All Audubon members are welcome to celebrate Earth Day at the garden party hosted by Catherine and Bob Waters on Sunday April 24 from 1:00 – 5:00 PM in Downey. Decades long members and supporters of the Audubon Society, they are native plant gardeners who created a small bird sanctuary and native plant garden on a vacant lot adjacent to their house. Over 130 species of birds have visited the sanctuary since its inception and we’re sure to be delighted with a variety of birds on April 24. In past years the garden has been shown on the Theodore Payne Foundation annual native plant garden tour and featured in WildBird, Hobby Farm and Backyard Birding magazines. To RSVP and get directions email email@example.com or call Cat Waters at 562-869-6718.
We are looking for walk leaders for our monthly El Dorado Nature Center walks. You do not have to be an “expert.” If you are able to volunteer please send an email to Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voice message at (562) 252-5825 (Please note that there is no text message ability on this phone line).
For over 12 years, Eleanor Palmer has hosted us for newsletter labeling. She has graciously opened her home to us, month after month, sometimes supplying us with food and drink, but always supplying us with wonderful conversation and great looks at all the wonderful birds that come to her yard and feeders. We have all enjoyed every last minute of volunteering with you, Eleanor! Thank you so very much for all your years of service.
I would also like to thank “the usual subjects,” those men and women who routinely show up to help put out the monthly California Least Tern newsletter for El Dorado Audubon. They are Ramona Glass, Cathy Hodge, Miguel Flores, Jerry Millett, Betty Rainey, Lee Edgecomb, Tobi Neer, Patty Benoit and Jane Smith. You help those hours fly by with your conversation!
Our labeling day is usually the fourth Thursday of the month (except November), starting at 1:00 p.m. It takes approximately two hours to put on the wafer seals and address labels. If you are able to help out, please contact me, Carolyn Vance at 562.594.7589 for the address to our new location. Thank you.
We were saddened to hear of the passing of Eleanor Palmer who was an active member of El Dorado Audubon. She was an avid birder and conservationist. She was a contributor to our conservation committee attending countless Planning Commission and City Council meetings and making those important phone calls to elected city and state officials. She attended our programs and attended board meetings and hosted newsletter labeling in her home.
She was cheerful and encouraging to all. She & I spent many long hours reviewing Draft Environmental Impact Reports and attending meetings. Labeling volunteers enjoyed the birds outside the window in her backyard.
Our heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.
Once again, the Refuge will be participating in the Seal Beach Christmas Parade, on Friday December 6. The Parade starts at 7:00 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. along Main St. between Ocean Ave. and PCH, in Seal Beach. Come and cheer us on! At press time, we don’t know if the Blue Goose and Sally Sandpiper will be with us this year.
A Ridgway’s Rail count was held on November 26. I hope to have the results for the January newsletter. Our rail numbers seem to be declining even though several captive-bred birds have been released the last couple of years. No one knows why, so this year’s count is extremely important to us.
The Refuge takes a break in December and there is no Tour. However, I will still be doing bird surveys. Nothing warms my heart more than a long, long line of geese calling and flying directly over my head. (Moon-roof in my car? It’s a goose-roof!) What could be better? The Refuge’s “Most Wanted” birds are mostly all here. Starting with the Pacific-golden Plovers, then Red-tailed Hawks, our ducks and geese (Redheads seen mid-November), thousands of shorebirds, Short-eared Owl, Ferruginous Hawk, Merlin, Large-billed Savannah Sparrow – the list goes on and on.
Fall migration is fully on, with more and more shorebirds, raptors, ducks and geese arriving. We saw our first Pacific Golden Plover on our last Saturday of the month tour in September. November will be a busy month at the refuge with our Ridgway’s Rail Count scheduled for the end of the month, four more Rail Predator surveys, two more Green Sea Turtle tagging dates scheduled by National Marine Fisheries and our yearly shorebird survey scheduled in addition to our regular high and low tide surveys, Wednesday Work Day and Refuge Tours.
