Tag Archives: Killdeer

Birds at Los Angeles State Historic Park


Wondering what birds may be found at Los Angeles State Historic Park? Look no further than this video to see a sampling of all the great birds that utilize our park. Birds included in the video are the Black Phoebe, the American Crow, Killdeer, Say’s Phoebe, Cliff Swallow and the Western kingbird. Any questions call Thomas at (three two three) 441-8819

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Killdeer Sighting!

While out in the park today, we noticed a noisy Killdeer scurrying around our seasonal wetland here at Los Angeles State Historic Park. This isn’t the first time we spotted a Killdeer here in the park but that doesn’t mean we are any less excited when we spot one!


BIRD FACT: The Killdeer is a shore bird that got its name from its loud call that sounds like they are saying their name, kill deer.

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Empty Nest, Concrete River, and LASHP

Sadly, it appears that the LASHP Tweet received over the weekend is correct. Our resident Killdeer and chicks have indeed moved on, leaving not a trace but the two orange cones which were situated on either side of their gravelly nest. While we’re sorry to see them go, it’s still quite exciting to see a variety of birds here in the park and be reminded daily of the tremendous impact a little open space can have in supporting urban wildlife populations. At the same time, it’s sobering to think of the wildlife that has been lost over the years due to urban expansion, and in our particular location, the channelization of the Los Angeles River.

Los Angeles River

Los Angeles River

This is what the river looks like today – 52 miles of concrete, minus a scant few in the soft-bottomed Glendale Narrows where complete channelization was not possible due to a particularly high water table. Yes, Los Angeles was once home to a wild, free-flowing river. It was the river that primarily attracted the Spanish to this location, one of the few where water flowed year-round, as an ideal spot for settlement. The river was the reason that over 45 Tongva/Gabrielino Indian settlements had already been in residence along the its course for over a millennia before the Spanish arrived. The Tongva village of Yang Na, one of the largest settlements, is thought to have been located within a half mile of LASHP.

In 1769 the Portola expedition crossed the Los Angeles River near where the park meets the Broadway Bridge. From the bluff, the Spanish noted flourishing native settlements and the particular beauty of this location near the river, a verdant marshland of dense willow and sycamore. Father Crespi appreciated the fertility of the land, and wrote in his diary that they encountered “a great vineyard of (wild) grapevines and countless rose bushes having a great deal of open blossoms, all of it a very dark friable soil.” A few years later, in 1781, El Pueblo de la Reina de los Angeles was founded by a small group of 46 settlers.

Portola Trail marker at Elysian Park entrance off Broadway

Portola Trail marker at Elysian Park entrance off Broadway

The river was a vital component of the young agricultural village and provided the sole source of irrigation and drinking water for over a century. Water from the Los Angeles River was transported to the growing Pueblo through irrigation ditches, or zanjas. A section of the most significant channel, the Zanja Madre, or “Mother Ditch” was actually uncovered during the construction of the MTA Goldline and this brick covered remnant of the old Pueblo irrigation system is still visible from LASHP. The conveyance of water to El Pueblo was so important, in fact, that a prominent municipal position, that of Zanjero, was created in 1854 to oversee the water supply and maintenance of the zanjas.

Zanja Madre

Zanja Madre

Brick Detail on Zanja Madre

Brick Detail on Zanja Madre

Although the river was vital to the sustenance of the Pueblo, it was also dangerous and prone to violent flooding along its meandering, undefined path. As the population of the region grew and development increased in proximity to the River’s shallow banks, the danger to residents from periodic flooding increased exponentially. Three great floods, in 1914, 1934, and 1938 all hit Los Angeles with catastrophic consequences. Public distrust of the river grew along with the expanding population. Eventually, the seasonal threats of raging flood waters were met head on by the Army Corp of Engineers which began channelizing the river in 1940 making it what it is today, a vessel for the rapid delivery of floodwater to the ocean.

So that is why LASHP no longer has a natural connection to the Los Angeles River and the historic floodplain. And it is why we relish the site of a lone pair of nesting Killdeer, where there were once Condors, and Cuckoos, Owls, and Vireos, deer and antelope roaming the region, along with mountain lions, foxes, coyotes, and even grizzly bears, coming down from the mountains to feast on steelhead trout that once filled the river. Looking at the river as it is today, it’s hard to image that less than a hundred years ago it probably looked much like this.

Santa Ana River -  Riverside County

Santa Ana River - Riverside County

But, concrete channel or no, the Los Angeles River remains an integral component of the past and future of LASHP. During the our planning process, the local community consistently emphasized the paramount importance of re-connecting the park with the Los Angeles River. Even amidst the doom and gloom of an economic meltdown, we’re still looking forward to making that connection and hope to see the northern end of the park return to a natural wetland and supportive wildlife habitat. For now, we’ll keep our eye on the Killdeer.

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Babywatch ’09

The little peeps are up and around this afternnon.

Precocious Killdeer

Precocious Killdeer

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Thank you Killdeer and Goldfinch

We’ve been just dying for an excuse to share samples of Charley Harper’s mid-century fabulous artwork, and here it is. Please excuse our little indulgence and enjoy the brief diversion. We think it will be worth your while.

Killdeer by Charley Harper

Killdeer by Charley Harper

Resident Killdeer LASHP

Resident Killdeer LASHP

Harper was an illustrator and designer whose minimalist artwork centered on natural subjects, notably birds. He’s best known for illustrating The Giant Golden Book of Biology, but also provided artwork for National Park Service posters and other natural resource organizations, such regional parks, wildlife sanctuaries, nature centers and local Audubon Chapters. We stumbled upon Harper’s work awhile back when searching for information and images of Cliff Swallows and have been enchancted ever since with his whimsical representations of our local feathered friends.

American Goldfinch at LASHP

American Goldfinch at LASHP

Goldfinch by Charley Harper

Goldfinch by Charley Harper

Redwinged Blackbird

Redwinged Blackbird

Redwinged Blackbird at Rio de Los Angeles State Park

Redwinged Blackbird at Rio de Los Angeles State Park

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Protecting the Resource

Our archaeologists spotted a nesting Killdeer in the park and went out of their way to make a safe haven for it near their dig site.

Nesting Killdeer

Nesting Killdeer

We actually spotted this little mama last week in the evening hours and thought she was acting a bit peculiar. She stayed on the ground but did a lot of fluttering about with one wing outstretched and then wandered away from from the place we initially spotted her. The fluttering and wandering continued until she eventually flew off. It was exciting to see her again and learn that she was actually nesting and protecting an egg. This explains the strange behavior we noticed earlier. Turns out that Killdeer are known for their acting skills -faking injuries to divert a predator’s attention away from their nest or brood. Believing a predator was near, she was probably feigning a broken wing. Killdeer are actually the most widespread shorebird in California, so it’s interesting to see her inland. Possbily our proximity to the Los Angeles river? You’ll notice she picked a nice gravelly spot, similar to gravelly shorelines that are the usual Killdeer nesting habitat. Anyway, it was a thrill to see her again so contently nesting in the light of day. No faked injuries this time around. Those orange cones must really do the trick.

Do you see her?

Do you see her?

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