Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oct 14 (Day 287) - Straight outta Compton, arrival in LA!

What few people know is that I had a full-fledged hip hop career that paralleled my birding interest for most of my 20s. Here is a photo of me as my alter ego, MC Corvid. The "Compton" hat pictured below was bequeathed to me by one of my mentors and friends Eric "Eazy E" Wright (RIP). My rhymes and skills turned out to be too deadly for the even the most hardcore gangster rappers, so I decided to quit the game to focus on birding and photography.

MC Corvid in da hizzouse!

This is obviously complete rubbish, but I figured it was time for some humor after a few days without any. This ties in well with the timing of my arrival in LA today, so there you have it!

The goal of today was to position myself to look for Spotted dove in downtown LA tomorrow. The ~82-mile ride would be spit into 2 parts. The first part would run me along the coast on Highway 1 for nearly 50 miles. The second part would throw me directly onto the city streets of LA where I would fight ~32 miles of traffic lights to reach Sonia and her family in Whittier. From Whittier, I could tomorrow ride to a particular neighborhood in Huntington Park to look for Spotted dove. Part 1 of the ride took just over 3 hours. However, it was the ease with which I navigated the LA city streets during part 2 that was particularly surprising to me. I was making such good time that I actually decided to detour through the Spotted dove area today en route to Whittier. 

Like any huge city, LA has some really nice areas and some other, rather scary parts. I figured that I could take a quick run through Huntington Park to get a sense of the area before continuing onto Whittier. Since I had the fully loaded bike, I did not want to hang about in an area that might be less than savory. Maybe I would get lucky and get the bird on this brief ride-through. However, upon my arrival, I found the neighborhood just north of Salt Lake Park to be very nice. It was nice enough that I decided to spend the afternoon looking for the dove even with the loaded bike. I did this with hope that I might avoid the 30-mile round trip return ride tomorrow. (Note - the area is fine during the day but I have been advised by many not to be here once it gets dark. It's not like I could find the dove after dark anyway)

89 miles here pictured........ 12 from the search yields 101 miles for the day.
I did this route 4 times at 3.1 miles per repetition.

I spent roughly 4 hours on the bike gridding out the neighborhood. I looked on lawns, on wires, on roofs, everywhere. I am actually surprised that no one said anything to me. I must have looked very suspicious riding back and forth over the neighborhood streets with my fully loaded bike and my binoculars. There were a fair number of pigeons, and I also found 3 Mourning doves and 2 Eurasian collared-doves. There was no sign of the desired dove though. I was to have dinner with Sonia's family at 6pm. This meant my 4:15 pass of the neighborhood would be my last. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would have to return to the same area tomorrow. I was in my last block when I spotted a darkish dove on a roof. I knew right away it was the sought bird, and a brief binocular view confirmed this. I went to fish out the camera for a picture. Right then, 2 kids, clearly en route to the park to shoot some hoops, came sprinting around the corner bouncing a basketball. POOF! That was that. The bird shot over the backside of the roof just as I got my hands on my rig. Crap. I guess in a neighborhood full of people, you just can't control for everything (if anything!). The view I got was very brief, but it was surely good enough to chalk up year bird #573! This find opens tomorrow up for me. I will probably use the time to bird around Whittier a bit and to spend extra time with Sonia before I head south to Huntington Beach on Thursday and San Diego on Friday.

Santa Monica beach biking

Me and Sonia's niece Jocelyn upon my arrival

I am very curious to see what happens with Spotted dove in the next few years. This bird is an Asian species that became established in and around LA a while ago. Its range has been steadily contracting in the last 10-15 years though, and I must imagine that it could become extirpated from Southern California in the near future. This story is much like that of Budgerigar in South Florida. I do not know why the range contraction is happening, but I must believe it has something to do with the expansion of and competition from another species, the Eurasian collared-dove. This species seems to thrive everywhere as its recent and rapid range expansion demonstrates. Just for fun, I took a few snaps from eBird to show the range contraction of the Spotted dove. Both of the orange markers are in Huntington Park area where I went today. You can see the range collapsing around those 2 remaining markers.

Sightings from all years

Sightings from 2004-2014

Sightings from 2011-2014

Sightings from 2014

Since I was curious about the Eurasian collared-dove range expansion, I did something similar. Clearly there is more data being input in recent years, but the expansion is so rapid (20 years) and so obvious, that a correction for number of data points per year doesn't need to be made to see the trend.




Notice how many more Eurasian collared-dove sightings there are in SoCal where the Spotted dove has declined so precipitously. I have no idea if this actually explains it, but this little exercise gave me the chance to mull it over a bit!

OK, 101 miles and a life/year bird....I've earned a second bowl of ice cream before bed!


  1. Glad you took the bike path through Santa Monica. I'm sure it was good to get off PCH for a while.
    I was hoping to get down there and get the Spotted Dove myself before they're completely gone. Crazy how it's disappeared like that.
    I actually knew Eazy-E. Back in the early 90s he and his family used to come into Sizzler in Agoura about once every two weeks. He had two young kids and his wife with him. I remember this one time upon giving them their food, one of his kids picked up a french fry with his fingers and he snapped at him, "HEY, you eat those with a fork!" Wow. Guess he was a little different than his public persona. He also promised me a copy of his double album coming out, but he didn't make it that long. Oddly, I last saw him about 2 months before he "died". And he looked perfectly fine to me before that. Hmmmmmm.

  2. Hey Dorian -- You're getting a hell of a lot of mileage out of others' eBird data during this trip. Curious if you're keeping notes on your sightings to enter into eBird once you get back home. Clearly you're covering a lot of seldom-birded territory this year and could really add a lot of value to the community dataset. - Dave

  3. Hi Dorian- I grew up in the San Fernando Valley (not far from where you are) in the 60's and Spotted Doves were more common in my backyard/neighborhood than Mourning Doves. Back for a visit in the mid-80's and found only one or 2 for my husband's life list. I enjoy your blog everyday! - Denise, Napa, CA

  4. Hi, Dorian - Just read your Spotted Dove story. I moved to Riverside CA and the Spotted Doves were as thick as Mourning Doves. By 2000 they were starting to decline a bit. And a bit more. And a bit more. By 2010 they were essentially GONE from Riverside, but here's the kicker. Eurasian Collared Doves were scarce in Riverside during the same time - sure, you might see the odd one every other year or so. They ECDs are still uncommon in Riverside. My birding buddy, Professor Gene Anderson, tells me that the Spotted Doves were easy pickings when the Cooper's Hawks made their DDT-free dramatic comeback about 2000. Who knows? Looking forward to buying your book about this adventure! Norm in Riverside, CA