Speaking of rails, the Refuge host-ed three different releases of the captive raised birds for the San Diego refuge complex for a total of 24. Our last count in March only had 26 pairs, so we hope to hear/see more rails this month.
National Public Lands Day will be celebrated on Saturday, October 12 at the Seal Beach Refuge. We plan on doing more planting at the Restoration area north of Case Pond. The event goes from 8:00 a.m. to noon and reservations are required by calling 562.598.1024 no later than October 4. Just like the monthly tours, we have to submit a list to the Navy. A Volunteer Service Agreement form is also required and can be found on the Friends website, sealbeachnwrfriends.org to download and fill out. Please wear long pants, sturdy shoes, a hat, sunscreen, bring your own water bottle and signed volunteer form. The Refuge will supply the plants, water and equipment.
This area is where we find both Green-tailed and California Towhees and Green Sea Turtles which have been seen in Case Pond, which borders the restoration area. The usual suspects are Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, Mourning Dove, Northern Mockingbird, plus lots of geese should also be seen during the event.
Field Trip Report, Ralph Dills Park, by Donna Bray:
February 16, 2019, twelve birders had the opportunity to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count by attending the field trip at Ralph Dills Park in Paramount. After a rainy week, the sunny and clear weather was welcome. The Nature Trail’s native plantings harbored lots of sparrows, and we were fortunate to see a White-throated Sparrow. A perched flock of Cedar Waxwings was also a treat to see and photograph. A quick check of the adjoining L.A. River revealed it higher and swifter than it has been in a long time. Instead of the concrete bottom, a few gulls could only rest on the concrete sides!
As we have shared in our announcements, the first major
restoration at Los Cerritos Wetlands was recently approved by the Coastal
Commission on December 13th, 2018, the BOMP Oil
Consolidation/Wetlands Restoration Project, which Audubon supports. This project is often characterized by the
media as controversial because some environmentalists oppose. Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority, Los Cerritos
Wetlands Land Trust, Bolsa Chica Land Trust and many others support the
project. Much like Bolsa Chica, the Los
Cerritos Wetlands vision has always been to return the land, highly impacted by
the oil industry, to wetlands.
Unfortunately we don’t have control over what they do with oil
operations removed from the wetlands, and the restoration supporters have never
included “end all oil extraction” in their wetlands restoration advocacy as it
is known “end oil” has a very long road ahead.
The value of coastal wetlands and the extent of the loss of California
coastal wetlands is of great concern–the more we can restore sooner rather
than later, the better.
As we’ve promised, listed below are additional details,
pictures and information about the first approved and funded restoration project
at Los Cerritos Wetlands. First, some
ask “what is this project”?
In brief review, the “BOMP” Oil Consolidation/Wetlands
Restoration Project is:
Pertains to the privately owned portion of LCW
owned by Synergy Oil (north of 2nd St., west of Studebaker Rd.),
most importantly this portion of LCW contains the only original part of these
wetlands left, aka “Steamshovel Slough” on the north side of the Synergy Oil
The South Section of the Synergy Oil property is
separated from the slough by a berm and paralleled by muted and degraded
wetlands with an active oil field on these muted, filled and drilled
wetlands. The entire acreage of the
Synergy Oil owned property (all historically Los Cerritos Wetlands) is
approximately 154 acres.
The oil company will move oil operations built
to 1960’s standards off this large mostly degraded wetlands acreage and
consolidate oil operations on two properties of about 5 acres each–154 acres
of oil operations on wetlands, consolidated down to just over 10 or 11 acres on
two adjacent industrial use and landfill sites.
The two approximate 5 acre oil consolidation
sites (where the “new” replacement wells will go) are the “pumpkin patch” (a
landfill site used for pumpkin and Christmas tree sales) and 5 acres at the
corner of 2nd/Westminster & Studebaker used to store road
construction supplies surrounded by a tank farm by the power plant.
