Un Gigante en Yaquina Head

(English translation provided below the Spanish version)

Desde una belleza natural envuelta en un verdor de espesos y vastos bosques extendiéndose más lejos de lo que cualquiera pudiera ver, la costa del estado de Oregón ofrece un destino de vistas paradisiacas que combinan el esplendor de la naturaleza con la complejidad arquitectónica de su historia. Es aquí mismo, sobre la costa de Oregón, que se encuentra el faro de Yaquina Head; un lugar de intrigante historia y singular aprendizaje cultural que hace destacar a la ciudad de Newport. No hace falta colocarse a la base del faro para apreciar su grandeza; desde la distancia, ya sea viniendo del norte o del sur, el primer emblemático punto de referencia que se puede divisar a la distancia es este faro.

Trabajando con la Oficina de Administración de Tierras (BLM por sus siglas en inglés) del estado de Oregón, he tenido la oportunidad de interactuar con diversos turistas, quienes ajenos a esta localidad, acuden a  esta zona natural para deleitarse con la vista. La imponente presencia del faro cuenta la historia de un centinela cuya luz, iluminada desde 1872, otorgó pasaje seguro a centenales de navíos venturados en las frías aguas de la costa rocosa de Newport. Nuevas tecnologías han opacado la misión de este veterano, quien por más de cien años de impecable contienda antagónica hacia la implacable naturaleza, ha logrado resistir y habiendo cumplido su encomienda se le ha otorgado el derecho a la jubilación.

El BLM ofrece recorridos en el faro, dirigidos por guías vestidos en atuendos de la época victoriana. Tuve la oportunidad de formar parte de uno de estos entretenidos recorridos y mientras subía la escalinata de 114 escalones, una ineludible pregunta invadía mi mente: ¿qué ha sido de aquellos quienes habían sido delegados con la tarea de mantener la luz del faro encendida, los escalones pintados, el aceite fluyendo y al público informado? Para contestar preguntas como esta los guías turísticos del BLM son entrenados para representar el papel de los custodios y sus esposas, los cuales desempeñaron la difícil tarea de mantener esta fortaleza funcionando. La historia cuenta que desde 1872 hubo un equipo integrado por tres custodios del faro, quienes en compañía de sus familiares vivieron justo al lado de la torre. Fue en la época de los años 1930, cuando la electricidad remplazo el uso del aceite y la tripulación se redujo a sólo dos custodios; hecho que marcó el comienzo de la decadencia de los faros como guías marítimos. La época llegó  a su fin en el año 1966 cuando se instaló una computadora para controlar la luz y los dos últimos custodios partieron de este territorio junto a sus familias.

Hoy en día el faro que había visto tantos soles pasar frente a si, funciona como atractivo turístico y centro de reconocimiento histórico. Sigue exponiéndose en una vertical de fortaleza e historia viviente que ha trascendido desde hace ya un centenario y medio hasta la época contemporánea.

rsz_lighthouse

The coast of the state of Oregon offers a natural beauty wrapped in a greenery of thick and vast forests extending farther than anyone can see. It is a destination of paradisiacal views that combines the splendor of nature with the architectural complexity of its history. It is here, on the coast of Oregon, that the lighthouse of Yaquina Head is located; a place of intriguing history and unique cultural learning that highlights the city of Newport. You don’t need to stand at the base of the lighthouse to appreciate its greatness; even from the distance, whether coming from the North or South, the first iconic point of reference that you can see in the distance is the lighthouse.

Working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of the state of Oregon, I have had the opportunity to interact with various tourists, who as foreigners in this town, come to this area to revel in the view. The imposing presence of the lighthouse tells the story of a sentry whose light, illuminated since 1872, granted safe passage to hundreds of adventurous ships in the cold waters off the rocky coast of Newport. New technologies have overshadowed the mission of this veteran, who for more than a hundred years of impeccable antagonistic combat toward the relentless force of nature, which has managed to resist and having fulfilled its task it earned the right to retirement.

