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The Condor’s Shadow, with Jeff McLoughlin: Evening Meeting, Tuesday, 2 December, 7:30pm

November 21, 2014

California Condors are flying again in California and Arizona. Tonight’s program is a special screening of the award winning documentary film on the recovery of the California Condor, The Condor’s Shadow, followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Jeff McLoughlin.  Set in the ruggedly beautiful Southern California habitat of the iconic endangered species, The Condor’s Shadow explores the great hope and extreme lengths that biologists, zookeepers, scientists and a feisty condor with the Native American name Pitahsi bring to the task of pulling the condor back from the brink of extinction.

Pitahsi undergoing a health check

Pitahsi gets a health check.

Jeff McL0ughlin is a Santa Barbara based filmmaker engaged in documentary work on endangered species. The Condor’s Shadow premiered in 2013 and has screened at wildlife and environmental film festivals nationwide. PBS SoCal and KQED in the SF bay area are currently broadcasting the film. Jeff’s interests lie in exploring the unintended consequences of human preferences and drawing attention to actionable things that we can do to lessen our burden on the natural world.  He is currently in production on a documentary on the extinction of the California grizzly bear.

In the flight pen, Joseph holds a condor.

In the flight pen, Joseph holds a condor.

We continue to meet at Christine Emerson Reed Park, 1133 7th Street. (between 7th St. & Lincoln Blvd., California Ave. & Wilshire Blvd.), Santa Monica. Previously known as Lincoln Park. If you’re coming from outside Santa Monica, exit the #10 Fwy at Lincoln Blvd., turn north  and drive 5 blocks north to Wilshire Blvd.

Link to Google Map
Meeting Room: Mid-park in Joslyn Hall, accessible from Lincoln Blvd, California Ave. and 7th St.  Its glass wall faces north towards St. Monica Church on California St.  If you’re walking from Lincoln Blvd., it’s located directly behind (west) of the large Miles Playhouse building. Not accessible directly from Wilshire Blvd.

Meetings begin at 7:30 sharp with a little business, and then our main presentation. Refreshments are served afterward. 

Parking: The entire block between Wilshire and California Ave, 7th and Lincoln, on the sides closest to the park, is metered. Meter enforcement ends at 6PM, so free parking for the meeting!  We had almost 50 attendees in February and we know of only two people who couldn’t find parking. However, the local natives are engaged in a survival-of-the-fittest scramble for free parking, so the after-6pm free parking spaces disappear quickly.  We suggest that you arrive no later than 7:15 pm.

If all those spaces are filled, go south of Wilshire, not north of the park, as resident-only permit parking zones abound to the north. The east side of Lincoln Blvd. is also by permit parking only. We found plenty of spaces on 7th St. or Lincoln south of Wilshire. Most of those seem to be “until 6PM” meters also. Wherever you park, please read parking signs carefully and avoid a big fat $40+ parking ticket.
[Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Lagoon Field Trips: Sunday, 23 November, 8:30 & 10am.

November 20, 2014
Artist's perspective of west channels view from SW corner (RestoreMalibuLagoon . com)

Artists 2012 perspective of finished project
(RestoreMalibuLagoon . com)

Lagoon looking east - compare to Artist's Perspective (R. Ehler 7/27/14)

Channel & Lagoon looking east on 7/27/14
(Randy Ehler )

Lots of migrants and wintering birds and dwindling crowds of humans make it a great day for the lagoon. Usually sunny, sometimes cool. Forget Thanksgiving: see your birds here with us.


Some of the great birds we’ve had in November are: Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Pacific & Common Loons, Horned & Western Grebes, Brandt’s & Pelagic Cormorants, Osprey, American Kestrel, Merlin, Sora, Virginia Rail, Snowy Plover, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Boneparte’s Gull, Heermann’s Gull, Herring Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Elegant Tern, Allen’s Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Say’s Phoebe, Common Raven, Bushtit, Bewick’s, House & Marsh Wrens, California Towhee, Great-tailed Grackle, Lesser Goldfinch.

Prior checklists:
2014:   Jan-July                                 2013:   Jan-June,   July-Dec
2012:   Jan-June,   July -Dec         2011:   Jan-June,   July-Dec
2010:  Jan-June,   July-Dec           2009:
  Jan-June,   July-Dec.

