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Volunteer Spotlight, July 2019 - Adam Levitan


This month’s Volunteer Spotlight is on one of our amazing bird walk leaders, Adam Levitan.  Adam led his first bird walk here at the Center in April of 2016 and has been leading them once a month ever since, in addition to leading groups for our Christmas and Bird LA Day bird counts. That’s almost forty community bird walks and counts! Adam enjoys serving as a liaison between the local community and the bird world, and getting people involved with Debs Park and the Center.

Since many people that come out to our bird walks are just getting into birding or are attending a bird walk for their first time, Adam values the educational aspect of the Center bird walks and appreciates the opportunity to share his love and knowledge of birds and native plants with others. Adam lives right here in Montecito Heights, and when he’s not working or leading walks here at the Center you can find him tending to his native plant garden, refilling his bird feeders and fountains, and birding in his own backyard or somewhere around Debs Park.

Adam’s favorite bird of prey is an American kestrel, which can occasionally be seen around the park, and his favorite songbird that he was especially excited to see this year is a lazuli bunting, which can be found at Debs during Spring migration. We are so grateful for the time, energy, passion, and knowledge that Adam has contributed to the Center and local community. His kind and giving spirit inspires our team to continue doing the work that we do. Adam leads bird walks here every third Saturday, so come on out! This is an excellent opportunity to meet Adam, connect with other local birders, and to learn about native plant and birds within a fun and open environment. Adam’s next walk will be Saturday, July 20th at 8am!  

Plant of the Month, July 2019 - Mexican elderberry

Mexican Elderberry

Sambucus mexicana

It is July and one of our native trees is in full berries! The Mexican Elderberry, Sambucus mexicana, is filled with a dark, dusty blue color berries, which is a great food source for the birds at Debs Park such as House Finches, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, and Hooded Oriole. These trees even though have adapted to our Mediterranean Climate, they are found easily in riparian areas or where there is a concentration of water. Like last month’s plant of the month, the Wild Grape, Mexican Elderberry is also deciduous, so during winter time, you will not find these pretty fruit or leaves at all! The berries on this tree are considered edible and in fact are made into jams and jellies, however try them at your own risk. The bark, leaves, and stems of the Elderberry are consider poisonous. Come spot this native tree and its’ bird friends at our park.

Bird of the Month, July 2019 - Lesser Goldfinch

Lesser Goldfinch

Spinus psaltria

Here is another bird that we can kind at Debs Park year-round, but this month they are constantly being heard. The Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria is currently calling its life away (even while writing this article). Their call consists of an elongated, medium pitch “piuuu.” Their song however, is not that simple, and is in fact a combination of twittering notes, including short imitations of the voices of other birds. Lesser Goldfinches are primarily seed eaters, especially of our plants of the sunflower family, such as our California native plant, Bush Sunflower, Encelia californica.  They will also eat some insects in the summer time, especially aphids. When visiting our park, listen for the “piuuu” call especially when parking in the parking lot. You will often find them perched on our yucca or trees with no leaves.

Highlights from An Arroyo Adventure Summer Camp 2019
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Highlights from An Arroyo Adventure Summer Camp 2019

Taking a look back at some of our favorite camp moments...

Letter-writing to create a healthy, sustainable LA at our Environmental Advocacy Workshops!

On Tuesday, June 18th we hosted our 4th Environmental Advocacy Workshop in partnership with L.A. Works here at the Audubon Center at Debs Park. The theme for the evening’s discussion was building sustainable cities, and how we can hold elected officials accountable throughout the process of sustainable development by sending handwritten letters. After a quick introduction by L.A. Works and the Audubon Center, Dominique Hargreaves, Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer with the Mayor of LA, presented an overview of the City’s Green New Deal and their ambitious priorities in regards to creating a more green and sustainable Los Angeles, as in line with the international Paris Agreement 

Participants had the opportunity to ask questions relevant to them and their neighborhoods and were provided with further resources to explore the City Green New Deal further. The floor was then turned over to Alfredo Gonzalez, Program Officer at Resources Legacy Fund, who guided the group through the evening’s “action item,” which was handwritten letter writing. Alfredo began his portion by providing a brief overview of government structures and who to contact with different concerns, before transitioning the letter writing activity. Alfredo highlighted the importance of building personal relationships with elected officials and pointed towards handwritten letter writing as one of the most impactful ways that an individual can use their voice to advocate on different issues. Former Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, now Executive Director at TreePeople, had come out to attend the workshop and was able to vouch for the importance of building these personal relationships as well.  

Attendees then divided into two groups for the letter writing activity:  people that lived in the City of LA and those that lived outside of the City. Alfredo and Dominique worked with the City of LA group to write letters to Councilwoman Nury Martinez, chair of the Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice Committee, regarding a motion to reduce the impact of carbon emissions resulting from the purchasing of common building materials. Cindy worked with the group of people who didn’t live in the City of LA to advocate for the passing of the bill currently in the Senate and Assembly that would phase out single-use plastics state-wide. Audubon Center at Debs Park provided participants with envelopes and stamps to ensure that the over twenty handwritten letters would be mailed to elected officials. Community members were really engaged and eager to ask questions.  Many appreciated the opportunity to work closely with our knowledgeable speakers.  

We can’t wait for next month’s event where we will be discussing further environmental policy issues and how to be an advocate through community organizing and engagement. Join us and RSVP today via the LA Works website! 

Let's Go Birding Together at the Audubon Center at Debs Park!

Let's Go Birding Together!

On Saturday, June 15th, the Audubon Center at Debs Park was proud to celebrate Pride Month the best way we know how - a good, old bird walk!  Fifteen community members of all backgrounds, identities, and experience levels joined us for our 2nd annual Let's Go Birding Together Pride Bird Walk led by John Rowden, Director of Community Conservation for National Audubon Society.  We started the day with some coffee and pan dulce as the birders gathered around our Center's courtyard.  As birders settled into the Center, we got the chance to see some Anna's Hummingbirds at our bird feeders and even got a chance to get an up close and personal look at an Anna's Hummingbird nest with one egg!  

Birders hiked up to Peanut Lake from the Center. Along the way, we encountered ravens, Coopers hawk, Red-tailed hawk, California towhee, Spotted towhee, Bewick's wren, Lesser goldfinch, Black phoebes, and even a Northern rough-winged swallow!  Once at the lake, we saw some mallards, Mourning doves, and House finches. 

The Audubon Center at Debs Park is proud to continue supporting the LGBT+ community and allies through our Let's Go Birding Together Pride Bird Walks.  Let's Go Birding Together was started by Jason Sauver, Community Education Director at Spring Creek Prarie Audubon Center in Denton, Nebraska.  These walks were created as a safe and inclusive event for everyone and anyone who wanted to learn more abotu birds and the outdoors. 

We welcome anyone who identifies as LGBT, allies, family, community, and animal lover for our Let's Go Birding Together and  monthly bird walks held here at the Center on the 2nd and 3rd Saturdays of each month - as John said, "If you're looking at a bird through binoculars, you're a birder!," so don't be shy about your experience or knowledge with birding.  Join us next time on July 13th from 8:30am to 10:30am and let's go birding together!  To RSVP, email debspark@audubon.org.

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 debspark@audubon.org!

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.

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