Week 1: Restore Habitat, Restore Birds -Asteraceae Talk

It’s the first day back at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, but this time I’m a Celebrate Shorebirds Intern. At this site, LA Audubon workers (Carlos Jauregui, Brian Young, and Bryan Payes) and I manage restoration sites plotted across the park. We usually have walkers of the park question what we are doing and some look like they want to ask but are afraid to. So I want to take the opportunity and let the public know.

It’s nearly Springtime and flowers are popping up like popcorn! You may see us weeding  a yellow flowering plant that may look pretty, but looks can be deceiving. The Garland/Chrysanthemum (Glebionis coronaria), is non-native and invasive! Picture below.

IMG_20150309_123847520

But wait! Don’t confuse it with our native California bush sunflower (Encilia californica). Both of the plants are in the Asteraceae family-the Sunflower family.  The flowers in this family are composed of ray florets and disk florets. The disk florets are small flowers that make up the center of the flower. Next time you look at an asteraceae plant (such as the sunflower) look closely at the middle, those are all tiny flowers! The ray florets are petal-like and surround the disk florets. Here is a picture of the California bush sunflower.

IMG_20150309_121813090

One of the main differences between the Chrysanthemum and the California bush sunflower is the color of the center. The Chrysanthemum has a yellow center while the California bush sunflower is brown. Also, the California bush sunflower has “rounded diamond shaped leaves” while the Chrysanthemum has “pinnately lobed leaves”. Give the previous pictures a second look!

Now, time for discussion questions

What is the point of removing invasive plants such as the Chrysanthemum? Do you think it may have an impact on the vegetation in which it is growing in? Why or why not? Email me your answers at emilycobar@gmail.com

Day 2: Practice Survey with former LA intern, Carlos Jauregui

I’d like to thank Carlos for guiding me through this practice survey. I applied the skills that were developed throughout the training: identifying by shape and size, bills, and behavior; using the field guide; counting the flocks, etc! Carlos confirmed about 90% of my bird identifications so we had a successful practice survey :)

While we were surveying, look what we found growing across the creek! Can you identify this plant through the picture?

IMG_20150310_125108712)

If you said Chrysanthemum, give yourself a pat in the back- you are correct! We can identify it by its yellow center!

These were my highlights from week one and I’m excited to begin the shorebird survey protocols and to also use the outreach skills acquired from the training!

Shorebird ID Training Moss Landing, CA

As I fought back the dizziness, the lightheadedness, and the pain in my right eye during my shorebird identification training — Hugo, my predecessor, calmly said “Yeah there’s not a lot of birds today.” In that instant all the confidence that I had obtained from my daily 12 hours weeklong training in San Diego completely vanished after hearing that sincere, yet cruel sentence. At the moment, I had counted approximately 250 birds. Which included a combination of marbled godwits, western sandpipers, least sandpipers, a few yellow legs, a few black-bellied plovers, and many willets. However, I soon recovered a bit of my confidence after correcting Hugo who had stated that semipalmated plovers had two black collars. I respectfully corrected him and reminded him that it was the killdeer that has two black collars down in its neck. After surveying the area with shorebirds we took a break and decided to do a couple seabird identifications. After destroying and rebuilding my confidence with the seabird identification we called it a day.

Willet and whimbrel

*Whimbrel and Willet keeping each other company

Though it was four hours of training it felt very short. The monitoring site is in Jetty Road, Mosslanding, which is literally 10 minutes away from my home and it reminded me of how very little I know of the surrounding areas and places I was surrounded by for the 15 years I lived here. I have traveled all throughout the United States and the Americas but I know very little of Monterey Bay. I suppose it is time to explore.

Otter Moss Landing*Can’t be in Monterey Bay and not take a picture of an otter.

 

 

Yay! I’m Back

I’m extremely excited to be back with Environment for the Americas. I had an amazing experience interning with EFTA in 2013 and I am very proud to be a returning intern. When I was informed that the internship training was going to be held in San Diego, CA this year I was excited to go birding in such a new and amazing place. The warm weather California has to offer this time of year was also rather enticing since the San Luis Valley was covered in a couple of feet of snow.

The San Diego, CA shorebird training was an awesome experience. It was really neat to see how the EFTA shorebird training program has evolved and improved over the last two years. Even though this was my second shorebird training I have participated in, I still found the information they presented to us extremely helpful. It was amazing to work alongside so many people who truly have a passion for what they do, our environment, and the wildlife. EFTA interns are always some of the best people I have met. I was an EFTA intern in 2013, I worked alongside the SLV EFTA interns from last year and I could not be happier to work with the interns of 2015. I cannot wait to see what new and exciting opportunities this summer to brings us!

Los Halcones Peregrinos de Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

rsz_1halcon_peregrinoTras sobrevivir los corredores de la extinción, alza el vuelo un ave y tras un chillido que demanda la atención de todos el halcón peregrino nos hace testigos de su presencia. Esta rapaz llegó a ser tan escasa que entre las décadas de 1950 y 1970 fue declarada como especie en peligro de extinción. La principal razón por la que esta ave estuvo a punto de desaparecer se debió al uso del insecticida DDT (Dicloro Difenil Tricloroetano); el cual después de haberse descubierto como un agente altamente toxico y con presunto potencial para acabar con muchas especies de aves, fue prohibido en Estados Unidos en el año 1972.

