Plant of the Month, April 2019: Arroyo Lupine

Arroyo Lupine

Lupinus succulentus

Walk along our Scrub Jay Trail and you'll see fields of spears covered in deep purple flowers.  Hiker, say hello to Arroyo Lupine.  This California native is relatively common and can be found throughout the state, parts of Arizona, and Baja California.  It's known from many types of habitat and has been known to colonize disturbed habitat.  This fleshy annual herb grows up to a meter.  The flower cluster is a series of purple-blue flowers with white or pink patches on their banner, each between 1 - 2 centimeters long.

  • Moderately easy to grow.  Arroyo lupine tolerates a variety of soils but performs best in heavy, moist soil.
  • Flowering season:  Spring, Winter
  • Height:  2-4 ft, 3ft wide
  • Very commonly found in bird gardens, butterfly gardens, and bee gardens

Bird of the Month, April 2019: Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Bubo virginianus

Hoot hoot, what's that sound you've been hearing in the Butterfly Loop?  It's a Great Horned Owl watching over her nest up high in the trees.  Found almost throughout North America and much of South America is this big owl. Aggressive and powerful in its hunting (sometimes known by nicknames such as "tiger owl"), it takes prey as varied as rabbits, hawks, snakes, and even skunks, and will even attack porcupines, often with fatal results for both prey and predator. Great Horned Owls begin nesting very early in the north, and their deep hoots may be heard rolling across the forest on mid-winter nights.

Feeding Behavior
Hunts mostly at night, sometimes at dusk. Watches from high perch, then swoops down to capture prey in its talons. Has extremely good hearing and good vision in low light conditions. In north in winter, may store uneaten prey, coming back later to thaw out frozen carcass by "incubating" it.

2-3, sometimes 1-5, rarely 6. Dull whitish. Incubation mostly by female, 28-35 days. Young: Both parents take part in providing food for young owls. Young may leave nest and climb on nearby branches at 5 weeks, can fly at about 9-10 weeks; tended and fed by parents for up to several months.

Both parents take part in providing food for young owls. Young may leave nest and climb on nearby branches at 5 weeks, can fly at about 9-10 weeks; tended and fed by parents for up to several months.

Varied, mostly mammals and birds. Mammals make up majority of diet in most regions. Takes many rats, mice, and rabbits, also ground squirrels, opossums, skunks, many others. Eats some birds (especially in north), up to size of geese, ducks, hawks, and smaller owls. Also eats snakes, lizards, frogs, insects, scorpions, rarely fish.

May begin nesting very early in north (late winter), possibly so that young will have time to learn hunting skills before next winter begins. In courtship, male performs display flight, also feeds female. Nest: Typically uses old nest of other large bird, such as hawk, eagle, crow, heron, usually 20-60' above ground; also may nest on cliff ledge, in cave, in broken-off tree stump, sometimes on ground. Adds little or no nest material, aside from feathers at times.

Measure A Follow Up!

On March 5th, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt a set of policies to ensure Measure A parcel tax revenue, expected to generate $92 million annually, will be implemented equitably in support of park-poor communities across LA County. 

We asked the LA County Board of Supervisors to:
  1. commit at least 30% of competitive grant funding to projects located in the 72 High and Very High Need study areas, which cover 52% of the County,
  2. maintain the Technical Assistance Program’s focus on High and Very High Need study areas, and
  3. adopt the proposed Displacement Avoidance Policy and provide additional resources to ensure its effective implementation.

With your help, more than 300 residents showed up and showed out for their communities! Over 100 individuals left public comments encouraging the Board to approve our amendments, including our Conservation Program Coordinator, Cindy Castaneda and our Fund II Apprentice, Tania Romero.  

As always, your participation and activism for community needs astounds us and we are so grateful to everyone who attended, shared, tuned in, and gathered around the issue of Park Equity!  We’ll continue keeping you up to date with Measure A and any other policy issues that affect our parks and communities!

Thanks again for your support!
The ACDP team


Audubon Center at Debs Park hosts Coffee & Birding with Assemblymember Carrillo

Birders with Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo get ready for their walk through Debs Park!

This Saturday March 16th, the Audubon Center at Debs Park proved that birds and politics do mix well!  We were honored to host Coffee & Birding with Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo of California’s 51st District and 30 local community birders.  We invited our community to come out and bird with Audubon staff and Assemblymember Carrillo’s office throughout Debs Park, featuring breath-taking sights of Downtown LA, cool birds, and great conversations.

The event began at 8:30 a.m.   Birders met at our Center’s courtyard for some hot coffee and pan dulce.  Before the walk, birders had an opportunity to connect with Assemblymember Carrillo and her staff to discuss local issues, avenues for change, and community concerns.  Our community was also able to learn about measures being debated in Sacramento, which provided greater transparency on California politics.  After warming up with some hot coffee, Center Director, Marcos Trinidad and Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo gave a short introduction.  After that, walkers strapped on their binoculars and were off!

Center Courtyard packed with local birders!

The walk went through Debs Park’s City View trail and up to Peanut Lake at the top of the hill.  Peanut Lake is a great birding location with different types of waterfowl, warblers, finches, and even raptors.  Some of the day’s sights included orange-crowned warblers, hermit thrushes, and bushtits.  The highlight of the walk was a Blue heron that flew above the birders across the park!  Throughout the walk, birders were welcome to talk to Assemblymember Carrillo and her team. 

LA looks beautiful from up here...

The walk ended back at the Courtyard, where families were excited to learn about the different activities held at the Audubon Center at Debs Park.  We were happy to provide an event that combines our two loves – community advocacy and good old-fashioned birding!  We were proud to be able to provide a fun and unique opportunity for our community to learn more about the birds that surround us every day in Northeast LA and local advocacy.  We hope to see our birders and the rest of the community again for our bird walks on the 2nd and 3rd Saturday of every month and for our Advocacy Days on the 4th Tuesday of every month!

Mulching & Prepping Rattlesnake Park for Native Plants

On January 19th, Audubon Center at Debs Park staff was happy to host another habitat enhancement volunteer event along the Los Angeles River.  Our Conservation Program Coordinator, Cindy Castaneda and 10 volunteers worked to prepare Rattlesnake Park in Elysian Valley for planting. 

We were happy to welcome back 3 regular volunteers, and 7 new volunteers to do habitat enhancement along the LA River.  The 10 volunteers split up into various groups, raking, mulching, and picking up trash in sections of Rattlesnake Park.  The wind from the prior week caused a collection of trash along the fence of the park.  Volunteers also did some graffiti removal around the park.

After raking, pulling weeds, and picking up trash, volunteers mulched 5 cubic yards of the park.  Mulching is an important step in habitat enhancement.  We mulch for 3 reasons:  it allows the soil to retain moisture and ensure that the plants don’t dry out, it controls weeds from growing around the plant, and once the mulch decomposes, it provides important nutrients for the plant.  The work accomplished during the Habitat enhancement service day prepares the ground for planting natives. 

There was even some good birding that day!  Cindy noticed several black-necked stilts around the park while working. 

Join us for our next habitat enhancement event along the LA River!  We will be planting natives at Steelhead Park on February 16th from 9am – 12pm.  For more information and to RSVP, email Mika Perron at!

Bird of the Month, February 2019: Mourning Doves

Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

Nothing says romance like two mourning doves nestled together on a tall sycamore branch!  These monogamous birds find a partner and mate for life - returning to each other each mating season.  The mournful cooing of the Mourning Dove is one of our most familiar bird sounds. This is one of our most common birds found in the United States, often abundant in open country and along roadsides. European settlement of the continent, with its opening of the forest, probably helped this species to increase. It also helps itself, by breeding prolifically: in warm climates, Mourning Doves may raise up to six broods per year, more than any other native bird.

Farms, towns, open woods, roadsides, grasslands. Found in almost any kind of open or semi-open habitat in temperate parts of North America, including forest clearings, farmland, suburbs, prairies, deserts. May be most common in edge habitats having both trees and open ground, but also found in some treeless areas. Avoids unbroken forest.

Feeding behavior
Forages mostly on ground; sometimes will perch on plants to take seeds. Will come to bird feeders, often eating on the ground under elevated feeders. Eats quickly to fill crop (digestive storage organ near its neck) with seeds, then digests them while resting - usually on a high perch. Regularly swallows grit (small gravel) to aid in digestion of hard seeds.  Mourning doves can eat up to 20% of its body weight in food every day.

