Bird of the Month, October 2019 - Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped warblers are also known as "butterbutts" and you can guess why!  Unlike other warblers, butterbutts travel northward instead of South for the winter migration season, paying Los Angeles a visit from September to February.  There's two distinct subspecies of this warbler - Audubon's and Myrtle's.

Butterbutts are some of our most popular migrants.  They're omnivores, feeding on seeds and insects close to the ground.  You can spot a Yellow-rumped Warbler from its flight pattern - it flaps flaps flaps and then swoops!  Come visit butterbutts and other warblers migrating around Debs during fall migration and see if you can spot some differences between them!

National Audubon Society publishes groundbreaking climate report

National Audubon Society publishes groundbreaking climate report

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Celebrating las Americas at our Pachanga de las Americas!

Photo: Martha Benedict

This Saturday October 5th, the Audubon Center at Debs Park held its first Pachanga de las Americas.  Our Pachanga – or party – celebrated our community connection to cultures from all across the Americas through dance, music, food, story sharing, and of course, birds!

Between September 15th and October 15th, the United States celebrates “National Hispanic Heritage Month” or “National Latino Heritage Month,” highlighting the incredible contributions the Hispanic and Latino communities have made to the country’s history, heritage, and culture.  (Fun fact: Hispanic Heritage Month was actually established through legislation written by Rep. Edward R. Roybal – a fellow Angeleno!) We knew that, as a Center working in Northeast Los Angeles with a majority Latino community, we wanted to do something to celebrate our culture here at the Audubon Center at Debs Park. 

Our staff was excited to begin planning an event where we could celebrate our favorite foods, listen to our favorite music, and show off our national dances.  During this planning, we learned that the term “Latino” has been used to negate and erase the experience of the Indigenous community not only in the Southwestern United States, but throughout the Americas as a whole.  Rather centering this Pachanga around the Latino community, we decided to create a celebration of cultures from all across the Americas!

So how was the Pachanga?  Over 150 community members showed up to participate in bird hat making workshops, t-shirt screenprinting, succulent potting, dance workshops, story sharing sessions and more!  We were proud to highlight 6 birds that migrate from different regions in Latin America stopping in Los Angeles for a quick break during their migration:

  • Yellow-rumped Warbler from Mexico
  • Belted Kingfisher from Central America
  • Common Yellowthroat from the Caribbean
  • Least Sandpiper from Upper South America
  • Osprey from Central South America
  • Barn Swallow from Lower South America

Through these birds, our community mapped their own migration story to Los Angeles and repped their regions through bird hats made at a workshop with Arroyo Arts Collective at the Pachanga de las Americas.  It was so cool to walk around the Center and everyone wearing the bird hat that corresponded to their region. There was information on each of these birds such as their migration paths, diet, habitat, and other fun facts to give people an opportunity to connect with their regional bird. We put birds on t-shirts too!  Art students from Sotomayor Learning Academy created and printed 4 different t-shirt designs, featuring birds found at the Audubon Center at Debs Park such as the Anna’s Hummingbird, Red-tailed Hawk, Wilson’s Warbler, and the Barn Swallow.  Our Pachanga de las Americas was a great opportunity to get some unique bird gear!

An important piece of our Pachanga de las Americas was sharing the stories and traditions of all the different cultures in the Americas – whether it be dance, food, or stories.  Throughout our Pachanga, we hosted Story Sharing Sessions with Latino Outdoors where Indigenous and Latino members of our community spoke about their experiences in the conservation movement or in the outdoors.  We recorded these stories and we’ll be posting them on our website by the end of the month so that everyone can listen and learn from these experiences.  Our Pachanga featured 2 dance performances from across the Americas. These dances are historically used to tell stories. The first was Danza Azteca, from Mexico – it was performed by students from Anahuacalmecac University Prep.  We also held a Forro Dance workshop, from Northern Brazil – performed by Andrea Lopasso and Yuki Shimotakahara.  Visitors got a chance to learn both Danza Azteca and Forro at our Pachanga – everyone was welcome on the dancefloor!

Other activities included a live birds of prey show presented by Nature of Wildworks, a succulent potting workshop with materials provided by Ponderosa Cactus, and a bird banding game by National Parks Service.  There was activities for kids and families of all ages!

