The best birding in LA is in Van Nuys? Arguably, yes. The minute you step into the forest of cottonwoods and weeping willows between Haskell Creek and Wildlife Lake, you wonder how this can possibly be the San Fernando Valley—especially when you spot a snowy egret stalking a shoreline, white pelicans patrolling the lake, double-crested cormorants air-drying their wings, or a great blue heron nabbing a fish from the lake. All in a day’s stroll in the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve.
The reserve’s interconnected trail system can provide hours of exploration, but for the best bird-watching, stick near the lake. Wildlife viewing stations provide benches where you can sit and keep your eyes open for some of the 200 bird species that have been spotted here. The Sepulveda Basin Bird Checklist can help you chart your findings. You’re sure to see and hear dozens of species. Common sightings include Canada geese, osprey, blue grosbeak, egrets, herons, blackbirds, sparrows, and feral parakeets. If you see a strange-looking brownish goose, it’s an Egyptian goose—a nonnative that has adopted the basin as home.
The path is an easy stroll, and wood bridges across the creek are a charming addition. Bird-watchers need not go any farther than the end of the lake, but if you want to make a hike of it, complete the entire 2.5-mile loop zigzagging throughout the reserve. Pack up some snacks and cold drinks, grab your binoculars, and spend a day birding—remarkably, in the wilds of Van Nuys!
From the San Diego Freeway (I-405) in Van Nuys, take the Burbank Blvd. exit, go east on Burbank about a half-mile, and then north on Woodley Ave. for another half-mile to Wildlife Way. Turn right, then bear right at the fork and proceed to the Wildlife Reserve parking lot. Admission and parking are free. No dogs. The San Fernando Audubon Society sponsors a guided bird walk in the reserve the first Sunday of every month. Check the reserve website for details.