Included in the project is the section of oil
fields adjacent to the freshwater “Marketplace Marsh” (south of 2nd
Street, east of Shopkeeper Rd). The oil
operations will also be removed there opening the door for restoration in a
Today eight (8) rigid pipelines crisscross the
Synergy oil fields and an earthquake fault, these existing pipelines and wells
have no modern failure safety measures.
This will be replaced by one pipeline crossing the fault built to
withstand big quakes, with spill containment measures, and the entire new
consolidated oil operations will have all the modern safety and spill
containment features. The consolidated
wells will be outside the fault zone.
The existing historic Bixby building used as
Synergy Oil office will be moved off the fault line and converted to a wetlands
visitor center. Public access will also
include a perimeter trail around the wetlands.
A new Synergy office building will be
constructed at the Pumpkin Patch site after removal of the old landfill, and
will be landscaped with native plants and designed with bird safe glass.
The restoration will be phased, with Phase I
just approved by the Coastal Commission this December for the 30 acres of
muted/degraded wetlands parallel to the pristine “Steamshovel Slough”, which
will happen in less than 5 to 10 years.
All oil operations will be consolidated off the entire 154 acres in 10
to 20 years or even less, at which time the Phase II restoration will begin as
a separate plan.
It is important to note this oil
consolidation/wetlands restoration project is not funded by tax payer money and
is separate from Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority’s plan, although the LCWA is
very involved and the restored wetlands will be transferred to the LCWA. “BOMP” or “BOM” was formed to head the oil
consolidation/restoration project (Beach Oil Mineral Partners) and hopes to
sell mitigation bank credits later to recoup money they spent on the
A major benefit, the only natural intact piece of Los
Cerritos Wetlands in existence today will be in public hands and permanently
protected and managed—the 44 acre salt marsh known locally as “Steamshovel
Slough”. With the addition of another
adjacent 30 acres of restored wetlands, the size of the salt marsh will be
nearly doubled. Upland habitat around
the marsh, primarily taken over by invasive weeds, will be restored with plants
native to the area. Contaminated soils
will be remediated, oil operations removed from 154 acres clearing the way for
a second phase of restoration. For later
phases “adaptive restoration” has been mentioned briefly, which in general
means restoring at higher elevations for sea level rise and allowing marsh to
gradually migrate. Along with all the
habitat benefits the project includes passive public access and an educational
El Dorado Audubon, Audubon California and our sister
chapters have followed and participated in the restoration process of Los
Cerritos Wetlands for decades, including the BOMP consolidation/restoration
project. We have reviewed EIRs, plans,
we hired an attorney and our own biologist to review and advise us on the
Some people are opposed to the project based on removing the
oil consolidation component out of the plan completely, hence to stop all oil
drilling, which legally speaking cannot be done any time in the foreseeable
future. Important to note our attorney
reviewed the plan and found nothing legally wrong or illegal with the proposed
consolidation/restoration plan, advised Audubon to meet with the BOMP project
team regarding the restoration itself and work out our concerns. Which we did.
El Dorado Audubon chose not to spend our limited member donations
fighting an “end oil cause”–against a wetlands restoration.
Our mission is “conservation of native birds and their
habitats”, which habitat restoration is a key function in conserving native
birds. More importantly we were very
concerned with the “no project” alternative.
The existing oil field is already prone to some tidal exchange as it
exists today despite the fact an earthen berm exists; current oil operations
are right on the edge of muted wetlands with pipe lines literally running
across the wetlands. The “no project”
alternative would result in these outdated, wetlands residing oil operations
continuing indefinitely as is. Should
the sea level rise predictions come to pass, this means the existing oil field with
no modern safety measures would experience severe flooding impacting the
adjacent “Steamshovel Slough” and Alamitos Bay.
Therefore, in this case Audubon felt the project, closely reviewed and
“conditioned”, was the best choice.
