Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Memorial Day weekend my partner, her niece, her mentee, and I stayed at a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains. Prior to the trip I checked the San Bernardino Audubon homepage to see if they had a birding checklist for the area and saw an announcement for a "Baby Bird Walk at Bear Paw Ranch" listed for Saturday. I thought it would be a great activity for the kids, so we went. It turned out to be a great activity for everyone!

The ranch is actually a bird and wildlife sanctuary, with an emphasis on providing nest boxes for cavity-nesting birds such as Western Bluebird, House Wren, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Oak Titmouse, Steller's Jay, and Mountain Chickadee. Our docent was Cin Greyraven, a local biology teacher. She guided us around the property, and as she did her nest box survey, she would show us the baby birds (or eggs) inside. It was quite a treat to be able to see this hidden world of birds.

"Bear Paw Ranch is San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society's 70 acre nature sanctuary, thanks to a generous benefactor. Bear Paw Ranch is at 38801 Valley of the Falls Drive, nestled on the north slope of scenic Mill Creek Canyon at 4,500 feet elevation, surrounded by the towering peaks of the San Bernardino National Forest. A diverse array of habitats provides excellent birding and educational opportunities. Along the creek, alluvial scrub intergrades with alders, sycamores, ash and willows. On the bluff, scrub-oak and chaparral mingle with huge old Coulter pines, black oak and incense cedar." (from San Bernardino Audubon web page)

She explained that handling the birds or eggs will not cause the parents to reject them; birds do not have a highly acute sense of smell. Though it was obvious that some of the parents were upset at us bothering their babies, we would watch them enter the nest box right after we left with food for the chicks.

There was a birdhouse near the front entrance of the ranger's house that had been taken over by a House Wren, and we saw the parents coming and going with food--mostly 1/2-inch long green worms. Around the eaves of the house were numerous hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water (4:1 ratio of water to sugar--the liquid DOES NOT need to be red, and in fact there is some recent controversy that the red dye in the commercial nectar may be harmful to hummingbirds). The feeders were attracting a large number of hummers, mostly Anna's but also a few Black-chinned hummingbirds.

And at the corner of the house was a sign that read "Rattlesnake Crossing"--and lo and behold, there was a Western Diamondback curled up in the grass right below it!

I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story...

Entrance Sign
Entrance with mountains in background

The back-end...

The business-end!

Feeding station with many customers!

Ash-throated Flycatcher eggs

Western Bluebird hatchling--only a few days old

Western Bluebird babies

Western Bluebird

Steller's Jay close to fledge (ready to leave the nest)

Nest Box used by Mountain Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee babies

Mountain Chickadee adult with lunch--a yummy spider!

It was a fun morning for the kids and a great morning of birding for me. My complete bird list for this location:

Western Bluebird
White-breasted Nuthatch
Oak Titmouse
Band-tailed Pigeon
Anna's Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
House Wren
Steller's Jay
Scrub Jay
Western Tanager
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Common Raven
Red-tailed Hawk
Mountain Chickadee
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
California Quail
Black-headed Grosbeak
Purple Finch
House Finch
White-throated Swift
Northern Flicker
Dark-eyed Junco

That's 24 species in an hour and a half of birding!

Monday, May 2, 2011


Two years ago I worked on a project for Los Angeles Audubon to create some guidelines for tree trimming in the spring. It came about when I emailed LAA after seeing a crew trimming (decimating, actually) some neighborhood trees at the hight of nesting season. The conservation chair, Garry George, asked me if I would be interested in creating some guidelines for tree trimming that would be distributed as widely in LA County as possible. I jumped at the chance.

Almost a year later, after much research (including acquiring permissions to use certain material such as nest descriptions and imagery), input from experts, and some unfortunate petty wrangling with a few members with their own agendas, the guidelines were finally approved by the LAA Board. We posted a PDF file on the website in English and also had them translated into Spanish.

Then lo and behold, last Friday's LA Times had an article about tree and shrub pruning that cited our guidelines. It was very gratifying to me to see that they were being referenced and used!

All I ever wanted to do was save some birds and it appears that in some small way perhpas I have.

To see the article, go to: