Back in high school, my classmates and I started our own eco club and recycling program. Along with that, we would go to Venice beach and do beach clean up in the enclosed area where the Least Terns would stay. Being involved in these kinds of activities changed the way I saw trash and I started to recycle and re-use as much as I could and I still do.
Being from Los Angeles, I visit the beach quiet often. I always see trash on the sand and the occasional cup in the water and it was easy to just clean up and I wouldn’t mind going into the ocean. The area in Ballona Creek where Carlos and I survey is a whole other story. There is trash all along the creek, and the net that is supposed to catch the trash before it hits the beach isn’t enough. Every time we survey we see a shorebird walking along the trash trying to find something to eat. It’s sad to see these creatures have to suffer because of what some people do. I would love to organize a Ballona Creek clean up but it seems to might be harder that it looks. I hope that one day everyone becomes more aware that trash does end up in the ocean and not only is it bad for the environment and us but it is also bad for the animals and birds.
“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”
This week I had the opportunity to join Dorsey High and Leo Politi Elementary students in a bird walk at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. The park is very nice and well maintained. The view at the top is amazing. You are able to see the whole city surrounding the park and the ocean at the distance. It was great to see all the students very excited to walk around with binoculars and try to identify birds we encountered. They were given tasks throughout the day, like a scavenger hunt and writing a poem about what they felt and saw being outdoors. It was a very fun experience and I am looking forward to participating in more events with all the students.
On one of my surveys this past week I had assistance from an experienced shorebird surveyor, Dan Cooper. I was able to ask him questions I’ve been wondering regarding species that I wasn’t seeing and about my surveying technique. I was reassured about the birds I was identifying and my technique and now I am more confident during my surveys. He also informed me about possible careers and conferences that I am interested in hearing more about. I learned a lot from him and I hope to work more with him in the future.
For the first time ever I was actually able to help out Cal Parks staff and volunteers to set up a barrier to protect the Snowy Plovers. As a park aide for Cal Parks, it makes me really happy to see that they show an interest in conserving and protecting the adorable little plovers.
That same day I also completed a survey all by myself. I was nervous to say the least, because I was used to surveying alongside Carlos but it made me feel good to know that I can identify several shorebirds without any assistance.
Last Sunday, Carlos and I noticed a bird we hadn’t seen yet, the Surfbird. They’re quite similar to other species of shorebirds, such as the Western and Least Sandpipers, and it took us a little while to figure out what exactly he was. With all the skills we have learned we were able to identify it and today we saw a group of them once more. I’m so excited to see what other bird-friends stop in our area.
On another note, we get some of the best sunsets here at Ballona 😀
This week was pretty eventful. We had our first and second official surveys at Ballona Creek. The tides were later in the day, so when we finished we were rewarded by a beautiful sunset. We mostly see willets, but we were able to see marbled godwits, whimbrels, and dowitchers. We also saw surfbirds for the first time, and it took us some time to identify them. Doing the survey is an enjoyable experience because we are outdoors, at the beach, and nothing is on our mind except the birds. It is very relaxing.
This week I also helped with habitat restoration in an area that is protected for Least Terns. The area is divided into quadrants, and the objective this past Saturday was to remove the vegetation completely in some of the quadrants. All of the plants, including the native plants, were pulled out. The native plants were piled together and were buried in a different area of the enclosure so that it can begin to form new dunes. The non-natives were thrown out because they are invasive. I learned that crows are a big problem for the least terns because the crows attack them and their eggs. I am looking forward to this Saturday because they will set up traps to catch and tag the crows. I will be assisting with the tagging and probably putting transmitters on them because they want to see where exactly the crows go.
I also helped set up a boundary at Malibu Lagoon to keep beach-goers away from the nesting snowy plovers. We set up a boundary that ran 400 ft. with stakes and rope. It was easier than I imagined it would be. I got to use the stake pounder to drive the stakes into the sand. That was exciting! We also saw three snowy plovers when we finished setting up the boundary. They gave us a thumbs up (or so we like to think) and then continued to run around and chase each other. It was a great week.
Training has been over for a week now, and I am amazed at how much I learned in just one week. Going away for a week with “strangers” can be a bit daunting, but all of us bonded and became great friends at the end of the training. It’s such a great feeling being surrounded by others who are passionate about the same things you care about the most.
We all had the chance to visit many places none of us had ever been to such as Cabrillo National Monument, Imperial & Torrey Pines Beach and the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. By far, my favorite place had to be the tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument. Not only did we get so see a variety of shorebirds but the tide pools themselves were filled with little marine life, and we even got to see a baby seal. We met so many amazing people who want to see us succeed and are willing to help along the way, and I can’t thank them enough for coming all the way to San Diego to talk to us.
Here in Los Angeles, our first day of shorebird surveying for Carlos and me will be this Friday at Ballona Creek. I’m a bit nervous to start, but with the great training we received from all the mentors and all our days of practice, as well as all the reviewing I have been doing, I think I’m prepared. Bring on the shorebirds!