It has been a very exciting week regarding the Least Terns! We have spotted Least Tern chicks for the first time in over five years and we have set up a fence within the exclosure to keep the chicks from going out of the exclosure. That will protect them from getting stepped on or ran over by a vehicle because they can be difficult to spot, even at close range. There haven’t been many crows landing within the exclosure either. Sometimes they fly over but the terns are quick to get them out of there.
The chick fence we set up covered a good amount of the nesting terns, but because of a shortage of fence, some terns were left outside the fence. The western part of the fence was made with wooden stakes and a thick plastic that was about three feet tall. The eastern part of the fence was made with wooden stakes and a smaller plastic tied to them. It was a lot of work but we had a few people helping so it went by pretty fast. We will keep monitoring the site and keeping an eye on the fence and chicks.
This week I participated in a walk-through of the Least Tern site in Venice, and we counted 53 nests! Most of the nests have been around for about two weeks, and they usually hatch at about three weeks. Then, it takes the chicks another twenty or so days to become more independent. The crows seem to be staying away from the area where most of the nests are located, and when a crow does get close, it gets bombarded by over 60 terns flying at it. The terns are doing a great job at keeping the crows away from their nests. We do see some predated eggs but it is not as bad as when the terns first tried nesting earlier in the summer. It is a bit unusual that the terns have tried to nest again so late in the season because in most seasons they are usually leaving the site by early or mid July. This coming week we will do another walk-through to see how the nests are doing and we will set up a fence within the exclosure to help keep the chicks inside the exclosure if they start hatching. It is very exciting, and I am looking forward to seeing chicks at Venice soon.
This week I have worked on more habitat restoration and I have been monitoring the Least Terns at the Venice site. We have started to plant native grasses at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook in places where we have weeded. It looks great when all the weeds have been removed and there tiny bunch grass has been recently planted. I am hopeful that many of the grasses that were planted will survive and the area will look a lot different than it did with the weeds.
The Least Tern monitoring is also looking promising. The terns are sticking around this time and the crows seem to be staying away for the most part. There was a walk-through of the exclosure to check for nests and eggs and they found over forty nests! This is very exciting news, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will be seeing Least Tern chicks soon.
This week I also attended an orientation to become a volunteer at the International Bird Rescue Center. They deal with injured water birds and try to rehabilitate them to release them into the wild again. I will learn to handle the birds while they are being taken care of and I will learn how to prepare their food when they are too weak to eat on their own. I am very excited to begin volunteering and to learn many new things while helping injured birds get back to health.
The past couple of weeks I have been monitoring the Least Tern site, later in the day for a couple of hours on most days. Early in the breeding season there were a lot of Least Terns using the Venice site that I monitor, but as time progressed the numbers dropped dramatically. The reason that the number dropped is believed to have been because of the high number of crows. The crows would go into their nesting site and eat their eggs. When the tern numbers dropped, I started to notice Killdeer in the site. They were always in the same spot inside the exclosure. When the crows would get close to the Killdeer, the Killdeer would catch the crow’s attention and have the crow chase it away from its nest. If the crow did not chase the Killdeer, then the Killdeer would chase the crow out of the location. About a week ago I noticed a couple Killdeer chicks inside the exclosure, walking near the adult Killdeer. I was surprised to see the Killdeer chicks because I would imagine the Killdeer would face the same problem with crows as the Least Terns do. Some of the reasons that I thought could lead to Killdeer being successful in having chicks were because they might be more aggressive toward the crows and better able to defend their eggs. Another reason might be because they forage near the eggs and are better able to keep an eye on their nests, while Least Terns have to fly off to try to catch fish. Recently, the number of Least Terns has increased. There aren’t as many as there were early in the season but there are over fifty, and they have been there for over a week now. I have also noticed a lower number of crows flying over or landing in the exclosure. I am crossing my fingers and hoping that the Least Terns are able to defend their nests this time and see chicks soon.
This week I started assisting with habitat restoration at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook and Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Park. I joined some L.A. Audubon interns and together we pulled weeds and watered some of the native plants they have planted earlier in the year. Most of the week we were at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook pulling Chrysanthemum. There was a lot of it spread throughout the park, but with eleven Audubon interns we were able to get rid of those weeds like goats that were let loose in the field. It can be hard work because of the heat and little to no shade, but having people to talk to makes the job very enjoyable.I am learning a lot from the experience. I am getting better at identifying the native plants and I am learning how to care for some of the plants. Some do not like to get watered and many native plants just need to get watered when they are young to get established, but when they are older they no longer need to get watered as often. L.A. Audubon has many great plans in adding to the restoration sites and I am looking forward to seeing how the parks change in the coming year.