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 cpannellwaters@yahoo.com or call Cat Waters at 562-869-6718.

Unusual Suspect

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. 

To find out more about Project Feeder Watch and how to participate, visit https://feederwatch.org/about/project-overview/

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 at http://audubonbirdseed.com/

Note a variety of other exotic bird species are found in our area which include Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Pin-tailed Whydah, Scaly-breasted Munia, House Sparrow and European Starling (to name a few).  You can find more non-native examples in our Photo Gallery, included to help ID these unusual birds you might find.  It is important to note non-native species are not necessarily a good thing as they can impact our native bird species and habitats. 

Yellow-fronted Canary shown below with Goldfinches, photo credit Cindy Crawford.

Walk Recap–Los Cerritos Wetlands Oct. & Nov.

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 our Facebook page photo gallery of these walks, click here.

Clark's Grebe, © Cindy Crawford

Clark’s Grebe, © Cindy Crawford

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.  

 

Peregrine Falcon © Jerry Millett

Peregrine Falcon © Jerry Millett

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. 

 

 

Belted Kingfisher (female), © Jerry Millett

Belted Kingfisher (female), © Jerry Millett

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.)

Nov. 25th 3pm to 5pm, Zedler Marsh

Dec 8th, 8am to 10am, Hellman Lowlands

Dec 15th, all day, Christmas Bird Count (various areas including all of Los Cerritos Wetlands)

Dec 16th, 3pm to 5pm, Zedler Marsh (moved to 3rd Sunday in Dec. due to Holidays)

119th Annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), by Carolyn Vance

Join El Dorado Audubon on Saturday, December 15th for the 119th Annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC)!

Started in 1900 by ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer of the National Audubon Society, he got 27 of his birding friends to go out and count birds, instead of shooting them as was the custom back then.  That first CBC netted 90 species and 25 Count Circles.  The 117th Count had 2,536 Count Circles and 73,153 participants in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean.  This is the longest running citizen science survey in the world!

If you have participated in CBC with El Dorado Audubon in the past, you should have received our reminder card.  If you haven’t, you can pick one up at our General Meeting.  Donna Bray will be making assignments for us this year.  Please let her know if you want a specific area.  Her contact information is 562-743-6399 (cell) or 562-863-7617. I will be doing the tallying again this year.

If Donna Bray hasn’t preassigned you an area, meet me (Carolyn Vance) at the south end of the El Dorado Branch Public Library on Studebaker no later than 7:30 a.m. to get Count Sheets and Assignments.  Don’t forget your binoculars, spotting scopes (if you have one), field guide, pen/pencil, hat, water, Thomas Bros. map or GPS.  We count rain or shine.   We also need people to count at their feeders. 

Afterwards, we meet at Glory Days Beachside, 620 Pacific Coast Hwy, Seal Beach, starting at 4:30 p.m. for dinner and recap.  You may turn your Count Sheets to me then.  If you submit you records through eBird, please share your list with me at drabduck@yahoo.com and mark it as El Dorado’s CBC.  All data, whether physical Count Sheets or shared eBird records, need to be to me no later than Friday, December 21st.  If you need my address to snail mail sheets to me, email me or call 562-594-7589.

When you get to Glory Days Beachside, go in the door (on the side of the building) and turn left.  Go into the room at the end.  They have servers who will come in and take our orders, deliver it to us and a full bar.  The menu has a large selection of items.  I should (hopefully!) be there already.  CBC is great fun and you’ll be hooked on it once you do it.  Thank you for your help this year!

Post photo credit:  Cindy Crawford (photo taken at a past CBC)

Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge Update, by Carolyn Vance

As promised, this year’s Least Tern fledgling count:  42!  This is up from last year, thank goodness.  Many thanks to all who helped out with Eyes on the Colony and monitoring.  We will need help again staring in May of 2019.  Mark your calendars.

We celebrated National Public Lands Day (NPLD) on September 29th.  Rick Nye, the Refuge Manager went out to the Restoration area north of Case Pond and prepared an acre of land, clearing weeds, roto-tilling the soil and drilling 800 holes for plants.  Thanks to Bob Schallmann and the Navy, we received 784 plants from Tree of Life Nursery from a grant.  We had 135 volunteers come out and filled the holes with California native plants and spread mulch in between the rows and plants, to help keep down the weeds.  Then the next week, L.A. Conservation Corps came in and filled in the remaining holes with plants from our nursery and spread wildflower seeds throughout the site.  Here’s hoping we get enough rain for springtime flowers.  Many, many thanks to all involved.

