Monday, January 12, 2015

After the Rains

The arroyo was swollen and coursing fast yesterday after the recent rains we received. It's color was chocolaty (in a bad sort of way), the spillways were frothy (again in a bad sort of way), and all sorts of detritus from the streets drifted by as I strolled the banks. Most of the birds stayed away, but a lone Bufflehead did make an appearance as did a Double-Crested Cormorant. The trees adjacent to the arroyo near the path spur at Ward Avenue (behind the Discovery Church) always seem to yield a few interesting sightings. Yesterday, it was an Orange-Crowned Warbler that was flitting about in the branches.

A Bufflehead plies the murky arroyo waters

Double-Crested Cormorant drying its wings

Orange-Crowned Warbler in the trees behind Discovery Church

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Still Morning in the Arroyo

It was cold early this morning and the arroyo between Madera Road and First Street was quiet. There were a few scattered Mallards, Wigeons, and Coots about, but many of the usual suspects were nowhere to be found. Come to think of it, since the last rains scoured the arroyo channel, I've noticed a distinct change. Activity has slowed dramatically. All three species of Teal, which in the past have been a common occurrence this time of year, are curiously absent. But there was some activity. A lone Sora made an appearance as did a few other regulars.

Sora Near Madera Road Bridge
Great Egret Putting on a Display
White-Faced Ibis
Great Egret Warming Itself in the Morning Sun
Resting White-Faced Ibis
Green Heron


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Horned Grebe

Yesterday was a cool and blustery day. The arroyo was rather quiet except for a bunch of California Gulls and a rather boisterous assemblage of American Crows. Absent were the Teals, Egrets, Herons, and Ibises that normally dominate the arroyo between Madera and First Street. Despite this apparent absence of anything interesting to see, I continued my trek eastward because I was already there and moving anyway.

But things aren't always as they first appear. As I slowed my pace and tuned into my surroundings, I found that not all activity had ceased with the less than optimal conditions. A flash here, a squawk belied the dormancy of the arroyo.

So I began to look more closely. And that looking allowed me to see a couple of interesting specimens that I might ordinarily overlook. In the trees behind Discovery Church I observed a Ruby-crowned Kinglet flitting furiously about. In those same trees, there was also a couple of brightly-colored Townsend's Warblers. Nothing terribly unique or unusual mind you, but nice to see nonetheless because of their irritating propensity to masque themselves in the dense foliage.

In the arroyo itself, there were a few Mallards, a stray American Coot or three, and this guy: a Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus).

Horned Grebe in the Arroyo Simi
I realize that it's not spectacularly unusual, but to date I've personally not seen a Horned Grebe in the arroyo. Eared Grebes and their ubiquitous brethren, the Pied-bill Grebe "yes," but this was the first Horned Grebe that I've logged.

At first, I thought this was an Eared Grebe. The Eared Grebe and the Horned Grebe are easy to confuse for an amateur like me because their look and size, particularly in winter plumage, is similar.
But as my Kaufman Guide teaches, the Horned Grebe has a more gently sloping forehead and a thicker, white-tipped bill. It also lacks the puffy rear-end and post-auricular patches of the Eared Grebe. On closer examination, this guy had all the characteristics of a Horned Grebe.

Here's a few more images.

Horned Grebe in the Arroyo Simi

Horned Grebe in the Arroyo Simi

Horned Grebe in the Arroyo Simi

Horned Grebe in the Arroyo Simi

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

The arroyo is unquestionably a good place to observe water-fowl and songbirds, but that is by no means all that is there. Below is some wobbly footage of a Red-Shouldered Hawk that I have seen with fair regularity along the south side of the arroyo just week of Rancho Simi Community Park. Scan the eucalyptus, sycamore, and pine trees lining the service road behind the softball fields.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

