Prop. 1 will help us keep our promise to Central Valley birds

October 14th, 2014 · by Garrison Frost


If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you will have seen us talk about the failed promise of water to the 19 Central Valley refuges identified in the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. Put simply, in 1992, Congress recognized that the conversion of the Central Valley into the agricultural engine that it is had implications for wildlife habitat that needed to be addressed. So it passed the Central Valley Project Improvement Act that year which, among other things, required that 19 state and federal wildlife refuges get the minimum amount of water to support birds and other wildlife.


Since 1992, however, we have failed to keep that promise year after year. The graph above tells the story. Not only is that water taken for other priorities, but in many cases, the infrastructure doesn’t exist to transport the water where we need it. Proposition 1 on the Nov. 4 ballot will provide funding not only for water, but also fund the creation of some infrastructure to get water where the birds need it. Vote for the birds this Election Day.

photo at top is of the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge by USFWS



Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · Bird Habitat · State Policy · Water issues

Hawk > Drone

October 10th, 2014 · by Garrison Frost

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Categories: Audubon California · Bird videos · Birding · Video

Growing Tricolored Blackbirds in Kern County

October 10th, 2014 · by Brigid McCormack


With the turn of a wrench, the first water is let loose. Only a trickle right now, one day it will lure flocks of Tricolored Blackbirds and create a riparian area in an otherwise very dry environment.

Building surrogate habitats, that’s what the Audubon network is doing in Kern County. I had the pleasure of visiting Kern Audubon and Kerncrest Audubon at the Bob Powers Gateway Preserve. The chapters are joining forces to create a place for Tricolored Blackbirds to call home. Through the help of an Audubon California grant, two ponds are being created. When it’s complete, the restored site will produce seven acres of bird habitat.  [Read more →]

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Categories: Bird conservation · Bird Habitat · Brigid McCormack · Kern River Preserve · State Policy · Tricolored Blackbird

Vote for Birds this Election Day

October 8th, 2014 · by Garrison Frost


You may not see the Allen’s Hummingbird, Long-billed Curlew, or Brown Pelican on your ballot Nov. 5 – but that doesn’t mean you can’t vote for them. This November, tell our leaders that birds matter to you.

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Categories: Audubon California · Federal Policy · State Policy · Water issues

World’s first falcon cataract surgery a success

October 8th, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden


Doctors have performed the first cataract surgery on a falcon. The patient is a domesticated female Lanner Falcon named Banner who lives at the New Hampshire School of Falconry. She suffered from cataracts for two years, cataracts so debilitating that she couldn’t fly. A veterinary team at Caves Animal Hospital performed the operation where they removed the cataracts and inserted new lenses on the bird’s corneas. From a Discovery News article:

It took a worldwide team of specialists to design the artificial lenses that would be placed in Banner’s eyes. Canadian opthalmology equipment manufacturer I-Med made the lenses and donated them to the surgical team in New Hampshire. The lenses themselves are only about 6 millimeters wide.

Banner is expected to make a full recovery.

Via Discovery News

Photo of Lanner Falcon by Dave Rogers

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Categories: Science

If only we cared about the environment like we care about sports

October 7th, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden

Thanks Buzzfeed!

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Categories: Bird videos · stupid bird humor

Birds over Broadway 2014

October 6th, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden


Who would’ve thought that in the middle of downtown Los Angeles you can see one of the most fascinating natural spectacles around? This past Friday, Audubon Center at Debs Park continued the tradition of gathering on the roof of Joe’s Auto Park at 5th and Broadway to be with fellow nature lovers and watch the roosting swifts. It is an incredible scene, at dusk the birds gathered in the air above the chimney, then circled in a giant tornado. Finally, they dove into the chimney for the night. Thank you to everyone who came out and celebrated with us. Here is video from a previous year:

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Categories: Audubon Center at Debs Park · Bird L.A. · Bird videos · Birding · urban conservation

Channel Islands Peregrine Falcons rebound

October 6th, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden


Good news from the Channel Islands! According to a Ventura County Sun Star article, researchers counted 48 pairs of nesting Peregrine Falcons. This is the most to nest there in decades. In the 1950s the bird completely vanished from the islands and it has been struggling to make a comeback ever since. From the article:

Bald eagles, peregrine falcons and brown pelicans suffered die-offs because DDT weakened their egg shells so much that they would break during incubation.

Without the birth of new birds, the species was pushed to the brink of extinction.

By 1955, the peregrines were gone from the Channel Islands.

DDT was banned, and recovery efforts began. Starting in the early 1980s, the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group released peregrines on the islands.

The first pair of peregrines was spotted on San Miguel Island in 1997. Young peregrines were first seen two years later on Anacapa Island.

This year, 48 pairs of peregrine falcons hold territories on eight of the islands. Researchers counted 73 chicks that hatched in the nests.

Read the entire story at the Ventura County Sun Star website.

Photo of Peregrine Falcon chicks by WSDOT

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Categories: Bird conservation · Bird Habitat · Peregrine Falcon

Kern River Preserve partner named finalist for California Leopold Conservation Award

October 3rd, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden


One of the finalists announced for this year’s prestigious California Leopold Conservation Award, which honors private landowner achievement in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources, is Hafenfeld Ranch of Kern County.