The BLM offers tours in the lighthouse, led by guides dressed in Victorian attire. I had the opportunity to be part of one of these entertaining tours and while climbing the staircase of 114 steps, an inescapable question was invading my mind: what has become of those who had been delegated with the task of maintaining the light from the lighthouse, the paint of the steps, the oil flowing and the public informed ? Tourist guides of the BLM are trained to answer questions like this one by representing the role of the keepers of the lighthouse and their wives, who played the difficult task of maintaining this fortress running. The story tells that since 1872 there was a team composed of three keepers of the lighthouse, who along with their families lived right next to the tower. It was at the time of the 1930’s, when electricity replaced the use of oil, that the crew was reduced to only two custodians; an event that marked the beginning of the decline of the lighthouses as maritime guides. Their time came to an end in 1966 when a computer was installed to control the light and the last two keepers and their families departed from this territory.

Today the lighthouse that had seen so many seasons pass before it, functions as a tourist attraction and center of historical recognition. It is still exposing itself as living history that has transcended from almost a century and a half ago to the contemporary period.

 

 

 

Diversity in the Environmental Movement

“Pueden contestar en Español” a burst of hands go up as suddenly, students who were too shy to participate, began to raise their hands in excitement. I felt so proud to see so many children proud and enthusiastic about speaking Spanish. At the end of our program Lily and I handed out pamphlets about the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in both Spanish and English. So many of the students asked for the pamphlet in Spanish that we actually ran out!

Learning how to do the Furs and Skulls lesson...after we had already taught it six times!

Learning how to do the Furs and Skulls lesson…after we had already taught it six times!

Going to these classes and teaching in both languages really warmed my heart. Growing up, I had a hard time in school because I didn’t speak English very well. I felt a lot of pressure to assimilate, and began to be a little ashamed of my culture and heritage. It’s been a long process to shake that feeling and be proud of myself and all the hard work my parents went through to be where I am now. Therefore, I was so relieved and thankful that the teachers at Harvey Scott work with such diverse students and encourage understanding about different cultures.

I’ve also had the great fortune to meet members of EPOC (Environmental Professionals of Color.) It is important, across different movements, for people of color (POC) to have a space to meet and talk. When I was in Los Angeles, I was involved in a group called LAFemmesofColor that shared similar sentiments about needing a space that was just for them. It is such an amazing experience  to be able to meet other people who share your same interests, understand some of your struggles, and have a similar cultural background, to work on problems in our communities.

I’m immensely grateful to be a part of these conversations. Meeting everyone has inspired me to continue thinking about how race and culture intersect with, and affect our relationships in the environmental movement.

Rehearsal for owl calls

HONK

Immediately, we started giggling. We couldn’t help ourselves. The swan’s honk broke the steady silence of the dark, cold night. We were in a pull-off near Mile 10 on the Copper River Highway and I could see only a few stars speckled here and there in the sky. We had been standing for a while, straining our ears so that we could hear an owl. Our hopes weren’t high, but we dutifully continued with the broadcast, sending out owl calls into the night.

The forecast was good to see the northern lights, but the sky remained a patchwork of thick clouds. Danielle, her friend and I had ventured out that night to practice owl broadcasting. Danielle Rupp is an Americorps Member here in Cordova and she’s been tremendously helpful and friendly. She’s been here since September and has gotten to know the community remarkably well, which is great for me, otherwise I wouldn’t have learned about square dancing, dance classes and other fun events without her. I was also lucky to be able to work with her. In two days we were traveling to Tatitlek Village to conduct a community owl survey. I was thrilled at the chance to get out of the office.

I had spent most of my time in the office memorizing the different owl calls. I learned the easiest way of remembering these owls is by comparing their calls to something else. For instance, the Barred Owl’s call sounds like it’s loudly murmuring who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all? The Northern Saw-Whet sounds like a truck backing up. By far, my favorite is the short-eared owl’s call. This little guy sounds nothing like an owl. Instead, this owl barks. When I heard the sound clip, I thought of my little dog back home in Los Angeles.

“Okay, what do we have to do first?” Danielle asked. We looked down at the papers and saw that we had to record the time, location, precipitation, snow cover, wind. The protocol was very similar to what I had learned during shorebird training.

I looked at my watch. “It’s 10:38pm.” This was the second site. We thought we heard something at the first location, but the call was too distant to tell for certain. We jumped out of the car and turned on the broadcast. After the Boreal Owl’s call on the broadcast, we heard the swan.

HONK

Giggling, I briefly wondered whether we had awoken the disgruntled swan, but then, all of a sudden, a different call.

too-too-too-too

I gasped and we all swiveled around to stare at the silhouetted trees.

too-too-too-too

Like a truck backing up, it was the call of the Northern Saw Whet. That was how I heard and identified my first owl in Alaska.

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?

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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.