Tag: Citizen Science

‘Wild LA’ invites readers to explore urban nature

Let’s get to know the Great Blue Heron, although it could just as easily be the Monarch Butterfly, or the Black Bear, or even the Red-eared Slider.

All of these creatures have their own pages in the breezy and fabulous new book “Wild LA,” created by the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.

When the rest of the country thinks of LA, it’s Disneyland, beaches, babes, wildfires, but probably not our wildlife. Yet, this pithy guide would have us “explore the amazing nature in and around Los Angeles.”

To accomplish this for the reader, the museum put together a formidable cast of writers and photographers, including Charles Hood, who teaches English and occasionally journalism, shoots engaging nature photography and writes in his book-jacket biography that he is a reformed birder, who stopped counting at 5,000 species.

He and the book’s other authors explore what the term “urban nature” means in several essays about wild Los Angeles, including one about water and the LA River, viewed through the journal of Franciscan missionary Gaspar Portola some 200 years ago, to its current-day role as “an unlikely gem in the city — still a place for wildlife to survive and for humans to thrive.”

THE AUDUBON SOCIETY was created at the end of the 19th century, in part by women activists, to regulate the feather trade and bring herons and other birds back from the brink of extinction. Believe it or not women’s hats — and the huge amount of feathers needed to create tens of thousands of them — were to blame. (Jim Burns)

Going back to that Great Blue Heron, in the field guide section of 101 LA species readers learn he stands some four feet tall, with a wingspan of six feet. Fair enough. But what makes this book such a gem is that once you’ve read up on a favorite species — and probably discovered many a new one in the book’s pages — the text cross-references trips to areas where, with a little patience,  you can see them.

Sure enough, our Great Blue Heron can be spotted on five itineraries in the book’s final section that features 25 trips for nature lovers, including the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, Ballona Wetlands and the LA River at Frogtown. Here, herons hunt with that impressive, sharp bill any unwary “fish, frogs, crayfish, lizards, snakes, mice, birds, grasshoppers and dragonflies.”

Make room for this fun guide in your day pack and don’t forget your fly rod.

Wild LA

By Lila Higgins & Gregory B. Pauly

with Jason G. Goldman 7 Charles Hood

332 pps



See you on the river, Jim Burns

Three’s a charm for Long Beach fish survey

Nick Faught of Corona snagged this 8-pounder, his first carp on the fly. (Jim Burns)
Nick Faught of Corona snagged this 8-pounder, his first carp on the fly. (Jim Burns)

In almost all things, three’s a charm, and so it was yesterday for the twice-denied Long
Beach leg of the important Friends of the Los Angeles River fish study. Last year’s two attempts came up mostly empty, but yesterday afternoon’s fishing by about 25 conventional and fly fishermen netted three common carp and two smelt. If the number leaves you shaking your head, that 25 skilled anglers would have such a lean haul on a near-perfect winter fishing afternoon, you’re not alone.

Fishers threw every manner of enticement to their prey, including carp carrot flies, woolly buggers, artificial worms, real worms, and a ” fish-licous”concoction of garlic and masa, the cornmeal used to make tortillas. But for the most part, this estuary where fresh and salt water mix has yet to fully reveal what lives below.

“Well, at least it’s better than last time,” said Sabrina Drill, a UC Cooperative Extension biologist, who along with fellow scientist Rosie Dagit has been periodically mapping the river’s fish population since 2008. But her face showed the disappointment that the yield of this event — monikered “Fish for Science” — wasn’t full of the expected gold doubloons.

WHOOPSIE DAISY: Unfortunately, snagging a big carp and landing him are two different things. (Jim Burns)
WHOOPSIE DAISY: Unfortunately, snagging a big carp and landing him are two different things. (Jim Burns)

An optimistic Trout Unlimited’s Bob Blankenship had emailed several participants before the event that “Maybe this storm will bring with it a few migrating steelhead to Long Beach?” And we all heartily agreed.

True, Nick Faught of Corona left a happy man. He’d purchased a new 5 wt. specifically for catching carp, and the beast that later weighed in at over 8 pounds gave him all he could handle.

“I’m used to catching trout in the Sierra,” he said, dripping wet, while managing to get his fish into an orange Home Depot bucket in the middle of a lagoon. Faught had hooked and lost what was most likely this fish, then hooked it again. Between the slippery submerged rocks, the powerful and slippery carp, and his desire to get the fish to the biologists some 100 yards away, he went for a swim — saved his fish again, frying his cellphone in the process. Even soaked to the skin through his waders, Faught smiled as he held his carp later safely on shore for a trophy shot.

His grit and enthusiasm really characterize many of the participants who came to help the professionals map the river before restoration begins. Each event brings more anglers.

These are very serious, big-money times for an urban river that is famous for all of the wrong reasons, like Kim Kardashian. It’s as iconic as the Hollywood sign, yet after years of appearances in movies such as “The Terminator” and “Grease,” in which 51 miles of concrete form more undulating racetrack scar than ambling waters, the Army Corps of Engineers — yes, the same agency that excavated and paved it — now has recommended to Congress a $1 billion makeover, or “make right,” depending on your point of view.

In other words, once Congress approves the money, it will be billion-dollar boots on the ground in L.A. And that’s what has Dagit, a senior biologist for the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, anticipating better days. Dagit, Drill and other biologists have tracked river species, first with the FoLAR fish study in 2008 and now with an extension of that study focused on the river’s estuary.

SITTIN' PRETTY: Greg Madrigal of Sierra Nets, left, and Stan Adermann sit among orange collection buckets. Madrigal landed one of the three carp caught during the event.
SITTIN’ PRETTY: Greg Madrigal of Sierra Nets, left, and Stan Adermann sit among orange collection buckets. Madrigal landed one of the three carp caught during the event.

Bets are on that Dagit, Drill and company will be back for another round. After all, the 2008 study, conducted in Atwater Village north of downtown found some 1,200 fish, including carp, tilapia and bass.

“This is a gateway,” Dagit said during the October attempt, while looking toward Long Beach Harbor. “and you can’t underestimate the importance of this section. Having a baseline of understanding which species are present and where will be is a really important tool to help us gauge the success of the proposed restoration efforts once they are initiated.”

Citizen Science Hall O’ Famers

Three large carp (22-24 inches), thanks to Steve Simon, Nick Faught and Greg Madrigal.

Greg Armijo added two topsmelt to the day’s catch.

See you on the river, Jim Burns