On November 2nd four additional captive-bred Light-footed Ridgway’s Rails were released into the Seal Beach Refuge.  While the turnout of spectators was lower than last time, the rails were just as feisty, with one in particular screeching at us while waiting to be banded, until his eyes were covered.  We almost had one escape as he was being put back into the box, his beak pushing through the top of the carrier.  All these rails also received red metal bands for their release year of 2018.

On the way back to the Nature Center, we heard a red-tailed hawk screaming.  We looked over into a field and saw him on the ground, fighting with a Ferruginous hawk, over lunch we presumed.  Feathers flew, birds came up of the ground, wings, talons and tails all spread.  After a very short battle, the Red-tail flew off, leaving the larger Ferrugie on the ground to enjoy whatever had been caught.   Just another day at the Refuge.

The Refuge will be participating in the Annual Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey again this year.  Think of it as an abbreviated CBC, where only shorebirds and raptors are counted.  If you need help with shorebird identification in the winter, go to:  www.migratoryshorebirdproject.org and just click on Resources – Survey.  Then under Survey Training Resources, check out Shorebird ID tips.  Great tutorial, as are the other links.

December, this year, will be quiet on the Refuge with last Saturday of the Month Tour cancelled and no Special Birding Tours scheduled.  Just like our migratory birds resting here for the winter, the Friends and Refuge Manager are taking a break.  I’ll still be out and about, so check out the Chapter’s Twitter page at https://twitter.com/edaudubon for my latest photos.  See you next year!

Post photo credit:  Carolyn Vance

Audubon Assembly Coming to Long Beach in November

Audubon Assembly in November, Long Beach, CA, by Mary Parsell

Chapter leaders, members, and friends are invited to join Audubon California Nov. 2nd through 4th in Long Beach for the 2018 Audubon Assembly. The theme of the 2018 Assembly is Look Up! The weekend will be an opportunity to look outside our local programs and learn from each other.

This will be an exciting opportunity for you to meet with chapter leaders, members, and partners from all over the state to enjoy birding coastal wetlands and other unique areas, explore conservation opportunities/practices, share stories with leaders from various regions, and establish peer-to-peer collaborations and partnerships. This program will offer multiple interactive presentations and breakout sessions that focus on topics from advocacy, fundraising and communications to SoCal conservation and coalition building.

The last Audubon Assembly, held in Yosemite in 2016, offered a chance to connect with other California conservationists. One chapter leader said, “Feeling part of something larger was my first ‘ah ha’ moment. I was also humbled by the education, experience, accomplishments and skills of other chapter leaders.” Please visit the Audubon CA website at http://ca.audubon.org/about/chapters/audubon-california-assembly to register, reserve lodging, and see the agenda. If you have any questions, please email the Chapter Network Team at chapternetworkca@audubon.org

Refuge Update & Public Lands Day

Many thanks to Carolyn Vance and all the volunteers for their hard work at the Refuge!  To sign up for Public Land’s Day at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, before 9/24/18, please call 562-598-1024 for a reservation and specify “Lands Day Planting”.  Also thanks to Carolyn for all her work on our Twitter Page, she posts a lot about the Refuge, check it out at https://twitter.com/edaudubon (post photo credit: Carolyn Vance)

Refuge Update, by Carolyn Vance:

A lot has happened at the Refuge over the summer! Our California Least Terns did quite well this year, with 117 nests, one with three eggs. We banded 117 chicks and picked up fewer than a dozen non-viable eggs. I will have the updated count next month. We were very lucky this year and only had one instance of predation of an adult Least Tern – just a pile of feathers on the ground, which is typical of a Peregrine take. Many thanks to new Eyes on the Colony Volunteers Betty-Jo Miller, Mort Dukehart, Bill Cullen, Maureen Sullivan for helping monitor our terns this year. Hope you will help again next year.

On July 20th, 11 Light-footed Ridgway’s Rails, captive bred at the San Diego Refuge, were released into our marsh. Our first rail release of six was in 2002. This group of birds was very feisty and one of them pecked Friends Volunteer Christa Shackleford and drew blood. Christa joined a very elite group who have bird-inflicted “war wounds”. There has now been 83 rails released in our Refuge in the last 16 years.