Adult Walk 8:30 a.m. – Beginner and experienced, 2-3 hours.  Species range from 40 in June to 60-75 during migrations and winter.  We meet at the metal-shaded viewing area (see photo below) next to the parking lot and begin walking east towards the lagoon.  We always check the offshore rocks and the ocean.  When lagoon outlet is closed we continue east around the lagoon, and around to Adamson House.  We put out special effort to make our monthly Malibu Lagoon walks attractive to first-time and beginning birdwatchers.  So please, if you are at all worried about coming on a trip and embarrassing yourself because of all the experts, we remember our first trips too.  Someone had to show us the birds, and it’s our turn now.

Meeting place - What's that animal in the foreground?  See photo below of him heading the other way. (Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation 6/18/13)

Meeting place – Hey, what’s that animal in the foreground?
See him heading the other way in photo below.
(Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation 6/18/13)

Children and Parents Walk 10:00 a.m.   One hour session, meeting at the metal-shaded viewing area (see photo above) between parking lot and channel.  We start at 10:00 for a shorter walk and to allow time for families to get it together on a sleepy Sunday morning.  Our leaders are experienced with kids so please bring them to the beach!  We have an ample supply of binoculars that children can use without striking terror into their parents.  We want to see families enjoying nature. (If you have a Scout Troop or other group of more than seven people, you must call Mary (310-457-2240) to make sure we have enough binoculars and docents.)

Directions: Malibu Lagoon is at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Cross Creek Road.  Look around for people wearing binoculars.  Parking in the official lagoon lot is $12+ or by annual pass.  You may also park either along PCH west of Cross Creek Road, on Cross Creek Road itself but be careful – some parts of PCH are off-limits (read the signs carefully), or on Civic Center Way north (inland) of the shopping center.  Lagoon parking in the shopping center lot is not permitted.
Map to Meeting Place
[Chuck Almdale]

Locally known as 'Willie the Weasel' (Cal. State Parks 6/18/13)

Locally known as ‘Son of Willie the Weasel’
(Cal. State Parks 6/18/13)

Chapter President’s Annual Update and Appeal

November 15, 2014

Once a year, around this time, we at Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society snail mail an appeal for donations to our members, friends, and followers.  The donations are used to further our mission “to be a center for wildlife education, habitat protection, and conservation issues that involve birds.”

If we don’t have you on the membership rolls, you won’t receive the letter updating our activities during last year and you won’t have the opportunity to contribute and help us achieve our mission.

This is our ONLY appeal.

Beginning with this year we have made it possible for YOU to DONATE using the PayPal Widget located on the right side bar of the blog.  You do not have to join PayPal to donate, just have your credit card “standing by.”

Please take a moment and make a donation today.  SMBAS is a 501(c)(3) corporation; as such, all donations are fully tax-deductible.

Thank you for your continuing support.

Chuck Bragg
Dear Friend,

Thank you for your enthusiasm for Santa Monica Bay Audubon. Your support has allowed our all-volunteer group to accomplish a lot in the past year. Unlike many other organizations, this is our only fund-raising effort.

  • We have committed to fund the Abigail King Memorial Bus Scholarship for the Audubon Education Program at the Ballona Wetlands up to nine more years, 10 buses per year. We established the Scholarship to bring elementary school students to Ballona Wetlands. For many it is their first glimpse of the ocean.
  • A number of chapter volunteers have contributed dozens of hours in local classrooms, bringing the birds to the kids and taking the kids to the birds.
  • We have made a nine year commitment to help cover the cost of Snowy Plover fencing in the City of Santa Monica.
  • We continue monthly bird counts at Malibu Lagoon and Santa Monica Beach with special emphasis on threatened species such as the Western Snowy Plover.
  • We support the Student Conservation Association which provides hands on conservation service and training in the Santa Monica Mountains and/or Butterbredt Spring area, the site of our annual Christmas Count.
  • We funded endowments at Loyola Marymount University and Santa Monica College to provide scholarships to science students beginning this fall.
  • Over and above the endowments we funded one Loyola and four UCLA students with direct grants. Laurel Klein Serieys, an annual grantee since 2008, has received her PhD from UCLA and is in South Africa doing post doc research on caracal. We are proud to have been able to help her financially over the years.
  • Our field trips are for the beginning birder as well as the experienced.   A complete field trip calendar is available here; please verify times and locations before you venture out to join us, phone numbers are provided. By signing up to receive email notification via our BLOG,, you will always be on top of all upcoming trips, meetings, and important local news. We hope to see you at our monthly Malibu Lagoon walks on the fourth Sunday of every month.
  • In February, we will re-offer the very popular field class designed to improve birding skills of beginning and intermediate birders, and to learn the birds of the Los Angeles Basin.
  • Our diverse and insightful evening programs are held on the first Tuesday of October through May, except in January. We meet locally in Santa Monica; please check the blog, website or Facebook for the location.
  • We continue to reach out to the community.   In addition to our website and our blog, we can be found on Facebook which you can visit without joining Facebook.
  • Our Facebook page has a large number of quizzes and photos: including the James Kenney Galleries of Passerines and Non-Passerines.
  • You also can follow us on Twitter.

