Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween and Haunting Stories

Looking for something spooky? Check out the free download of the "Ghosts of the Internet" live broadcast from last night. 

There are scary tales, original music and bits of haunting humor. I even wrote a new ghost story for this year.

The Trick is the Treat. Ghost of the Internet on itunes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Birding Jewel in Los Angeles

The wonderful thing about birding is that you can do it anywhere. I saw my first green woodpecker on the lawn of a hotel just under the wingtips of planes landing at London Heathrow Airport and a Eurasian jay in the ruins of Troy, in Turkey.

But I identified my first white-crowned sparrow in my backyard in the suburbs of Los Angeles. You can travel all over the world looking for exotic bird species, but sometimes the places close to home can offer even greater diversity.

great blue heron
One of my favorite birding locations is in the middle of the suburban bustle of the San Fernando Valley. The Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge is a flood basin along the Los Angeles River. Formerly a sod farm, the low-lying area has been set aside by the Army Corps of Engineers to collect water in the years when we have unusual amounts of rain and the basin floods. 

The sod farm is gone and now native scrub surrounds a pond and riparian habitat. The refuge has become an amazing location to see a wide variety of southern California's bird life and a major stopover for migrating birds. Recently on a Saturday morning in early October, I spotted 37 bird species during a short 2-hour walk.  There were the locals: California and spotted towhees, lesser goldfinch, Anna's hummingbird and black phoebe. The pond provides feeding areas for five species of herons and egrets, and now a belted kingfisher pair. There was even a lone white-faced ibis hanging out with some mallards.

The travelers have begun to pass through and the wildlife area provides important refuge, food and water for migrating species. A beautiful adult male yellow warbler came within a few feet; close enough that I could see the red streaking on his breast without my binoculars. The first of the white-crowned sparrows were in the underbrush, while double-crested cormorants were sizing up the island for nesting and three species of grebe were patrolling the water.

Birds of prey are numerous here as well. I can't think of too many locations where in two hours time you can see an osprey, red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk and an American kestrel.

Sepulveda Basin never disappoints me. Whether it is the osprey diving for fish or a family of 22 bushtits making their way through the underbrush, there is always something to thrill and amaze. Take a Mini Birdwalk with video. This birding jewel in the middle of Los Angeles offers numerous bird species anytime of the year and provides easy access to some of California's unique species. Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge in Feb.

Oct. 8,  2011 Species List
domestic mallard
pied-billed grebe
eared grebe
western grebe
double-crested cormorant
great blue heron
great egret
snowy egret
green heron
black-crowned night heron
white-faced ibis
turkey vulture
red-shouldered hawk
red-tailed hawk
American kestrel
American coot
mourning dove
yellow-chevroned parakeet
Anna's hummingbird
belted kingfisher
Nuttall's woodpecker
black phoebe
Say's phoebe
Bewick's wren
northern mockingbird
European starling
common yellowthroat
yellow warbler
yellow-rumped warbler
spotted towhee
California towhee
song sparrow
white-crowned sparrow
house finch
lesser goldfinch 

Other So. Cal birding areas: Bolsa Chica, Malibu Lagoon, Serrania Park

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Be EcoPositive - Meeting Change Head-On with the Environment in Mind

Change is constant and sometimes overwhelming, but if you focus on little things, occasionally you can have a positive impact.

An international corporation has purchased two of our local shopping malls and for the past 5 years, or more, they have been working on a project to create a shopping "Village" with a network of walkways and mixed use areas that would connect the two remodeled malls. Many long-time residents of our suburb were up-in-arms. The increase of traffic and people was not welcome. 

I went to the planning meetings that were open to the public and I must give credit to the local city counsel office and the multi-national corporation for giving the local residents an opportunity to speak.

From the very first meeting I realized this change was coming. Whether I liked it or not, a shopping "Village" was going to be built. What could I do to make this change more ecopositive? I've seen similar projects by this owner in other areas of the city and the world. They usually are well laid out with beautiful landscaping. But one thing stood out to me, the landscaping was sterile; there were no native plants.

At that first meeting comment boards were put up around the auditorium with ideas pre-printed on them. We were all given stickers to express our priorities for the items that were important to us, green for positive, red for negative. We were encouraged to add ideas as well. I walked up to the comment board with the heading "Landscaping" and I wrote "Native plants that will be drought tolerant and provide habitat."

As I wrote, someone beside me said, "Yeah, why not?" If there was going to be new landscaping, why not restore habitat for birds and butterflies with native plants. I watched the green stickers of support multiply. This was an ecopositive suggestion with no downside.

I stayed on the mailing list and any time opinions were solicited I continued my mantra, "Native plants in landscaping."

The project has been through many transformations and slowed with the economic situation, but yesterday I saw a full page add in a local paper titled "Sustainability at the The Village, Coming Soon!" Change is moving forward. There were three bullet points on the page. The third one started "Native landscaping..."

There are little victories in making a positive difference. When it is an ecopositive difference all living things benefit.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Arctic Ice Cap Melting

photo from Polar Bears International,
Why is global climate change a controversial issue? Why are Americans unwilling to accept their share of the responsibility for increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and admit that burning carbon based-fuels contributes to the problem?

Are we petulant children who refuse to be held accountable for our actions? Is it easier to believe the voices of power/money that depend on our addiction to fossil fuels? The corporations that sell these resources pay huge sums to create siren songs telling us that we aren't responsible, that oil creates jobs, that other energy sources aren't worth investing in. 

This summer southern California was fairly mild and beautiful. It would be easy to believe that climate change was a fairy tale. But global climate change is global, it is a big picture change.

NASA is a science-based branch of the American government/military. Just watch the video of satellite images of the Arctic sea ice from March to September 2011. The images are fact. The northern sea ice is melting at a greater rate than before and a major change has come with the disappearance of old ice.

What can you do to change your carbon use? It has taken us 7 years to completely change over our vehicles, but now both of our cars are hybrids. For more ideas on how to reduce your impact on climate change visit Polar Bears International.