the Internet and books in advance and picked the Ballona Wetlands as the must visit birding location in LA. Wrong. It was being used for dog walking and hanging about in by large groups of people with nothing much else to do, it appeared. We did however spot a large group of gulls in a channel, though being LA stopping was forbidden so we had to guess our way around the road system and found ourselves in a proximate marina. Which was a result.

We started off walking through the marina car park, following an airborne Brown Pelican:



which got closer:



I'm not sure if it's the same bird, we had to navigate around some buildings, but more Brown Pelicans were about including this one:





There's a cycle path at the end of the marina, by the Coastguard Station (Halibut if that helps you locate the area), which Helen suggested we explore. Genius!

It turns out it was high tide, so the side of the inlet was covered in waders, including Marbled Godwit:



Willets:



And Grey Plovers (Black-bellied Plovers to the American birder):



Intermingled were some Yellow-rumped Warblers:





Having spent a delightful hour watching the waders and various ducks in the channel we started to walk back, spotting a Great Blue Heron:
Western Gulls:


Red-breasted Mergansers:


A distant Red-tailed Hawk, set against the cloud:



Northern Mockingbird:



and House Finch:



From the marina we headed on to our second destination, Franklins Canyon, off Mulholland Drive. It's a nice spot and I expect much busier, with both birds and humans, come Springtime. We did however enjoy excellent views of a Black Phoebe:




Which proved to be a very confiding bird:



California Towhee:



We then got hailed on by some really rather persistent (and vicious!) hailstones, the remnants of the forecast snow on higher ground. We headed back to our hotel to sort out the restaurant bookings for the evening and make all arrangements.

Helen took this picture from our 30th floor hotel room - did I mention I get vertigo? I couldn't even watch as she took the picture:


Dinner was at Cucina Rustica which was excellent value, good wine and fantastic food and service, we all thoroughly enjoyed the evening and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to any visitor.

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