MADRONA MARSH NATURE PRESERVE

Bob Shanman leads a walk at Madrona Marsh on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. The walk starts at 8am in the Visitor Center Parking Lot.

An urban oasis: Madrona Marsh provides food and rest for migration birds on the Pacific Flyway as well as a year round home for a multitude of resident species.

Habitat: Freshwater wetlands, micro-forests, open water, grasslands.

Terrain: Please keep to the packed dirt trails as restoration is constantly going on in the Marsh and as not to disturb any nesting species. A flat easy walk in dry conditions.

Facilities: Full restrooms in the Visitor Center; porta potty on the marsh.

Parking: Available in the Nature Center lot on the north side of Plaza Del Amo and along Monterey St.

The marsh can be simultaneously easy and difficult! The whole area is flat with just a few low climbs of 5-7 feet. During winter, many areas can be flooded and impassible without knee-high boots; other areas will be inaccessible. Watch for lots of gopher holes. For most areas, the paths are obvious. Watch for small flags in the ground; these mark the spots where young native plants are growing. Allow 2-3 hours to leisurely walk around.

If you like to weed/garden, check with the folks in the Visitor Center; there are many opportunities to volunteer to help in the marsh. Also, if you live in Torrance, thank your council people for supporting the marsh. This is the last vernal marsh in Los Angeles County.

David Moody has compiled bird lists for many parks in the South Bay. Copies of these lists, including for Madrona, are available in the Center. The list of birds for the marsh is approaching 300 species; many of these are one-timers (including Brown Pelican and Surf Scoter). There are many habitats within the marsh including fresh water wetlands (vernal pools), micro-forests (willows, eucalyptus, mulefat), open water (most of winter in the southwest corner, and the sump all year in the southeast corner), upland grasslands and more. Native flora abound throughout the area, and outside the marsh on Madrona Ave.

Birds are present all year at Madrona. In the summer months, work the willows in the center, southwest corner and west side. Bushtits, the resident Orange-crowned warblers, House Finch, American and Lesser Goldfinch, and hummingbirds all nest in these trees. Keep a watch for Hooded and Bullock’s Orioles nesting anywhere in the marsh (April-August). By early summer, bushtit flocks can be found anywhere in the marsh; they particularly like the mulefat.

In mid-late spring, keep a watch for shorebirds on the margins of the large vernal pool west and south of the main entrance. Killdeer are common, with yellowlegs and other sandpipers occasionally showing up. As you work the reed beds watch for snipe popping straight up as you flush them.

Hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds use the reed beds for roosting and nesting. Common Yellowthroats, small, brightly colored marsh warblers, are present all year in the reeds. Green Herons hide in the margins. When water is present, the reeds make great hiding places for many of the wintering duck species. Set up a blind and camera near a reed bed where there are ducks; you may just get a great photo.

Watch the sky over the marsh. Raptors that can be seen include the resident Red-tailed, Cooper’s and Red-shouldered Hawks, and the smallest North American falcon, the American Kestrel. During winter months, look for Sharp-shinned Hawks and Merlins. There are Peregrine Falcons roosting in the area on the taller buildings that sometimes come over the marsh.

The grassy upland area in the northeast provides excellent foraging habitat for Mourning Doves, Western Meadowlarks, and, in winter, Northern Flickers. Fall and winter are good times to look for any number of sparrow species, including White-crowned, Savanah, Song, Lark, the odd Clay-colored, Lincoln’s and more. Anna’s and Allen’s Hummingbirds are present all year, and breed most months. Watch for the females working the cottonwoods for down to line their nests.

Madrona Marsh is a real treasure for birders in the South Bay. Please use it, but don’t abuse it. If you see anything that you think is amiss, report it to the staff in the Center so they can address the problem.