If you wish to receive or continue to receive our bi-monthly, single sheet paper news update/calendar, please send an email to smbasKITTY@verizon.netPut out the cat (remove “kitty”) before emailing.   Please include your name and mailing address.   You need not donate to receive the print version.

This is your chapter and we hope that you will join us in many of these activities. We welcome your input and time in the diverse program of conservation events. We are in need of new Board members; the time commitment is only a couple of hours a month. Please, won’t you consider volunteering for the board?

Please remember that all contributions are fully tax deductible and will be used exclusively in direct support of our programs. We hope you will consider the solid positive impact of our group and make a contribution.

The members of the Board of Directors thank you… and the birds thank you.

Chuck Bragg


November 12, 2014

Autumn in California frequently means heat and high winds. so it seems like  a good time to talk about fire – Chad Hanson of the John Muir Project at the Earth Island Institute will make you look at fire in a whole different light..

Help Protect Spotted Owls and Other Imperiled Birds from Clearcutting on Public Lands in the Rim Fire

By Chad Hanson, Ph.D.

After the 257,314-acre Rim Fire occurred last year in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park of California’s Sierra Nevada, representatives from the U.S. Forest Service quickly claimed that much of the fire area was a lifeless “moonscape”, using this political rhetoric to justify proposing an enormous post-fire clearcutting project on national forest lands.

However, in the first spring after the smoke cleared, a very different story began unfolding — a story of ecological rejuvenation and richness. Even in the largest high-intensity fire patches, where the fire burned hottest, there are now dozens, hundreds, and in some cases thousands of naturally regenerated conifer seedlings per acre. Oaks are sprouting, shrubs and grasses are growing, and a wild jumble of colorful flowers cover the landscape. Woodpeckers, warblers and many other bird species already inhabit the high-intensity fire patches. Deer are browsing on the post-fire regrowth. This is anything but a lifeless environment. It is a rich, vibrant, growing ecosystem that is full of wildlife.

The Forest Service’s Rim Fire logging project would essentially clearcut over 35,000 acres of ecologically vital “snag forest habitat”—patches of mature conifer forest that experienced high-intensity fire, and are now comprised mainly of standing snags (fire-killed trees), regenerating conifers and oaks, and native shrubs. This tractor logging would not only remove nearly all of the snags — which provide food and shelter for birds such as the Black-backed woodpecker, Hairy woodpecker, White-headed woodpecker, Wrens, Bluebirds, Flickers and many others — but would also crush and kill most of the natural conifer and other regeneration that is occurring in the Rim fire on the Stanislaus National Forest. Moreover, the Rim fire logging project would have a devastating impact on the imperiled California spotted owl.

Monica Bond, a scientist with the Wild Nature Institute, who is the nation’s top expert on the relationship between Spotted owls and wildland fire, analyzed the Forest Service’s own data from 2014 Spotted owl surveys in the Rim fire. Her findings are startling. Bond found that one year after the Rim Fire, and before post-fire logging, a total of 92% of the historical spotted owl territories are occupied in the Rim fire. To put this in perspective, average annual spotted owl occupancy in mature/old unburned forest is 60-76%. The owls do not occupy an individual territory every single year so, within any given year, a portion of the territories that have been occupied one or more times in the past will not be occupied. According to Bond’s analysis, even in the territories that experienced mostly high-intensity fire, the spotted owl pair occupancy rates are essentially the same as in territories with low levels of high-intensity fire.

