Lights, Camera, WALL-E at the Rio de Los Angeles State Park

School's out and the weather is finally warming up.  Summer's here and so is the Audubon Center at Debs Park's Summer Movie Nights!  This year, we are partnering with California State Parks and LA River Parks Partners to host movies at parks along the Los Angeles River.  This month, we started off with Disney-Pixar's WALL-E!  During our Summer Movie Series, we invite you and your family to come watch a family-friendly movie at the Center under the stars!  We pop some popcorn make some sno-cones for a community event with something fun for everyone.

This Friday, June 7th, we premiered our 2019 Summer Movie Nights at the Rio de Los Angeles State Park.  California State Park rangers roasted marshmellows and made s'mores over a campfire as the sun went down.  Families laid blankets on the lawn of the Rio de Los Angeles and rented binoculars for some quick sunset birding in the park's native habitat.  Right before the movie started, Debs Park staff popped some popcorn for the ultimate outdoor movie-going experience!  Watching WALL-E under the stars was fun for everyone!  Kids and adults of all ages were tuned into the story of a little robot trying to save a baby plant and planet Earth.  

We are so excited to continue our partnership with California State Park and the LA River State Parks Partners!  Stay tuned for our next movie night pick and don't forget to join us on the first Friday of each month this summer!  Have any ideas for our next movie?  Let us know by emailing!

Plant of the Month, June 2019 - California Wild Grape

If you have ever visited our Center during the winter months, you might be confused why there are branches weaved around our courtyards’ pillars, but if you visit the Center during our spring and summer months you’ll see that they are more than branches but our native California Wild Grape, vitis californica. California Wild Grape is a deciduous plant that sheds all of its’ leaves during the cold winter months, but during spring time, they all come back! It is a vine, a natural crawler that weaves itself in fences, creeps up pillars, and provides a dash of bright green wherever it goes. This is a low maintenance plant that is easy to grow and can handle no irrigation very well (in fact we never water them in our Center), but as the name suggests, it is a pretty wild plant so at times it might need direction with some pruning or redirecting the vines. Lastly, they do provide edible grapes although they are not as sweet, so let’s leave them to the birds to enjoy this treat. 

Bird of the Month, June 2019 - Anna's Hummingbird

Now that our weather is getting a little sunnier and warmer, some of our birds are dressing up and preparing to dance. Yes, that’s right, spring and summer means it’s party time and males will put on a flashy outfit to impress the ladies and get their groove on. Hummingbirds I would argue are the flashiest at our Center with their iridescent feathers, especially our male Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte Anna. While it is considered the most common hummingbird in our park and most of Los Angeles, it is not over-rated and such a treat to see. Males get bright red/hot pink feathers all over their head that shine with the light of the sun. In order to catch a glimpse of the colors sometimes we have to be patient and wait for the right movement. The crazy keratin micro structure of hummingbird feathers act as prisms that twist, turn, and reflect light, providing these fascinating colors. In the hummingbird world, apparently that is not enough for a female to choose a male, so our male Anna’s hummingbird then choreographs a dance to attract a mate called a display. If the female likes it, then maybe she will have and take care of his young, usually only two at a time.

Volunteer Spotlight - Merrill Koss

If you've been to the Center in the past couple of years, chances are you've seen Merrill Koss working on a variety of projects in and around the Audubon Center at Debs Park.  Whether its painting, carpentry work, weed-whacking, repairing stuff around the Center or anything in between, you'll always catch Merrill doing it with a smile!  In addition to being a resourceful handyman, nature-lover, veteran, and an all-around great guy, Merrill plays a vital role in ensuring that the Center is able to function at its highest capacity.  
 Merrill loves the outdoors and hiking.  He got started volunteering for TreePeople before coming to work here at the Audubon Center at Debs Park.  You'll often see him around the Center a couple of days a week or at our pocket parks along the LA River, helping to enhance the existing habitat for native birds.  Merrill's positive energy is contageous, his kindness shines through everything that he does, and his dedication to the Center, its staff, and volunteerism is inspiring.
We are so grateful for everything Merrill has done for the Center!  We couldn't do it without you Merrill, and we can't say thank you enough!

Arroyo Arts Collective presents SHELTER at the Audubon Center at Debs Park!

If you've been to the Audubon Center at Debs Park this past month, you might've noticed some strange things along your hike.  Maybe you bumped into plastic human forms under the Pepper Tree, or had a swing on the upcycled swing at the end of the Flores Trail.  In partnership with the Arroyo Arts Collective, the Audubon Center at Debs Park has been hosting SHELTER.  

SHELTER is a visual exhibition of site-specific, temporary installations located throughout the 17 acres of Audubon Center parkland. The overall theme of this project is habitat, with an emphasis on local Flora and Fauna found in Debs Park. Artists address such issues in their installations as ecological concerns which can impact the ongoing health and safety of our natural landscape; biology; and the migratory patterns in our Northeast LA neighborhoods. Work is displayed mainly along the Butterfly Loop, the Children’s Garden and other spaces about the Facility.

