MLK Day of Service at the Rio de Los Angeles State Park

On January 25th, the Audubon Center at Debs Park celebrated the MLK Day of Service in our favorite way – building sustainable habitat for birds with our community! 37 community members, including students from Occidental College, joined us for a habitat enhancement volunteer event at the Rio de Los Angeles State Park.

We’ve been working at the Rio de Los Angeles State Park in partnership with California State Parks Foundation and the Gottlieb Native Garden to create bird-friendly habitat around the wetlands area of the park. The Rio de Los Angeles State Park has an active community that participates in active recreation (running and playing sports) as well as passive recreation (walking and birdwatching). Community members can also hike along the wetland habitat at Rio, and peek at what native habitat looks like along the LA River.

 During the MLK Day of Service event, we maintained California native plants that had been planted in December including Coast live oak and California black walnut trees. This included weeding and mulching around these plants, and watering (oaks and walnuts require lots of water in their first couple of years!). Thanks to the weather, we were also able to plant! Volunteers planted over 30 California native plants including black sage, California buckwheat, and California bush sunflower. These plants will grow and serve as habitat and food for the local bird population.

At the end of the event, volunteers were treated to the sight of Arroyo lupine growing everywhere. We’re looking forward to the spring when they’ll bloom and provide fragrance for the whole restoration site!

We’ve loved working at the Rio de Los Angeles State Park for the past couple of months and we’re looking forward to continuing our work there with the community!  Join us for community volunteer events every 4th Saturday of the month from 9AM – 12PM or for our upcoming events on February 15th and February 22nd.

Read more about the history of the MLK Day of Service here

Plant of the Month, December 2019 - Toyon


Heteromeles arbutifolia

Our native plant for the month of December is no other but a perennial shrub filled with red berries every winter: Toyon. This plant is a prominent component of the coastal sage scrub community and is commonly referred to as Christmas berry and California Holly. In fact, Hollywood was named after this plant since it was mistaken for Holly, so Hollywood should really be named Toyonwood. This native shrub provides prime bird food during the cold winter months through their bright red berries. Flocks of Cedar Waxwings frequent our park during this time of year thanks to this native plant. Toyon berries are not only eaten by birds however. Toyon berries can also be eaten by people, although we do not recommend ingestion unless you are familiar with the plant. Our local indigenous population, Tongva are experts on this plant (along with all our other native plants) and would use this plant as food and branches to make toys or instruments. Come check out our park and the beauty of the Toyon during this month! 

Bird of the Month, December 2019 - Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

Bombycilla cedrorum

December is a time known for holidays and coming together in community for eating and laughter, and it seems like even Cedar Waxwings know that. Cedar Waxwings are known to travel in flocks are highly sociable birds making it rare to only see one Cedar Waxing; where there is one, there are more. Aside from traveling in flocks, these birds are known for their waxy red and yellow tips on their flight feathers, hence their name. These birds are also huge fans of Toyon during this time of year and you will constantly see them around the park feasting on the bright red berries. If one gets lucky, you might even catch them perched on a branch in a line passing a berry back and forth. Majority of their diet is consisted of berries and small fruit, and food availability is so important that their migration can be dependent on food supply. Come check out some binoculars at Debs and see if you catch these birds around!

Volunteer Spotlight, December 2019 - Debs Park Ploggers

Have you ever seen a group of people running around Debs Park on a Saturday morning with gloves and plastic bags and wondered, what the heck are those people doing? Well, the answer is ploggingPloggingwhich is a combination of jogging and picking up trash, originated in Sweden a few years back and has since spread throughout the U.S. in response to concern surrounding plastic litter and pollution. For those of you who have driven or walked along the roads surrounding Debs Park, we’re sure you have noticed the significant need for trash pickup in this area. Back in 2018, volunteers Michelle Tarian and Tyler Locke identified this need and decided to take action. They spearheaded partnership with L.A. Works aimed at bringing ploggers out to Debs Park and ran a number of successful events, collecting hundreds of pounds of trash. The project has now been taken over by two new volunteers, Alma Lerma and Kevin Gerner, who are currently leading plogging events almost every other Saturday here at the Center. We couldn’t be more grateful for Michelle, Tyler, Alma, and Kevin’s generous donation of time and energy towards keeping the park clean, preventing plastic pollution, and engaging the community in stewardship of Debs Park. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to these superstar volunteers, and to everyone who has already participated in a plogging event!  