This result should not be so surprising given that current research shows that while spotted owls select unburned or low/moderate-intensity fire areas for nesting and roosting habitat, they preferentially select unlogged high-intensity fire areas for their foraging habitat. This is because these high-intensity fire areas, which create ecologically-vital “snag forest habitat” (also known as “complex early seral forest”), have an abundance of habitat structures, such as snags, downed logs, native shrub patches, and areas of dense natural conifer regeneration, that provide excellent habitat for the small mammal prey species upon which spotted owls depend. Given this, it is also not surprising that when much or most of the snag forest habitat is removed through post-fire logging, it strongly tends to extirpate the owls, which are declining in population throughout the Sierra Nevada, except where mechanical “thinning” and post-fire logging are not allowed (e.g., Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park).

To prevent a loss of spotted owl occupancy, scientists have recommended that the Forest Service avoid post-fire logging at least within 1500 meters of nest or roost locations. But in the decision for the Rim fire logging project, issued in late August of 2014, the Forest Service chose to conduct post-fire logging in every single occupied Spotted owl territory in the Rim fire. In some of these territories, most of the area would be clearcut, leaving large barren expanses.

Many people tend to think of forests the same way they think of their homes and other possessions, mistakenly believing that since a fire will destroy a home, it must do the same to the forest. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, the pockets where all of the trees are dead create “snag forest habitat,” which scientists now know ( is one of the most ecologically rich, rare, and most threatened of all forest habitat types in the Western US. We have much less of this habitat now than we did historically, due to fire suppression and post-fire logging policies. In October of 2013, some 250 scientists ( sent a letter to Congress regarding the Rim fire, urging lawmakers to oppose post-fire logging in the Rim fire area, and to appreciate the high ecological value of this habitat and not weaken or roll-back federal environmental laws. The scientists concluded:

Though it may seem at first glance that a post-fire landscape is a catastrophe ecologically, numerous scientific studies tell us that even in patches where forest fires burned most intensely the resulting post-fire community is one of the most ecologically important and biodiverse habitat types in western conifer forest. Post-fire conditions serve as a refuge for rare and imperiled wildlife that depend upon the unique habitat features created by intense fire. These include an abundance of standing dead trees or “snags” that provide nesting and foraging habitat for woodpeckers and many other wildlife species, as well as patches of native flowering shrubs that replenish soil nitrogen and attract a diverse bounty of beneficial insects that aid in pollination after fire…This post-fire habitat, known as “complex early seral forest,” is quite simply some of the best wildlife habitat in forests and is an essential stage of natural forest processes. Moreover, it is the least protected of all forest habitat types and is often as rare, or rarer, than old-growth forest, due to damaging forest practices encouraged by post-fire logging policies.

Rim fire photo5 from Sept 2014 site visit

 Natural post-fire conifer regeneration hundreds of meters from the nearest live tree, Rim fire; Photo by Chad Hanson, 2014

One of the most striking phenomena currently occurring in the Rim Fire area is the “flushing” of new foliage in conifers that appeared to be dead, but were not. These are trees, especially ponderosa pines, that had zero remaining live needles after the fire. But the buds survived at the ends of branches in the upper portion of the tree crowns. Now thousands and thousands of such trees have produced new green needles through a process called “flushing.” Many if not most of these trees will survive long-term, providing natural seed sources in countless places within large, high-intensity fire patches. In fact, in some areas that were initially mapped as having experienced high-intensity fire, the flushing is revealing that most trees are alive, even though they all appeared dead just weeks earlier. In fact, while the Forest Service reported, based on its preliminary assessment, that 40% of the Rim fire experienced high-intensity fire, the final assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey, conducted in the summer of 2014 (after flushing) found only 19.9% high-intensity fire in the Rim fire area ( Less than two-thirds of the Rim fire occurred in conifer forest (the remainder occurring mostly in grassland, foothill chaparral, and oak woodland) and, because most of the fire within conifer forest was low/moderate-intensity, there is actually relatively little “snag forest habitat” (also known as “complex early seral forest”) in the fire area—and the Forest Service’s Rim fire logging project, which almost exclusively targets this habitat, would remove the majority of it. Nowhere in the Final Environmental Impact Statement did the Forest Service reveal to the public the high number of Spotted owls that would be affected by the planned logging, or mention the amount of logging planned within 1500 meters of occupied owl sites.

