I hop into W9's car and off we go to a stakeout in nearby Pacific Palisades. It's the sort of neighborhood where people might emerge from their homes in evening gowns and tuxedos to be transported in stretch limousines to some Hollywood movie award event.
We have precise directions. Alejandra and Manuel are smiling and give us a warm welcome after we pull over and park. Another couple are there watching as well.
I am relieved to see that we have a team effort because it is unlikely that I will ever spot such a plain looking little bird without help. A little bird flies over our heads and lands on the lawn precisely where he was spotted a few days ago. This lawn monkey is moving from the shaded area farther away, hiding under the house hedges. This is private property and it looks like no one is home. We confine ourselves to the curb but the bird is just too far away. I can see my camera has maxed out with the highest ISO it can muster.
We introduce ourselves to the other birding couple. We recognize their names, Mary and Nick Freeman. They are local bird experts. Nick allows us a look through his spotting scope. And suddenly I can see this wonderfully different sparrow. I want to move in closer to improve my odds of getting a better shot but someone politely says "Wait...” so I do.
We are a clot of paparazzi standing in the road. Several cars stop as folks want to know what we are watching. I am having a really good time exchanging bird stories with my fellow birders. As we watch our odd little visitor, he begins to move a bit closer to us. I'm glad we didn't throw in the towel. 400 photos later, Mary and Nick ask us if we want to try for another rare bird, the Greater Pewee. The location isn't very far away but nobody walks in LA so we hop into our cars (portable bird blind) and head over a few streets.
A frog is croaking. He sounds close. W9 does a mean frog imitation and engages the frog in a conversation. I can see how impressed Mary is. Then she gives us her best Spotted Owl call.
"Plain in plumage but distinctive in habits, the Cassin's Sparrow inhabits arid grasslands in the south-central United States and northern Mexico." Allaboutboids. Not Baja Mexico, not California, not even close.