Posts

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

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.

Help Needed! Least Tern Monitoring at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge

By Carolyn Vance, USFWS Volunteer, Seal Beach NWR

Eyes on the Colony (EOTC), the Least Tern predator monitoring program, needs your help! Last year was not as successful as it could have been with no more than 16 fledglings ever seen at one time out of 120+ chicks. This was primarily due to all the predation by Peregrine falcons and Red-tailed hawks.  After battling Great-horned owls and Kestrels the last couple of years, and having a great 2016 year, we are dismayed with last year’s results.

We need to document any predation to the terns. Permitting standards require that we thoroughly document and identify avian predators which are taking Least terns before requesting their removal. So, the Refuge needs more help observing avian predators at times when they are active.

If you can commit to a minimum of 4 hours a week to EOTC, or just want more information, please contact Refuge Manager Rick Nye via email at:  Richard_nye@fws.gov. Historically, we watched in four hour shifts from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  You must obtain a badge from the Navy to access the Refuge by filling out some background paperwork and must be a U.S. Citizen.   Training and equipment is provided.

I adore doing EOTC! A car is the best birding blind, and besides watching our wonderful Least terns going back and forth, you get up close looks at Belding’s Savannah sparrows, swallows, and all the other birds and critters that call the Refuge home and/or breed here.

Photo Credit ©Jerry Millet

Events

El Dorado Audubon Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge Field Trip

Approximately 2 to 3 hours, space is limited, RSVP required, for details and to sign up contact mfp2001@hotmail.com or leave voicemail at 562-252-5825