Rim fire photo2 from Sept 2014 site visit

Ponderosa pines that “flushed” after the Rim fire in a high intensity fire-patch. Photos by Chad Hanson, 2014.

The Forest Service’s primary justification given for this enormous clearcutting project on federal public lands in the Rim fire area is that the agency wants to “recover” the “economic value” from the standing fire-killed trees in order to enhance the agency’s own budget. Under a little-known law called the “Salvage Sale Fund”, the Forest Service keeps 100 percent of the revenue from selling public timber to private logging companies, creating a perverse financial incentive. Tellingly, the agency characterizes the snags in the fire area as a “commodity.”

In addition to its post-fire logging plans, the Forest Service wants to conduct a massive program to remove native flowering shrubs and create artificial tree plantations. This is a major ecological threat, because native shrubs attract flying insects that provide food for birds and bats, contributing to the amazing and abundant biological diversity of these snag forest patches. Also, because of fire suppression and post-fire management practices — logging, and killing of shrubs with herbicides—we have far less of this native shrub habitat now than we did historically. Currently, several shrub/ground-nesting bird species associated with high-intensity fire areas are experiencing protracted population declines ( in the Sierra Nevada, including the Orange-crowned warbler, Chipping sparrow, Yellow warbler, Dark-eyed junco, and Wrentit. And yet the Forest Service has refused recommendations from scientists, including its own, to avoid logging during nesting season, when chicks are in the nest but cannot yet fly (logging during this season results in the unnecessary death of countless birds, especially chicks).

There is no need for human intervention to “restore” the Rim Fire area. The fire itself already restored ecologically-vital snag forest habitat to the landscape. If we can set aside decades of misinformed prejudice about wildfire, we will see that ecological restoration is occurring, naturally, right before our eyes. There is a message emanating from this landscape, telling us that fires in our forests — including large, intense fires — are restorative events that create unique, rich habitats. We do not need to be afraid. Rather, we should celebrate the rejuvenating effect of mixed-intensity fire in our forests. We need to learn to appreciate the forest ecosystem for all of its parts — not just live, green trees, but also snags, downed logs, and shrubs resulting from nature’s most important, and essential, ecological force in Western US conifer forests: fire.


The Stanislaus National Forest is implementing the Rim fire logging project through multiple individual timber sales, some of which have begun (totaling about 20% of the planned logging so far), but most have not yet been prepared or advertised. Please send an email to Jeanne Higgins (, the Supervisor of the Stanislaus National Forest. Urge her to: a) halt further implementation of the Rim fire logging project, and stop preparing and advertising new timber sales in the Rim fire area; and b) protect the snag forest habitat created by the Rim fire, and withdraw current plans to create artificial tree plantations and remove/reduce shrubs.

You can also write letters to the editor to the Union Democrat in Sonora (where the Stanislaus National Forest headquarters is located) at, and also to the Sacramento Bee ( Letters should be less than 150 words, and writers must include their names, phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses (for verification by the newspapers).


Chad Hanson is the director of the John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute. He has a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California at Davis, and focuses his research on fire ecology in conifer forests of California and the western US. For more information, watch a video of Dr. Hanson’s recent presentation on the restorative virtues of the Rim Fire, and the ecological value of snag forest habitat (, visit, or email:

Please do not come to Ballona on the 8th!

November 7, 2014

Our apologies to all for the confusion. The trip HAS been changed to the 15th, despite late posts.
What happened is a twist in the all-too-convenient electronic age, when a “blogmeister” can prepare a number of posts to appear on set dates, well in advance. Our blogmeister, whose identity shall remain a deep mystery for his/her own safety, prepared a post, months ago when the list of field trips for the 2014-15 fiscal year was approved by the Board.
Then….someone looked at the tidal charts and remarked that our odds of seeing recent migrant and rarities would be greatly enhanced if we postponed the field trip to the 15th when the tidal charts were more favorable…
Both our quarterly printed schedule for the non-connected and our blog advance posts had been sent out by then, and even though our blogmeister (maitre-de-blogue, en francais) attempted to update the post, the absolutely disastrous, confusing and deleterious post was…P O S T E D by our carrier for the 8th.
After all this verbiage, needless to say, the event will not take place until the 15th and you will have an extra week to adapt to the change to Pacific Coast Time, sans daylight savings.
8:30 on the 15th. With your indulgence, see you then!
Lucien P


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