White. Incubation is by both parents, about 14 days. Young: Both parents feed young "crop milk." Young leave nest at about 15 days, usually wait nearby to be fed for next 1-2 weeks. One pair may raise as many as 5-6 broods per year in southern areas.

Both parents feed young "crop milk," a specialized formula created from the secretion of the lining of the bird's crop. Young leave nest at about 15 days, usually wait nearby to be fed for next 1-2 weeks. One pair may raise as many as 5-6 broods per year in southern areas.

Seeds. Feeds almost entirely on seeds (99% of diet). Favors seeds of cultivated grains, also those of grasses, ragweeds, many other plants. Occasionally eats snails, very rarely any insects.

In courtship, male flies up with noisy wingbeats and then goes into long circular glide, wings fully spread and slightly bowed down. On ground, male approaches female stiffly, his chest puffed out, bowing and giving emphatic cooing song. Members of mated pairs may preen each other's feathers. Nest: Male leads female to potential nest sites; female chooses one. Site is usually in tree or shrub, sometimes on ground, sometimes on building ledge or other structure; usually lower than 40', rarely up to 100' or more above ground. Nest is very flimsy platform of twigs; male brings material, female builds.

Plant of the Month, February 2019: Western Sycamore

Western Sycamore

Platanus racemosa

The Western Sycamore is a plane tree found in our Children's Woodland and Butterfly Loop.  Birds love perching on its high branches.  The Western Sycamore can grow to be more than 115 feet tall, but they usually average out between 65 - 85 ft in height, with a trunk diameter of up to 3 feet.  The trunk generally divides into two or more large trunks splitting into many branches. You can identify a sycamore from its beautiful bark - with areas of white, pinkish gray, and pale tan.  Older bark on the tree becomes darker and peels away to make room for new bark.  Western sycamore leaves can be extremely large, up to 10 in. wide. The plant is deciduous, meaning its leaves turn an attractive yellow and orangish brown and fall in the autumn. They have rather plain-looking flowers - 1 in. spheres that becomes seed balls. 

  • Tough and easy to grow, but require a lot of water.
  • Almost always found in wetland-riperian settings or adjacent to drier habitats such as chaparral, valley grassland, mixed woodlands or evergreen forests.
  • It tolerates a wide variety of soils, and prefers to have its leaves in full sun.
  • They grow quickly if given plenty of water, often growing to 30 feet in just five years.

Celebrating the 119th Christmas Bird Count at the Audubon Center at Debs Park!

Before the 20th century, hunters engaged in the Christmas "Side Hunt." During this holiday tradition, hunters would choose sides and go afield with their gun.  The winner was one who would  bring back the biggest pile of feathered and furred quarry. 

During this era, conservation was in its beginning stages.  At the same time, many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. On Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the Audubon Society, proposed a "Christmas Bird Census"  as a new holiday tradition.  This new tradition would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.

So began the Christmas Bird Count.

Today, from December 14 through January 5 each year tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave snow, wind, or rain, and take part in the effort. 

The Audubon’s Society Christmas Bird Count is on its 119th year, making it the nation’s longest running community science project.  

On December 15, 2018, thirty-three volunteers gathered at the Audubon Center at Debs Park to survey 282-acres of land in search of our feathered friends.  No experience was required.  We kicked off the morning early at 8 a.m. with coffee and pan dulce “sweet bread.”   Volunteers joined groups led by experienced birders and local professionals:    

-Assistant Professor of Ecology, Eric Wood from the Wood Lab of Avian Ecology and Conservation at California State University of Los Angeles

-Director and Curator of Birds and Mammals, John McCormack from the Moore Lab of Zoology at Occidental College

-Collections Manager, James Maley from the Moore Lab of Zoology at Occidental College

-Community Naturalist, Adam Levitan

-Community Natural, Pedro Ramirez

-Director of Community Conservation, John Rowden from National Audubon Society

After 4 hours of hiking and counting, we gathered to have lunch and review our results.  This year, we counted fifty-two species and 1,009 individuals. 

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