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Purple gallinules: Birders converge for rare sightings at San Gabriel River

September 26, 2010 |  3:03 pm

Hard-core birder Raul Roa knew it would take a good deal of patience to catch a glimpse of the two purple gallinules that had reportedly hunkered down in the reeds along a stretch of the San Gabriel River a few hundred feet south of Peck Road in South El Monte.

The birds with purplish-blue heads and necks and red and yellow bills had strayed far from their usual haunts in the swamps and lagoons of Gulf Coast states. Recent reports indicated members of the species, seen only five times in Southern California, were hiding deep in the willows and cattails.

After four expeditions to the area, "I was getting frustrated," Roa said.

All that changed at daybreak this morning when a purple gallinule wandered out of the brush long enough for Roa, a photographer with the Glendale News Press, to take several photographs.

Last December, Roa was among hundreds of binocular-toting birders who traveled to South El Monte's Legg Lake for a rare sighting -- and photographs -- of a wood stork that had been hanging out with the great blue herons and double-crested cormorants that call the area home.

"I like to see rare birds," Roa said. "But I'm also a photographer, and it's a challenge and thrill to get worthy images on camera."

-- Louis Sahagun


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Photo: Purple gallinule at the San Gabriel River in South El Monte. Credit: Raul Roa.