Siguiendo una lenta recuperación, el halcón peregrino es hoy en día una de las especies de aves rapaces más abundantes del planeta con colonias establecidas en todos los continentes con la excepción de Antártida. Es una especie que ha hecho historia y que aparece en la literatura como ejemplo de lo que se ha hecho y de lo que se puede seguir haciendo para conservar a las especies animales. Es un ejemplo de un ave carismática que despierta el interés de chicos y grandes por igual. Un ejemplo de que recae en nuestras manos la capacidad de tomar las decisiones que guiaran el futuro de muchas especies con quienes compartimos el planeta. Y también es un ejemplo de la majestuosa belleza de la naturaleza.

Me considero afortunado de trabajar en conjunto con la Oficina de Administración de Tierras (BLM por sus siglas en inglés) de Yaquina Head en  Newport, Oregon, ya que una pareja de halcones peregrinos ha estado anidando en los acantilados de la parte trasera de la oficina desde hace ya tres años. Intercambiando conversaciones con  personas de la localidad, aprendí que los acantilados bajo los que yace el centro de bienvenida de Yaquina Head alguna vez formaron parte de  una cantera de excavación y que no se habían visto halcones peregrinos anidando desde hace muchos años. Cada mañana me sosiega un ímpetu de emoción por saber con qué alarde me recibirán los dos halcones. A veces gritan, otras veces vuelan por encima de mi campo de visión y en algunas ocasiones hasta soy testigo de sus estrategias de cacería y hábitos alimenticios.

Estos dos especímenes han logrado reproducirse exitosamente ya varias veces y han producido alrededor de diez crías en los últimos tres años. Es interesante especular de donde vinieron y si existe la posibilidad de que otros halcones peregrines se establezcan en esta misma zona. He tenido la oportunidad de observar ocasionalmente otros halcones acercarse a la zona de anidación de las dos aves residentes, pero la hembra no parece ser muy acogedora de otras hembras visitantes. Me agrada la idea de pensar que algún día cuando estos dos halcones finalicen su tiempo en esta vida, una nueva pareja se establecerá en el mismo acantilado del centro de bienvenida de Yaquina Head  y nos seguirán dando un tema para platicar con los visitantes.

 

After surviving the corridors of extinction, a bird takes flight and after a shriek that demands the attention of all, the peregrine falcon makes us witnesses of its presence. This raptor became so scarce that between 1950 and 1970 it was declared an endangered species. The main reason that this bird was on the verge of disappearing was due to the use of the insecticide DDT (Dichloro Diphenyl Trichloroethane); which after being discovered as a highly toxic agent and alleged with the potential to provoke the extinction of many species of birds, it was banned in the US in 1972.

Following a slow recovery, the peregrine falcon is today one of the most abundant raptor species on the planet with colonies established on all continents except Antarctica. It is a species that has made history and appears in the literature as an example of what has been done and what we can still do to conserve other species. It is an example of a charismatic bird that is attractive to young and old alike. An example to remind us of our ability to make decisions that will guide the future of many species with whom we share the planet. And it is also an example of the majestic beauty of nature.

I consider myself fortunate to work with the Bureau of Land Management of Yaquina Head in Newport, Oregon, because a pair of peregrine falcons has been nesting on the cliffs of the back of the office for three years. After exchanging conversations with local people I learned that the cliffs, beneath which the interpretive center of Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area lies, once formed part of a quarry and peregrine falcons had not nested there for many years. Every morning a momentum of excitement deluges me anticipating two falcons flaunting as they receive me. Sometimes crying, sometimes flying over my field of vision and sometimes I even witness their hunting strategies and eating habits.

These two specimens have successfully reproduced and have produced about ten eyasses (babies) in the last three years. It is interesting to speculate where they came from and if there is the possibility that other Peregrine Falcons will settle in this area. I have had the opportunity to observe other falcons occasionally approach the nesting area of ​​the two resident birds, but the local female does not seem very welcoming of other females. I like the idea of ​​thinking that someday when these two falcons finish their time in this life; a new couple will be set to the same cliff of the interpretive center of Yaquina Head and will continue to give a topic to share with visitors.

 

 

Driving up to Oregon

DSC02275As a city girl, driving through the northwestern parts of the U.S. was an eye opening experience. As we made our way up through California, the city-scape fell further back, giving way to large open spaces, farm land, and mountains. Having spent most of my time in southern California I forget just how different other states can be. Sometimes I think of California as the big picture “American culture” when in reality each region and state across the U.S. has its own unique landscapes, culture and customs.

Along the way I saw a lot of beautiful scenery. I would have to say, that seeing the sun rise as the moon set, was one of the most beautiful things I witnessed. If I only knew how to better articulate my feelings during that moment into something that would resonate with you like it resonated with me, but for now, just know that moment was great in itself. Five in the morning probably isn’t a good time to be thinking about philosophical things anyway, unless you’re Henry David Thoreau.

We didn’t stick around in one place for too long, but one big difference I found in Oregon was having full service gas instead of self-service gas. I never even knew that was an option, but my dad says it’s been years since he has seen that in Los Angeles. I’m surprised we didn’t get yelled at for trying to pump the gas ourselves! I’m not the only one making mistakes though. My partner Lily, who is from Chicago, is still getting used to being able to turn right on red. I’m sure we will become accustomed to the differences in no time.
While Lily and I are getting used to our new home, my dad is having a great time thinking back to the good old days. Oregon reminded my dad of the old Los Angeles, from the days when he first came to California. Old gas pumps, Safeways around every corner, and especially the old cars he saw off the side of the road. This rusty old clunker was similar (if not the same) to the car my dad drove when he was a little boy in Mexico. I don’t usually see my dad get excited about anything, but he started telling me so many stories of his younger days. I drove my dad to the airport on Saturday afternoon; he left Oregon reminiscing about old memories, as I drove back to Sherwood, where new memories will be made.