As you may have heard, we've had some intense fires burning the mountains around Los Angeles. For weeks, the air has been thicker and heavier than usual smog we breathe. The scale of habitat devastation has been phenomenal. I've lost track of the thousands of acres lost. One would imagine, wildlife would have been wiped out.

Lance Benner posted some interesting observations on to LACoBirds yahoo group last night

We were curious to see what the area looked like and to survey any birds that might be present. Despite the desolation, we still heard and/or saw almost 20 species between 6-9 pm.

In the areas that burned most extensively, the most common birds were California Towhees (largely on the ground) and Western Scrub Jays. The largest numbers of birds were among the oaks in canyon bottoms where the fire didn't completely wipe out the vegetation.

Overall, numbers of birds were _way_ down relative to what was present before the fire, as expected, but the number of species we encountered still exceeded our expectations.

Here's the master list and totals for the trip:

1 Cooper's Hawk
1 Accipiter species
1 Mourning Dove
2 Western Screech Owl
1 Great Horned Owl
1 Common Poorwill
1 Allen's Hummingbird
5 Acorn Woodpecker
1 Nuttall's Woodpecker
3 Northern Flicker
10 Western Scrub-Jay
5 Common Raven
2 Bewick's Wren
2 Wrentit
2 Northern Mockingbird
3 California Thrasher
1 Spotted Towhee
15 California Towhee
2 House Finch

Notes about some species:

The only woodpeckers in extensively burned areas were flickers. The other species were in the canyon bottoms among oaks.

The spotted towhee, Bewick's wren, and wrentit were only in areas where vegetation survived.

We did not find a number of species were formerly common: titmice, band-tailed pigeons, juncos, quail, goldfinches, Anna's hummingbirds, rufous-crowned and song sparrows, or black phoebes.

We were delighted to see the poorwill and hear the owls. The poorwill was on the road about a mile south of the top. The screech owls were in thick oaks just west of the junction between 2N65 and 2N66 (aka Brown mountain saddle). The great horned owl was in a canyon bottom roughly midway between the ranger's house and the saddle and was vocalizing about 10 minutes before sunset.

Along the road we saw numerous dead rabbits, rats, and a couple of mice. The rabbits were badly decomposed and/or eaten by scavengers and only a few of the animals looked burned. We also found three _live_ vertebrates on the ground: two alligator lizards (one adult and one juvenile) and one mouse.

At the top, we noticed that crickets are still quite vocal, but when we passed back into the unburned area at the bottom on our way down (at about 9 pm) the volume of crickets and other insects increased significantly and seemed like a deafening roar in comparison with what we heard above.