If You Clean It, They Will Come

I recently read in the Simi Valley Acorn that the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District (“RSRPD”) has been awarded a $900,000 grant from Prop 84 funds for use in its on-going, multi-year project to “beautify” the Arroyo Simi so that it becomes “a place locals might actually want to hang out.”  In addition to the Prop 84 grant, both RSRPD and the City of Simi Valley have committed to chip in additional funding to complete Phase 2 of the beautification effort: the former will contribute $167,000 while the latter will contribute $150,000. These combined funds will be used to beautify the Arroyo Simi by paving two additional stretches along the south side of the watercourse: from Erringer Road to First Street and from Madera Road to Stargaze Place. Additional amenities in the form of “easy to access” trail entries at Madera Road and Stargaze Place, along with new signalized crossings will also be constructed.
I’m not really certain how more concrete along the channel, particularly its south side, will serve to make the arroyo more beautiful. I also question why cementing additional segments adjacent to the channel is viewed as a priority when the path is already paved and/or asphalted along the north side of the channel from Madera Road to Sequoia Avenue.  

If you’ve spent any time down by the arroyo, you’ve recognized that one of the biggest problems from an aesthetic standpoint is not an absence of cement, or even the vagrants that sometimes congregate there, but the accumulation of trash and other detritus that flows into the arroyo from a variety of sources. From soccer balls to broken bottles to old tires to shopping carts, this garbage is fouling the watercourse, negatively impacting wildlife habitat, and reinforcing the widely-held perception that the arroyo is simply an ugly place to be avoided.

So, if the RSRPD and the City of Simi Valley really want to beautify the Arroyo Simi, and give more than mere lip service to the “arroyo’s environmental importance to local wildlife,” it would seem that perhaps they should start with the lowest hanging fruit and spend some of that Prop 84 grant money actually cleaning up the existing mess.  That, more than anything else, will go a long way toward making the arroyo an attractive place that folks “might actually want to hang out.”

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Miscellaneous Field Notes

Since it has been some time since I have posted anything new, I thought I’d update the site with a few observations from the field. Now that winter has returned and the arroyo has re-awakened from its summer hibernation, I hope to update the site more frequently. With that in mind:
·         Since I started this project in mid-2011, I have identified 79 different bird species in or immediately adjacent to the Arroyo Simi. As surprising as that is (at least to me), I know there is more here.  I have caught glimpses of it on occasion, but have been unable to identify it. I have also read reports by others that tell me that there is still more here to see. So, I guess I’ll continue with what my daughter call my “nerd field trips” to see what else I can find.
·         I recently read about the passing of Rich Stallcup, who I understand had some stature in the bird watching community. From what I’ve read, Stallcup was able to amass quite an impressive list of rarities by looking at every single bird no matter how ordinary or common. After considering this strategy, I employed it on one of my recent forays and was able to locate (i.e., see) a solitary female Wood Duck preening among a bunch of American Wigeon. I would have completely missed it if I hadn’t taken the time to look again at the American Wigeons that I’ve seen a million times in the arroyo. So, although I never knew (or even knew of) Rich Stallcup, I have learned from him. I suspect that, in and of itself, is a testament to the man and his knowledge.
·         On Christmas Day, I went back to the arroyo with my camera looking for the Wood Duck and hoping that she would be there with a date from her species. No luck. But, I did come across something pretty exciting. I flushed a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk from the shrubs along the footpath that had just taken an American Crow. Upon my approach, the hawk took flight with the crow clutched tightly in its talons and alighted in a tree on the other side. Not something you see everyday, and the impressive thing about it was that the prey was almost as big as the predator. I was able to sit and watch through binoculars for about 10 minutes until the hawk eventually dropped below a wood fence with its meal and disappeared.
And now, a sampling of some of the recent visitors to the arroyo. All of these pictures were taken along the bike path on the north side of the arroyo between  Madera Road and First Street:

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Female Common Merganser

Female Common Merganser

Blue-Winged Teal

Great Blue Heron

Snowy Egrets

Agitated Snowy Egrets

White-Faced Ibis

Egrets and Ibis (Ibises? Ibisii?)

Great Egret