Overall, we had a blast at our Pachanga de las Americas!  We’re so grateful to all of our partners – Alma Family Services, Latino Outdoors, Arroyo Arts Collective, Mujeres de la Tierra, National Parks Service, Anahuacalmecac University Prep, and Sotomayor Learning Academy. We couldn’t have done it without their incredible collaboration and community outreach.  We’d also like to thank La Tehuanita, Ponderosa Cactus, and Maracas Café and Catering for their sponsorship. We loved engaging with our community and sharing cultural traditions with each other, learning about birds and getting down on the dance floor.  Latino Heritage Month continues through October 15th, but here at the Audubon Center at Debs Park we celebrate cultures from all over the Americas every day! Interested in participating? Check out upcoming events – including Bilingual Bird Walks and Nature Arts + Crafts Workshops – in our Events page!

Still not ready to stop celebrating Latino Heritage Month?  Check out our Pachanga Playlist on Spotify and relive some of the best memories of the day! 

Audubon Center at Debs Park Competes in the Audubon Bird-Off!

On Saturday, September 28th, the Audubon Center at Debs Park participated in the first ever Audubon Bird-Off.  The Audubon Bird-Off was a friendly competition across 3 Audubon locations throughout the country to see which area had the most avian biodiversity and was lead by 3 of the Audubon Fund II Apprentices – Tania Romero at the Audubon Center at Debs Park, Jose Santiago at The Discovery Center, and Jason Ward with Atlanta Audubon.  The goal for this community science event was simple – count as many birds as possible.

Though the day started out super cloudy, 14 birders joined 4 groups to survey the 282 acres of Ernest E. Debs Park.  We started at the Audubon Center at Debs Park’s Courtyard with some pan dulce and coffee, as birders discussed potential sightings, possible migrations, and the birds they anticipated seeing.  After a quick rundown of all the area being covered (and potential species sightings) the 4 groups were off – armed with a mission of spotting more birds than our Atlanta and Philadelphia competition.

During the 4 hours participants surveyed the park, we saw a total of 826 birds from 52 species – not bad considering that throughout the year around 140 species of birds can be found at Debs Park!  Some of the most interesting finds we had were a flock of American White Pelicans, a Red-Shouldered Hawk, Say’s Phoebes, Oak Titmouse, American Kestrel, Yellow-rumpled Warblers, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Western Wood Peewee, and a Wilson’s Warbler.  Check out our full list of sightings below:

It’s clear that fall migrants are starting to stop through Debs Park!  We are proud to announce that after all the tallies came in from Audubon Center at Debs Park, Atlanta Audubon Society, and the Discovery Center, the Audubon Center at Debs Park was the winner of the first ever Audubon Bird-Off.  We really dusted the competition!

At least there's always next year...If you’re interested in catching these birds in action or learning more about birding in general, we offer Community Bird Walks on the 2nd and 3rd Saturday of every month at the Audubon Center at Debs Park!  Interested in birding around the LA River?  Check out our events page for an updated list of Bird Walks at the Rio de Los Angeles State Parks!

Audubon Center at Debs Park gets ROOTED TOGETHER

This Saturday, September 7th the Audubon Center at Debs Park and LA Nature for All hosted Rooted Together:  Navigating the Conservation Field.  This event was a knowledge exchange and networking opportunity for early career professionals of color to connect with more established environmental professionals of color – from all areas, ages, and points in their careers.  This event gave early career professionals the opportunity to ask questions, get advice, and hear about job opportunities within the conservation field in Southern California.  There’s an existing reputation that the conservation and environmental fields lack diversity – the aim of this event was for older professionals to share their advice and stories on how to break into the conservation field, how to create sustainable change, and how to navigate unconscious and conscious biases that exist in the field.

We stared the event off with some quick icebreakers and introductions over coffee and pan dulce.  All attendees were assigned to a table that had a mix of professionals from all stages in their career – from those just getting started to hiring managers and directors.  After the introductions, we launched into a mini workshop, where experts in various areas within the conservation field talked about who they are, what they do, and how they got into conservation.  We were joined by Thea Wang, a former research biologist for the San Diego Zoo; Marcos Trinidad, Center Director for the Audubon Center at Debs Park; Christian La Mont, Social Media and Program Coordinator for Latino Outdoors; and Cindy Montanez, CEO of TreePeople. Each person talked about a specific area within the conservation field – research, community engagement, communications, and advocacy. It was inspiring to hear from these established professionals of color about how they blended their interests and skills with their passion for conservation and made a career out of it.

When the workshop was over, everyone took a quick lunch break in the Center’s courtyard.  Lunch provided an opportunity for folks to begin networking and sharing stories.  After lunch, everyone went back to their tables for a guided discussion about navigating the conservation field as a person of color.  All groups were asked the same questions, but it was great to see the variety of discussion that stemmed from these questions at each table.  Some of the topics we touched on included challenges of working in conservation, the importance of having a degree in science, what hiring managers are looking for in potential employees, and how to move past unpaid internships.  These discussion questions provided good starting points for established conservation professionals to discuss some of their experiences in the field, some of the things to expect when working in conservation, and some things they’re looking for in prospective employees.  Seasoned professionals were happy to answer questions, share their stories, some tried and true advice, and available job opportunities to the eager younger professionals.

