california, Hiking, outdoors, photography, Travel, Uncategorized, writing

Urban Birding: The Sepulveda Basin

If you live in the Greater Los Angeles area and you really love to watch birds, you need not go far for some fun birding. In addition to the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia, famous for its many peacocks, and the serene Huntington Library in San Marino, as well as the multitude of urban and suburban parks throughout the LA County, there is a place in the Sepulveda Basin that is a hot spot for birds of many kinds.

I have been spending quite a bit of time in Sherman Oaks, which is about a forty minute drive from my San Gabriel Valley home on a good traffic day. Located off U.S. 101 and Interstate 405, stretches of highway through Los Angeles and Ventura made famous for their insane and usually inexplicably horrendous traffic, I wasn’t too happy about adding this to my daily grind. That is until I discovered the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, which is a stop on the migration path for many west North American migratory birds.

The 225-acre wildlife reserve is part of the 2000-acre Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, which is a flood control basin turned recreation area featuring a Japanese Garden, a remote-controlled airplane field, an off-leash dog park, and many other recreational opportunities. I like to spend most of my time in that portion of the San Fernando Valley at the reserve which has a peaceful hike around the manmade pond that features native plants and animals, as well as the many native and migratory birds that inhabit the area throughout the year. If I have to be in Los Angeles, you might find me taking a walk and watching the birds.

Depending on the season, you’ll find different varieties of birds. Year-round, you’ll see waterfowl swimming in the pond, which was formed from borrow pits and filled with water from the nearby Tillman Water Reclamation Plant. Haskell Creek flows next to the pond on its route to the Los Angeles River. There are major efforts for vegetative restoration, and these seem to be paying off. On our visit last week, we saw poppies, roses, and other beautiful flowers in bloom. And of course, there were many other birds.

California poppies

The kids were excited to do a little bit of birdwatching. As we started the trail from our parking spot on Woodley Avenue, we spotted a red-tailed hawk flying low just above us. As we headed to a bench by the side of the pond to eat our afternoon snacks, we were greeted by two Canadian geese wandering around by the pond. They scared us away because one looked like it had an eye on Emily’s sandwich. We found another spot by the pond and watched the many ducks floating on the water, as well as a few snowy egrets. Cormorants and what looked to possibly be a pelican was on the far side of the pond.

An egret in Haskell Creek
The goose who would have eaten a sandwich.

As we looped back to the car, we saw more birds, of course. Blue jays, warblers, sparrows, and doves were among the many birds we spotted in the trees or on the ground pecking at food. There were a few other wildlife sightings. As Emily watched the ground, she was excited to see a few wild bunnies hopping across the trail and some squirrels looking cute while foraging under the live oaks. As pictures speak louder than words, I’ll end with photos from our last several trips to the wildlife reserve. I wish I had a camera with a good lens, or at the very least a pair of binoculars for better bird-eye views, but it is possible to enjoy this urban retreat without either.

Sami watched the birds on the bird island

Some things to consider:

To protect the wildlife, dogs are not allowed in the wildlife reserve. There is a dog park within the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, about 2.5 miles west on Victory Bl. It’s a pleasant area where you can let your fluffy buddy off-leash.

For more information and bird identification, check out the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society.
The Sepulveda Basin site is also a good source of information for seasonal birds.

Hope you find happy trails, even in the bustle of LA life.

Bridge over Haskell Creek

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