We’ve started a new survey at the Refuge which is really cool. We get to watch for and count the Green Sea Turtles who come into our Refuge to eat our eel grass, which is also favored by Brant. The turtles hang out in the riverbed by the warm water ejection points at the steam plant on Westminster/Studebaker. They wend their way round multiple culverts to get into (so far) three of our Ponds: 7th St., Perimeter, and Case. We watch their heads come out of the water for a quick breath. Some only nostrils; some a whole head; some watch us while swimming; some are just a quick splash while others show the top of their entire shell. This survey, at the request of the Navy/Bob Schallmann, is to help with the Navy’s Wharf Realignment Project Environmental Assessment.

Our regular Tour for September has been replaced with a National Public Lands Day event. We will plant California native plants in our Restoration area, adjacent to Case Pond, held on Sat., Sept. 29th, from 8:00 a.m. to noon. To participate, sign up before Tues., Sept. 24th. Bring water bottles, sun screen and closed-toe shoes. We will supply gloves, gardening tools and plants. Our regular Tours will resume in October.

During July, high school senior girls worked at the Refuge as part of a LEAF summer internship (Leaders in Environmental Action), paid for by the Nature Conservancy. These young ladies helped tremendously: LOTS of weeding, saw how a tide survey is done, helped with a Least Tern round up, the Green Sea Turtle survey and the Rail release. We hope they enjoyed their summer, and thank them for their help!

Birds of Note: If you follow the Chapter on Twitter, you’ve seen my tern chick photos, especially the newly hatched one with part of the shell still on top of its head, like a hat. Our NASA Island resident Killdeer raised two clutches of four eggs each inside the tern colony. I’ve seen two immature Peregrine Falcons, an immature White-tailed Kite, a Black-bellied Plover still in breeding plumage. By our October Tour, fall migration will have started in earnest, and we will have more birds on the Refuge.

September Program & Beginning of our New Fiscal Year!

We have a lot of great events and walks scheduled for our new year beginning in September.  You should be receiving our September newsletter in your mailbox soon.  Our first program of the year begins with Tom Ryan on Least Terns, details below.  At the refuge the September tour is a National Public Lands Day event, which you will find on our September calendar for your convenience along with all our regularly scheduled walks.  Note Colorado Lagoon walks will resume in October.  Also on September 15th we’ll be participating with El Dorado Nature Center for California Coastal Cleanup Day.  In October we are pleased to present our first birding class — many thanks to Anne Maben and Charlie Collins for putting this great resource together for all of us!  Finally, 2019 is our 50th Year Anniversary!  We hope you enjoy all the activities this year and look forward to seeing you soon!

September Program:

Tom Ryan — Studies of the California Least Terns: migration, dispersal and predicting the population trends

Our first general meeting of our new year kicks off with a few short announcements followed by a presentation on Least Terns by biological consultant and researcher Tom Ryan.

Mr. Ryan has been trapping and marking adult California Least Terns throughout colonies in Southern California since 2012. He has conducted studies of their movements using light-level geolocators and more recently has been attaching field readable alphanumeric bands in order to better understand movements between their colonies and to look at the population structure. Colony monitors have noted lower productivity at colonies for the past 10 years and there is fear of a population decline in the coming years. He will show how biologists are trying to study this issue and present the latest information that informs us of where their population is heading. He is also teaming with researchers in Baja California to try to determine the southern extent of the “California” least tern.

Join us for this interesting event on Thurs., Sept. 20th, at 7:30 p.m., El Dorado Nature Center, 7550 E. Spring St., LB. Doors open at 7:00 p.m., program ends 8:30 p.m. followed by a brief Q&A, doors close at 9:00 p.m. Parking is free and light refreshments will be served. Please bring recyclable cans/plastic bottles with caps removed to help support chapter activities. Hope to see you there!

Birding Classes!

** Class is now full**

This workshop is now closed, with 7 people on the wait list. Please contact Anne Maben at afmaben@gmail.com close to the workshop to see if there will be any openings.

For those who registered please watch your email for communications from the instructors, if you can’t make it to class please call the instructor so those wait-listed may attend. Thanks!!!

 

El Dorado Audubon is pleased to present our fall series birding class, developed and taught by Dr. Charles T. Collins and Anne Maben.   To register for this class please click here.  

A FREE series of three (4 hours each) workshops during fall bird migration are available to both our friends and members. Each interactive workshop will scaffold new concepts and skills including:

  • Bird evolution, adaptations and behavior
  • Bird form and function
  • Birding strategies for identification and appreciation
  • Understanding local habitats and best local birding spots
  • At least an hour of class time at El Dorado Nature Center/Regional park to practice new skills
  • Additional resources/training such as birding apps, hyperlinked documents on buying binoculars, wildlife cameras; digital photography tips, favorite birding field guides and links/descriptions to local field trips for birding

Workshop dates are Saturdays 8am to 12 noon:  Oct. 20th, Oct 27th and Nov. 17th (will be held near El Dorado Park).  