Through the process of this oil consolidation/restoration project our involvement resulted in some of the special conditions imposed on the project by permitting agencies, and we also supported other special conditions during the permitting process at City of Long Beach and California Coastal Commission. You can read the Coastal Commission report and what was approved, including 25 special conditions, click here.
It is important to note by definition we are more a
conservationist organization rather than an environmentalist organization, as
our mission statement indicates, although these two terms are often used
interchangeably these days. We look for
practical, balanced solutions to problems, based on a variety of expert advice,
research and more. Audubon is a
science-based conservation organization.
We respect and work with project proponents, government agencies, public
offices and public officials, often privately and effectively in regards to our
mission. We didn’t arrive at our support
for the BOMP oil consolidation/restoration project easily, much thought and
review was put into this.
To address the often sensational media statements regarding
this consolidation/restoration project, which are often a bit confusing and
perhaps misleading such as “more drilling expected”, “sea level rise will turn
restoration into mud flats”, “greenhouse gas increase”, “millions of barrels
will be extracted compared to 300 barrels now”, etc. below are a few verified
Existing operations = 33 active wells, 74 wells
total including those idle (which could be put back into service)
“New” replacement wells = includes both oil
wells and water re-injection wells (oil mixed with water is extracted, oil is
separated and water is cleaned and put back in the ground preventing ground
subsidence). No fracking is
allowed. No water re-injection wells
exist in the existing oil operations, therefore no ground subsidence measures
are being taken in the current oil operations.
The 33 wells active in the existing operations
are currently producing 300 barrels a day
All 74 existing wells (currently on the wetlands),
if running, could produce up 10,000 barrels a day; however, the project
approval includes a maximum 2,500 barrel a day cap for the existing oil field
which BOMP self-imposed to show good faith that they are in fact serious about
getting oil operations off the wetlands.
Therefore you may see the media stating 10,000 barrels a day while the
Coastal report states 2,500 barrels a day.
The oil operator chooses not to maintain and run
all 74 wells as moving off the wetlands to more modern consolidated operations
is more cost effective/efficient.
The “new” consolidation wells could produce
24,000 barrels a day (not millions). And yes more modern technology can extract
The greenhouse gas (GHG) emission increases
estimated for the consolidation project component are based on the 300 barrels
a day, not the full capacity of all existing 74 wells running which the operator
would and could legally run all 74 wells if the consolidation had not been
approved. Also the carbon sink abilities
of a wetlands restoration were not factored into the GHG emissions
calculations, making the estimated GHG emission for the consolidation project
on the high side. The Coastal Commission
addressed the GHG with a number of special conditions to offset increases.
If you follow National Audubon and Audubon California you
may notice many birds and their habitats are at risk for a variety of reasons,
including those that use Los Cerritos Wetlands during their migrations and
those that reside year around. Salt
marshes and mudflats are very critical foraging grounds to these birds. Locally development is closing in, not good
for either our resident or migrant birds, they need good quality replacement
habitat for foraging and nesting. We
felt to wait 50 years or more to restore the wetlands (in hopes oil extraction
would someday be illegal) would be detrimental to this Audubon Important Bird
Area. Had the “new” relocated
consolidation wells actually been proposed on a habitat and not on industrial
use sites we would have a very different position of course. Or, if oil operations and pipelines did not
already exist all over Los Cerritos Wetlands then we would have a different
position about this oil consolidation project component. However the fact is, oil is already there and the areas adjacent to the wetlands for oil
well relocation are industrial sites.
As a side note, in the case of Los Cerritos Wetlands, there would be
nothing left of the wetlands to restore had the area not been exploited for
oil, otherwise it would have no doubt already been developed into housing or
We hope this helps explain and clarify what is behind all
the project “controversy” chatter online and in the media. Hopefully those who oppose the project can eventually
understand and accept that Audubon is entitled to our point of view and
position on this matter, as they are entitled to theirs as well, which we don’t
hold against them or criticize them for having a different view.
