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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Watching a Snowy Egret

If you just watch an animal for a minute, you can understand so much more about it. Watch this snowy egret (Egretta thula) feeding in shallow water and you will understand why it has long legs, a long beak, and yellow feet.

The snowy egret is a common bird along California waterways. It is frequently mistaken for a great egret, a larger white wading bird with a yellow beak and black feet. The snowy egret's feet are its calling card–black legs with bright yellow feet.

Watch the video and you will understand why its yellow feet are an important adaptation.


This snowy egret was easily observed at Malibu Legacy Park. See  more about Malibu Legacy Park one of Los Angeles' Hidden Gardens.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Voices of a River - Lamoille Creek, Nevada

River water flows across rocks and through narrow turns,
speaking to all who will listen.

Take a minute to hear Lamoille Creek's voice
sing from different throats along it's course.

Lamoille Creek is one of the largest 
in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada.

From Elko, Nevada follow State Route 227 to
Lamoille Canyon.

The stream flowed through a wonderful campground at Thomas CanyonAnd further up Lamoille Canyon beaver had created habitat for wildlife

Hear other location specific audio.

Visit each week to see and hear a new

Thursday, October 16, 2014

See the "Island of the Blue Dolphins" - San Nicolas Island, CA

San Nicolas Island, CA
The story of the "Lone Woman" of San Nicolas Island formed the inspiration for Scott O'Dell's classic coming-of-age novel Island of the Blue Dolphins

Take a minute to explore this unique wild habitat 61 miles from the California mainland. Imagine surviving here, by yourself, for 18 years.


San Nicolas Island is a wild windswept slice of sandstone. California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) and harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) lounge on its beaches. Delicate native plants, like sand verbena (Abronia ssp.) thrive by staying low and out of the wind. The endemic San Nicolas Island fox (Urocyon littoralis dickeyi) scratches out a living on dune insects and San Nicolas Island deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus exterus). Current status of San Nicolas Island fox.

San Nicolas Island fox pup

sandstone carved by the sea into unusual shapes
The island is not open to the public because it is a U.S. Navy installation. As Education Director for Friends of the Island Fox, I had the opportunity to visit this most remote of California's Channel Islands. It is a place of unique natural splendor.

Compare San Nicolas to Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park.

Visit each week to experience a new 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Visit Pierce College Botanical Garden - Hidden Gardens L.A. #3

The S. Mark Taper Foundation, Life Science Botanic Garden on the campus of Pierce College in Woodland Hills is a gem of a Hidden Garden. Tucked between classroom buildings, it demonstrates how native plants and creative people can transform a barren lawn into habitat even in the middle of a college campus.


red mountain sage
I remember taking a class in the computer science building bordering, what was then, a large grassy area with a few trees. Now the two acres of land seem twice the size as planted landscaping and trees break-up the views. Anna's hummingbirds dive and swoop over bright blooms of red mountain sage (Salvia darcyi) and red-eared sliders lounge on water lilies. 

The Pierce College Botanical Garden is a showcase of plants from climates like our own that have hot dry summers and cool, typically wetter, winters. It is a wonderful place to see the beauty of California native plants and how important they are to wildlife. And, like any quality botanical garden, plant species are identified with signage so you can search out species for your own garden. 

This garden in a living laboratory and classroom. Students wander in and out observing the dragonflies for a moment before continuing on to class. Some stop to talk in quiet alcoves or study on the numerous benches. 

An extra attraction is the "Evolution Walk." The main walkway through the garden, the "Evolution Walk" measures out time from the Cambrian to the present. Each six inches represents a million years. Have a hard time remembering what plants and animals lived when? Here is a visual representation with the imprint of animal and plant life in the walkway for the period in which it lived. I love this walkway.

Definitely a Hidden Garden worth seeking out.

bog sage
 Look For:
  • Native California and Channel Island plants, as well as additional drought tolerant species from other Mediterranean Climate Zones
  • Water features: a pond and sculpture with bog plants
  • Variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, dragonflies and butterflies (Including California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi); Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna), western scrub-jay (Aphelocoma californica), introduced red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans), western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis), multicolored darner (Aeshna multicolor), white checkered-skipper (Pyrgus albescens) and monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).
  • "Evolution Walk" with fossil and other life form traces imprinted into the walkway for each time period

Special Opportunities: It surprised me, but I spotted California quail (Callipepla californica) in the garden. The pond and native plants create an island of abundant life despite the human activity. This is a place of discovery right off the Metro Orange Line, an opportunity for anyone to experience wildness in the San Fernando Valley.

The Specifics:

  • Open - Daily, 8 AM to Sunset; Free to the public
  • Parking - Ample, but there is a fee weekdays: $3 for all day from the self-pay dispensers or $2 with a visitor pass obtained at the Sheriff's office on campus. Parking is Free on weekends or holidays. The Metro Orange Line runs just north of the campus. The Winnetka stop will put you closest to the Botanical Garden. 
  • Restrooms - Adjacent in the public campus buildings
  • Kid Friendly - This is a wonderful outdoor classroom space. Visitors should keep in mind, however, that during the week classes are taking place in the surrounding buildings.
  • Accessibility - The main pathway is wheelchair friendly, however some unpaved areas may be a challenge to navigate.
  • Dogs - Dogs are not welcome on campus
  • Restrictions - Parking can be limited when semesters begin, especially in the morning. Ongoing construction can make it appear that entrance to the garden is fenced off. It is not. You can reach the garden by following the signs.

For More Information:
Visiting the Garden webpage

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