In addition, three optional accompanying field trips for class participants to practice their skills will be also offered on Nov. 10th (wetlands habitat, 8am to 10am), Jan. 5th (coastal ocean ecosystems, 8am to 12 noon) and Feb. 2nd (spring migrants in oak woodlands habitat, 8am to 12 noon), which participants won’t want to miss! 

Additional information and updates will be posted here on El Dorado Audubon Society’s website.  To register, please click here.  There will be a limit of 30 class participants as space is limited.  There will be a wait list should space become available due to any cancellations. 

Please contact Mary Parsell at (562) 252-5825 or by email mfp2001@hotmail.com if you are interested or have any questions.

About the instructors: 

Dr. Charles Collins is a retired CSULB Professor of Ornithology, a founding member of the El Dorado Audubon Society and continues to conduct research on swifts and local tern/skimmer species.  Anne Maben has been an educator for 45 years, a wildlife biologist studying endangered species in Micronesia and currently serves teachers as a Professional Learning presenter for the UCLA Science Project.

Photo credit:  Anne Maben

Not the Usual Suspects, by Steve Kent

Pin-tailed Whydah, by Steve Kent

I really enjoy reading about other birds seen in my area. The usual suspects that frequent my yard include the beak-clicking Black Phoebe, somewhat elusive Lesser Gold Finches, flitting Bushtits, occasional Orange Crowned Warbler and White-Crowned Sparrow, swooping Anna’s Hummingbirds, and often noisy, but intriguing American Crows. Moreover, let us not forget the ubiquitous House Finches, House Sparrows, and the multitude of Mourning Doves that consume 90% of my birdseed. My favorite is the Dark-eyed Junco foraging under our feeders. These all form the familiar family of birds we expect to see on a mostly regular basis in East Long Beach.

However, June of 2018 marked some extremely exciting observations. As most birders use sound to identify birds before seeing them, I heard an abnormal call that caused me to start searching the skies for this new visitor. I immediately ran for the binoculars to spy a bird that did not fit the normal expectations of a Southern California birder. Spotting a small bird on the power line with three extremely long tail-feathers, and black and white markings astounded me. Thanks to my son’s passion for drawing exotic birds, he had a good idea that this was a Pin-tailed Whydah. Wait! What? After a little research, we found that a bird from tropical Africa was visiting our part of the world! Apparently, these exotic pets have escaped their cages, like the many Parrots now in Long Beach, and have begun breeding and thriving in the “wilds” of suburban Orange County.

Another foreign visitor this month included the Nutmeg Manikin! At first, I thought this was a juvenile Dark-eyed Junco, but closer investigation revealed that the brown head, not black, and scaly black and white breast are indicative of the Tropical Asian Munia, also known in the pet trade as the Spice Finch. This is a gorgeous sparrow-sized beauty thriving in our neighborhood, and probably goes unnoticed by most of our neighbors.

I have only been paying attention to the birds in my area for a few years, but I am quickly learning that if you keep your eyes and ears open you find beautiful little creatures all around you. Most become familiar after a short time, while others surprise you to the core.

Celebrating Summer, Field Trips & Events

Sneak peek of the President’s column in our June newsletter — it’s been an amazing year and a lot of upcoming activities are planned…stay tuned! 

Celebrating Summer, Field Trips and Events
Thoughts from the President – Mary Parsell

“Never Give Up Listening to the Sounds of the Birds,” -Audubon.

This summer we are looking forward to a variety of field trips and events not only in June but throughout the summer.  In June, we look forward to our Members’ and Friends’ night, field trip to Yorba Regional Park on the Santa Ana River, and El Dorado Park Cleanup.  Our Los Cerritos Wetlands field trips continue June, July, and August.

We are planning a beginning birding class to be held on a weekend in July or August (date to be determined).  Since this is the last edition of our newsletter until September, please check our website for classes, events, and walks in July and August. 

Thanks to all of you, our volunteers, who contribute your time, energy, and passion to conservation of birds and other wildlife.  We have a great group of officers, committee chairs, committee members and YOU, our members and contributors!  As we wrap up this year, we are going for another year of birding!

Thanks, and see you on the birding trail!

(Photo credit C. Crawford, Snowy Egret, location Los Cerritos Wetlands)