We can’t think of a better way to start your Saturday morning than by spending time outdoors, getting your exercise in, and meeting new people, all while picking up trash and beautifying our local greenspaces. Sign up for an upcoming plogging event HERE! And in the meantime, check out this Spectrum news clip for more information on Debs Park plogging and follow @plogginglosangeles for updates and upcoming events!  

We decked the halls with Native Plant Holiday Wreaths!

The holiday season is in full swing here at the Audubon Center at Debs Park and we were super excited to celebrate with our annual Native Plant Wreath-Making Workshop!  On Saturday, November 23rd, we invited our community to participate as part of our Nature Arts + Crafts Series.  This workshop is one of our favorite holiday traditions to share with our community because it gives us a chance to introduce people to California native plants and it also gives us an opportunity to make holiday memories together!

Many families came to the Audubon Center at Debs Park to make holiday wreaths together under the pepper tree with the wonderful sound of the Old Time String Jam Band in the background. We loved teaching people about the different plants being used to make these wreaths. Our staff was amazed by the creative ways our community used native plants to make wreaths of all sizes!

Interested in the plants we used and why?  Our holiday wreaths are made with a base of pepper and eucalyptus tree branches. If you’ve visited the Center, you might recognize California Pepper Tree, which ironically is not a California native! We also used eucalyptus tree branches – invasive trees originally from New Zealand and Australia. Their leaves have a great scent and some of them have beautiful white berries that looked beautiful on the holiday wreaths. Both the California pepper tree and eucalyptus have branches are pliable which make for a good base. Because these serve as the base, they made up the majority of the plants we cut back from our trails.

We used California native plants to fill and decorate our native plant wreaths.  Some of the plants we included are:

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)

This is by far the most festive plant at the Center.  When the winter begins, toyon sprouts beautiful red berries.  Toyon actually goes by the name of “Holly wood” because of its similarity to the traditional holly plant. During the winter, you’ll see many of the plants at the Center go dormant except for toyon.

Sugar bush (Rhus ovata)

Sugar bush is another evergreen plant you’ll still see blooming at the Center.  They have reddish-pink branches giving them a festive appearance. At the end of each branch, you can see pink-cream flower clusters that added dimension to the wreaths.

Lemonade berry (Rhus intergrifolia)

Part of the same family as sugar bush, lemonade berry is another great addition to a native plant holiday wreath. During the winter, the orange and pink flower clusters of lemonade berry stay shut, but look beautiful in any wreath!

Do you love the holidays as much as we do? Don’t miss our Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, December 21st!    

Support the Audubon Center at Debs Park and DOUBLE your impact!

‘Tis the season for giving!

To celebrate, Patagonia has stepped up to support the work we do here at the Audubon Center at Debs Park by matching ALL donations made through Patagonia Action Works between today and December 31st! That means any donations made to the Audubon Center at Debs Park through Patagonia Action Works will DOUBLE this holiday season!

We are always grateful for your support, but when you donate between November 29th and December 31st, you’ll have the opportunity to DOUBLE your impact! 

100% of all donations made through Patagonia Action Works will go directly to fund programs at the Audubon Center at Debs Park including:

Habitat Restoration at the Audubon Center at Debs Park. This year, we planted over 1,000 California native plants in Debs Park!  These natives do a lot of work – from creating bird-friendly habitat and resources, to protecting the park from dangerous fires, to beautifying the trails. With the help of community volunteers, we’ve been able to continue restoring habitat at Debs for birds and people too!

Our Native Plants for Birds Program has worked to engage local schools to teach them about California native plants!  This year, we’ve worked with Sotomayor Learning Academies and Anahuacalmecac International University Prep doing weekly classroom visits to teach students how to grow and plant California natives. Over the summer, our Native Plants for Birds Summer Interns got an even deeper look at how to tend habitat along the LA River!