As the project moves forward, wetlands restoration and oil
consolidation activities will be heavily monitored and reviewed by many
government agencies on an ongoing basis, which is standard protocol for such
Included below are pictures of the original/intact Los Cerritos Wetlands Marsh (aka “Steamshovel Slough”) which will now be in public hands along with pictures of the adjacent oil field to be relocated/consolidated onto two 5 acre industrial use properties, recent pictures of those two 5 acre properties to become the consolidated oil operations, the Phase I restoration area adjacent to Steamshovel Slough, the Synergy Oil Field to be removed and consolidated off the wetlands (clearing the land for a Phase II restoration) and degraded/muted wetlands, the berm between Steamshovel Slough and the Synergy Oil Field intended to keep sea water out of the oil field, a December 2018 high tide showing sea water nearly breaching the existing berm from the wetlands into the oil field and the weedy uplands area along Studebaker Rd. to become a public access trail with upland native plants. Please also see our Conservation Page for additional photos and information.
While participating in Cornell Lab’s “Project Feeder Watch” this season, I noticed a different visitor at my feeders. Turns out this bright yellow bird with distinct gray cap, eye line and malar or “moustache stripe” (below the eye) is an exotic species, thought to be a pet trade escapee native to Africa, the common name is Yellow-fronted Canary. This bird is a frequent visitor in my yard since I added a Nyjer thistle sock to attract more Goldfinches and House Finches.
If you are looking for a good feeder and bird seed source, check out Lowe’s which carries an entire line of National Audubon Society seeds. Also visit Audubon’s bird seed website athttp://audubonbirdseed.com/
Fall is in full swing and our species counts at both our 2nd Saturday Hellman Lowlands walk and 4th Sunday Zedler Marsh walk are showing it! To see ourFacebook page photo galleryof these walks,click here.
At the Zedler walk on October 28th we observed 25 species at this little pocket marsh with restored coastal sage scrub uplands, and along the trail to the marsh passing by the channel and Calloway Marsh. Our group included all ages. Our young birders (ages 4 and 9) were great at spotting and counting birds, and really enjoyed “Larry the Snowy Egret” (named by the locals), a rather tame Snowy who came in for a landing twice very close to the group. Highlights included a Clark’s Grebe, a Pied-billed Grebe, Spotted Sandpiper running along a muddy bank feeding and doing the classic “tail bob”, and up close looks at Savannah Sparrow, Say’s Phoebe and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.
November 10th at Hellman Lowlands our birding class attendees along with instructors Charlie Collins and Anne Maben also joined the walk to do some field work, with local Biologist Robb Hamilton also attending. Over 45 species observed! Sightings included hundreds of Canada Geese flying in to the retention basin, two Snow Geese, a Greater White-fronted Goose, a Peregrine Falcon, Cassin’s Kingbirds, Greater Yellowlegs, Belted Kingfisher numerous Killdeer. We witnessed a Red-tailed Hawk catch and eat a Botta Pocket Gopher.
November 4th we hosted a field trip for Audubon Assembly participants at Los Cerritos Marsh (better known as “Steam Shovel Slough”). We observed large number of Willets, Black-bellied Plovers, Marbled Godwits and Greater Yellowlegs along with the usual Canada Geese, Cassin’s Kingbirds, various sparrow species, Red-Tailed Hawks, Kestrels and others.
Our Hellman Lowlands and Zedler Marsh walks continue in November & December and we always expect great bird sightings this time of year. These two monthly walks are per an agreement with the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority (LCWA), which El Dorado Audubon is a partner in the LCWA Stewardship Program. Our monthly LCWA 2nd Saturday and 4th Sunday walks will continue in 2019, which we will post on our website once the official 2019 Stewardship Program Schedule is released.
Remaining 2018 Los Cerritos Wetlands Walks are listed below with some adjustments for holidays. If you would like to participate in Christmas Bird Count at Los Cerritos Wetlands leave a voicemail for our President Mary Parsell at 562-252-5825. (To participate in the Christmas Bird Count for other locations,click here to see our CBC article.)