As the event came to a close, every attendee got their very own singing California native singing bird plushie.  We had a variety of birds available, including ospreys, dark-eyed juncos, great horned owls, Western tanagers and more – everyone got a different bird!  As folks were playing with their plushies, it was cool to hear the diversity of people – and birds – in the room. 

We heard a lot of feedback about this event. Many professionals mentioned the necessity of having events like Rooted Together, especially as the conservation field grows to be more diverse and inclusive of other narratives.  There was something very powerful about having established professionals sharing their own personal experiences of navigating through the conservation field as professionals and people of color.  We hope to continue this work of connecting people to the conservation movement.

Historic HIghland Park Veterans Square Beautification

On Saturday, August 24th the Audubon Center at Debs Park teamed up with Councilmember Gil Cedillo’s office, Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, and The Mission Continues to clean up the Veteran’s Memorial Square and celebrate the installation of its brand new fountain! We had over 25 community members from CD1, Franklin High School, Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, The Mission Continues, Los Angeles Conservation Corps Environmental Club, and local veterans come out to clean up trash, pull invasive weeds, and mulch the area.  We also planted 13 California native plants including Lord’s Candle Yucca and California live oak!

This community space on the intersection of York Blvd and Figueroa Street is now open to the public – so go check out the brand new fountain and California native plants.  Also, stay tuned for some more improvements at the Veteran’s Memorial Square and opportunities to participate! We hope to see you there!

Plant of the Month, September 2019 - White Sage

White sage

Salvia Apiana

White sage is one of the native plants in the chaparral sage scrub plant community you can find here at Debs Park. It's drought tolerant like all of our native plants and has a funky smell that some people love and some people highly dislike. If you rub the leaves, you'll find they're a little sticky. That's because like most salvia spp., this plant produces it’s only natural sunscreen for this harsh sunny California climate. White sage is also a huge hummingbird plant - you'll often find a bunch of hummingbirds floating around it.

You've probably encountered white sage before, in the form of a sage smudges- many like to burn sage as is it thought to "purify" or "cleanse" spaces.  This practice takes root in indigenous communities around the world, many of whom consider sage a sacred plant used to ceremonially cleanse or purify spaces or people. Unfortunately, the practice of "sage smudging" has led to overharvesting and the white sage population has declined in recent years. 

We invite you to come check out our white sage population throughout our Center. While you're here, make sure read about some of ways our local indigenous communities use white sage in our Children's Woodland!

Bird of the Month, September 2019 - California Towhee

California Towhee

Melozone crissalis

Before we highlight Fall migration species, let's give a shoutout to one of our resident bird species. The California Towhee is a resident bird of Debs Park meaning you can find them here 365 days of the year. You can usually find these ground feeding birds constantly scratching leaf litter for food using both their feet at the same time - they do a little hop and scratching motion. Their diet is variable from seeds, to fruits, and insects. They also may mate for life if they find the right birdie and both parents tend the nest. Little California Towhees can leave the nest as early as 8 days, but will follow parents around for several weeks! You only find these little ones along the Pacific seaboard from Southern Oregon and Baja California, so come check them out and pay Debs Park a visit any time of the year. 

Volunteer Spotlight, September 2019 - Plants for Birds Interns

Last month we wrapped up the Plants for Birds summer internship program, led by Fund II Apprentice, Tania Romero. Six students from Sotomayor Learning Academies and Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory participated in a six week internship program, where they developed foundational knowledge in regards to growing and propagating native plants, understanding local birds and their habitats, and engaging volunteers and community members through habitat restoration events and bird walks. Justin, Iren, Blanca, Ahui, Alexandra, and Raul played a key role in establishing the native plant nursery at Sotomayor Learning Academies, transplanted over 400 native plants, seed collected and processed over 5 native plant species, sanitized over 200 cones and flats, and helped with 5 volunteer events and 1 community bird walk. All in just 12 sessions! We are so appreciative of their willingness to learn, to work together, and to truly embrace the experience with open minds and dedication to the internship program. The summer interns were an amazing addition to the Debs Park team, and although we will miss their enthusiasm and energy we hope that they will take what they’ve learned this summer back to their respective schools and become conservation and community engagement leaders among their peers and in their community. We are proud and honored to have played a role in the development of this next generation of environmental stewards, and wish them all the best in their future endeavors.  

Special thanks to the Gottlieb Foundation for funding this amazing opportunity for local youth!

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