We continued our work to create bird-friendly communities along the LA River at Steelhead Park, Elysian Valley Gateway Park, and Rattlesnake Park. We even adopted a fourth park – Zev Yaroslavsky LA River Greenway Trail in Studio City! 

Community programming including bird walks, rock walks, nature arts + crafts, advocacy workshops, and MORE! Our Center’s mission is to inspire our community to engage with the outdoor world.  Our environmental education programs stem from the idea that if we teach visitors about nature and create opportunities for our community to learn about birds, plants, and habitats, you’ll fall in love just as hard as we did!

So DONATE TODAY through Patagonia Action Works and see how far your helping hand can go!  

Volunteer Spotlight, November 2019 - Melody Peppers

Melody has been volunteering at the front desk on Wednesday mornings since July, and she has been an amazing addition to our volunteer team. She always comes with a great attitude and a willingness to learn. She is a joy to work with and is always ready to do whatever task may be at hand that day. You will typically find her working on data entry, answering the phone, welcoming visitors, and even helping with the occasional snake care! With a background in baking, Melody has delighted the Debs Park team with her delicious baked goods. She has even made jam with the grapes from our California Wild Grape vines! Her favorite part about volunteering at the Center is ”being part of community-minded organization that makes nature easily accessible to all.” She has also really enjoyed learning about the world of birds, and appreciates how mucthis learning process has opened her eyes to things she may have previously overlooked. We are so grateful for her constant positivity, her dedication, and her continued support of the Center. Next time you’re around the Center on a Wednesday morning, stop by the front office to say hello!  

Plant of the Month, November 2019 - Southern California Black Walnut

Southern California Black Walnut

Juglans californica

Come check out the Southern California Black Walnuts this month before they go dormant for the winter season. Southern California Black Walnuts have very limited habitat distribution where most of the population resides within Southern California, hence its’ name. Like most California native plants, they go through winter dormancy where they will drop all of their leaves in winter in order to conserve energy. Talking about energy, Southern California Black Walnuts also provide a great energy food source for our local wildlife, but was also a staple food source for the Tongva indigenous community. The black walnuts were consumed for food, but also to make dye and games. It is a common misconception that California doesn’t have seasons, but the Southern California Black Walnut will tell you otherwise. During this month, the trees have a variation of yellow, green, and browns, so come check them out at Debs Park before they are bare for the next couple months.

Bird of the Month, November 2019 - White-Crowned Sparrow

White-Crowned Sparrow

Zonotrichia leucophrys

Another of our winter birds at Debs Park is the White-Crowned Sparrow. Every year, the Debs Park team anxiously awaits the arrival of these species and the Yellow-Rumped Warbler during late September, and by November, both species are everywhere around the park. The White-Crowned Sparrow however is extremely noticeable due to this song that some people even say it sings “I am a white crowned sparrow.” Adult white-crowned sparrows have a distinct white crown with black stripes resulting in their name. Juvenile white-crowns however have a brown crown with beige stripes. Like most sparrows, these birds are seed-eaters and forage on the ground, however you can find them once in a while catching a bug midair. These species, also have five different subspecies, so it is also possible to catch more than one subspecies at the park. Come borrow a pair of our binoculars and see if you can spot them in the park.  

Volunteer Spotlight, October 2019 - Jim Kuo

In addition to hosting a number of community and volunteer events, a large part of what we do at the Audubon Center at Debs Park involves sharing information about our programs and the impact that they have on our local birds and community. Photography is a powerful tool that we can use to share about our work and engage the broader community in what we do here at the Center. Jim Kuo is a local photographer who has been volunteering with us for almost a year now. He’s played a large role in increasing our ability to effectively share about our events and our programs. Jim is always willing to help and has a great eye for capturing photos that are in line with how we would like to present our work. We appreciate that he goes beyond just taking photos and takes the time to talk and build relationships with the folks that he photographs. You can find Jim’s work across our website and social media, or you can take a look at a selection of his photos HERE. We are so grateful for the time, energy, and photographs that he has generously contributed to the Center. Thank you Jim! There are always opportunities for folks to contribute special skills that they may have - contact to find out more information on skilled volunteer opportunities! 

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