As part of SHELTER, several of the selected artists have held artist talks and workshops to educate community members about their own art and process.  Julie Williams held a comic book making workshop for community youth.  Kids were invited to come up with a story based on one of her original pieces, Burrow Town. Kate Lain did an Intro to Cyanotypes workshop and gave community members the opportunity to create sun prints!  All events were free and open to the public.

We've been excited to host SHELTER and get community members to experience the awesome public art from local artists.  Check out some of the cool moments from SHELTER!

Habitat Enhancement at Rattlesnake Park - 5/18/2019

Seven community volunteers worked on weeding and mulching Rattlesnake Park as part of the Audubon Center at Debs Park's Habitat Enhancement Service Days along the LA River.  It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and volunteers were greeted by a Singing barn owl. 

Volunteers spent the majority of the time weeding, which involved removing dry, non-native grasses from out under the lush Sycamore canopy which characterizes Rattlesnake Park.  Thankfully, the week's rain loosened and moistened the soil, which facilitated the removal of weeds - volunteers barely needed tools!  Aftre the weeds were removed, we worked together to cover 5 cubic yards of fine mulch, creating a 4 inch layer to retain moisture, provide nutrients, and control weeds.  Much of this maintenance protects the natives we planted in the Spring from being taken over by weeds and creates a healthy environment for future plants to continue growing. Some plants, for example, Arroyo Seco Lupine have already finished blooming, currently they have gone to seed - this means that the plant has been pollinated and its seeds are ready to go out into the world! 

During this event, we were also joined by the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority (MRCA).  Carlos, an MRCA operations crewmember painted over new graffitti which had been placed in the park.  This paint job left the park looking brand new and fresh!  

There's always more work to do at all the pocket parks along the LA River "Next steps for Rattlesnake include spreading annual wildflower seeds under the Sycamore canopy during the winter," says Conservation Program Coordinator, Cindy Castaneda.  Let's hope that Arroyo Seco Lupine doesn't disappoint!  

We hope to see volunteers out at Rattlesnake for our next event on Saturday, June 15th from 9am - 12pm!  Don't forget to RSVP by emailing Mika at

Volunteer Spotlight, May 2019: Gerardo Rivera


Gerardo Garcia is a geology student at Pasadena City College and lives just down the street from the Center. He reached out to us last December with the idea of leading geology walks here at Debs Park. He views the Center as a cultural oasis removed from the hustle and bustle of the city and wanted to get more involved, while also applying what he’s learning in school to the real world. He is passionate about geology and is fascinated by how the Earth works: how it was formed, what it's made out of, and what this can tell us about the world we inhabit today. Gerardo especially likes how Debs Park provides a glimpse into how Northeast LA might have looked millions of years ago, and how you can clearly see the evidence of sea level rise and fall when exploring geological features throughout the park.  

Gerardo is now leading Rock Walks here at the park on the 4th Saturday of every month! This month’s walk will be taking place on Saturday, May 25th from 9:30-10:30am. We are super excited to be offering this unique programming and to incorporate geology further into our conversations surrounding birds, plants, conservation, and community engagement. We owe it all to Gerardo and his commitment to supporting the Center and providing this experience for the community. Thank you Gerardo! Check out the website he created for more info. 

Plant of the Month, May 2019: Purple Sage

Purple Sage

Salvia leucophylla

Purple sage, salvia leucophylla, is in full bloom here at the Audubon Center at Debs Park. This plant is in the mint family of Lamiaceae, yes the same family as spearmint. It is an aromatic plant, we encourage you to rub the leaves and smell. That smell attracts insects, specifically beetles. Why? For the role of pollination of course. This is one of California’s native plants, and you can tell right away! The lightness of the plant, or silvery undertone, allows them to remain cool during California hot days since it absorbs less heat, but there is something cooler. These leaves’ silvery undertones are also composed of crenulated leaves, where the leaves are fuzzy and feel like felt. Our favorite part of this plant however, is definitely there beautiful flowering stalks that are composed of little small flowers, making it a perfect natural food source for our hummingbirds in the park. 

Bird of the Month, May 2019: Black-throated Gray Warbler

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Setophaga nigrescens

Spring migration has begun! And how do we know? Because flocks of warblers are migrating through Los Angeles including Debs Park. Warblers during migration are known to travel in mixed flocks, or in groups with a variety of warbler species. Most of these warblers have dashes of yellow, but there is one in particular that is black. That’s right, the Black-throated Gray Warbler, Setophaga nigrescens, barely makes the cut to join the other bright warblers with the perfect amount of yellow right on the nares. This warbler actually breeds in Los Angeles and we can find them around in the park until it decides to return to its’ wintering grounds. Their diet consists mainly of insects, but more study is needed to see if they will eat anything else. Los Angeles is their breeding ground and they have a preference for dry conifer forest and mixed woods. Females only incubate the eggs, but males and females feed the nestling. Their clutch size is usually 4 eggs, and is not well known when the young leave the nest. I guess we can say this one mysterious bird, but not too much because you can see them at Debs.

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