Hafenfeld Ranch is owned by Bruce and Sylvia Hafenfeld and operated with their son and his wife, Eric and Jamie. They manage certified organic cattle pastures on the family ranch and their leases with the U.S. Forest Service and our very own Kern River Preserve. The ranch has a Southwestern willow flycatcher mitigation easement that demonstrates how cattle, wildlife and water management are tied together. The Hafenfeld’s land stewardship also includes erosion control, installation of wildlife-friendly water systems, and improved irrigation infrastructure to more efficiently use water and manage water quality. [Read more →]

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Categories: Bird conservation · Kern River Preserve · Landowner Stewardship · Working lands conservation · Working Waterways

Designing birds

October 3rd, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden


An article published in The Auk shows birds actively select nest-building materials that camouflage their nests. Researchers from the School of Biology at University of St Andrews tested zebra finches by putting a different colored wallpaper in the birds’ cages. They then placed different colored strips of paper in the cages for the birds to build nests with. Depending on the colors of the wallpaper in its cage, each finch selected the paper strip that most closely matched.  [Read more →]

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Categories: Birding · Science

View the Vaux’s Swifts in downtown Los Angeles

October 2nd, 2014 · by Garrison Frost

After the Vaux’s Swifts put on a spectacular show in Northern Calfornia, we’re starting to see them turn up at their downtown Los Angeles roost. If you’re in the area, please join us tomorrow night, Oct. 3, to watch these amazing birds come in for the evening.

We’ll be watching this amazing happening from two locations:

The roof of Joe’s Auto Park at 440 South Broadway, Los Angeles 90012. Please park a level below and walk up. Cost to park in the garage is $5.50.

We’ll also be at the Spring Street Park at 426 S. Spring St. Los Angeles 90013.

If you need more information, call the Audubon Center at Debs Park at (323) 221-2255

We’re pleased to partner with the Santa Monica Mountain Park Rangers for this cool event. Join us!

The video above was shot at the same location last year.

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Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · Bird L.A. · Birding

Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo listed as Threatened

October 2nd, 2014 · by Garrison Frost


We just learned today that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has decided to list the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The listing will be effective Nov. 3. While it’s never good news to have to do this, we are greatly pleased that this bird will get the protections it needs to recover and thrive in California and the West. The next step will be the designation of critical habitat for the this species, and we’ll be involved in that. Audubon California supporters send more than 2,200 emails to the service in the recent months supporting the listing — and we’re certain that this outpouring made a difference. Thanks for everything. (photo by mdf)

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Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · Endangered Species Act

Controversial desert solar project dropped

September 28th, 2014 · by Garrison Frost


The backers of a controversial solar energy plant in the desert near Joshua Tree suddenly pulled their application for the project late last week, surprising Audubon California and other environmental groups that were still gathering their forces to oppose the dangerous technology the developers sought to use. The original permit for the Palen solar project called for the use of “solar trough” technology, but BrightSource and other partners recently moved to use “power tower” technology. This technology, currently in use at the controversial Ivanpah solar project in the Mojave Desert appears to harm birds at a high rate, sometimes burning the birds as they pass through intense heat fields. Audubon California had opposed the use of this technology until the actual impact of birds was completely known, and we were very concerned when the California Energy Commission gave preliminary approval for its use at Palen, right in the middle of a key migratory pathway. According to reports, the developers’ action come more from economic concerns, and not environmental ones, but the result is all the same for the birds. (Above, a bird with burnt feathers from the Ivanpah solar plant in the Mojave Desert.)

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Categories: Alternative energy · Audubon California · Bird Habitat · Climate Change · Global Warming

As if we didn’t know already — birds are pretty smooth

September 26th, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden


Researchers from The University of Queensland have found exactly how birds get through narrow spaces without crashing. They focused their study on budgies and how this popular childhood pet is able to navigate narrow sports. From a Futurity article on the study:

Previous research has shown that humans unnecessarily turn their shoulders to pass through doorways narrower than 130 percent of their body width. Birds are far more precise.

“We were quite surprised by the birds’ accuracy—they can judge their wingspan within 106 percent of their width when it comes to flying through gaps,” says Ingo Schiffner, researcher at the University of Queensland Brain Institute.

“When you think about the cluttered environments they fly through, such as forests, they need to develop this level of accuracy.

“When they encounter a narrow gap, they either lift their wings up vertically or tuck them in completely, minimizing their width to that of their torso,” he says. [Read more →]

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Categories: Science

How much wood can an Audubon volunteer chuck?

September 26th, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden


Last Sunday, a group of 40 adults and 40 kids came to Audubon Center at Debs Park from the Young Presidents Organization, San Gabriel Chapter to volunteer and picnic. The group generously donated wood chips for the Children’s Woodland. The children enjoyed Audubon-themed activities including a scavenger hunt, bird house building, live animals, and special cookies with birds. Thank you YPO! [Read more →]

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Categories: Audubon Center at Debs Park · Bird L.A. · Nature education and activities · Volunteer