Whole Life Magazine

June / July 2016

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Page 9 of 43

city of angels By Marcia Hanscom THE OTHER SPECIES THAT MATES ON VENICE BEACH Return of the endangered California Least Tern E ndangered species in Los Angeles? Sur- prising but true. Most of us urban-dwell- ers are surprised to learn that numerous rare, imperiled and endangered species live among us, and are unaware of the wild, natural areas that still grace our bioregions. One success story is that of the California Least Tern, Sternula antillarum browni, a tiny bird that nests on Venice Beach. This grace- ful bird plunges into waters of nearby Ballona Creek and Ballona Lagoon Marine Preserve, hunting for small fi sh to present to a potential mate and to feed its young, once nesting is successful. After nesting is fi nished, in July or August, the parents and young fl edglings fl y all the way back to Guatemala or Southern Mexico for the winter, before returning each year—like the better-known swallows to Capistrano—to the same spot on Venice Beach. Scientists describe this phenomenon of return- ing to their birthplace as "site fi delity." The least terns are on Venice beach now, having arrived in April and May, with courtship behavior in full swing, according to Stacey Vigallon of Los An- geles Audubon Society, the volunteer group that works with federal and state authorities to over- see the California Least Tern Preserve.* This species declined during the last century as SoCal's renowned beaches fi lled with beach towels at pre- cisely the same time as tern nesting sea- son. The Venice col- ony came about as a fenced-in enclosure because a long- time maintenance supervisor at the County Beaches & Harbors Depart- ment, Wayne Schumaker, spotted an egg in the sand. Schumaker was curi- ous enough to do some research, which ultimately led to fencing off a portion of the beach for the diminutive bird. You can see the acrobatic fl ying of the terns and catch glimpses of the nesting colony by parking near the Marina del Rey north jetty at Via Marina just east of Pacifi c, and then walking toward the ocean's edge. The fenced-in enclosure is to the right on the sand, about midway to the wrack line. Visitors are asked to keep their distance, as sometimes chicks or eggs end up outside the fenced enclosure, and every little bird counts with an en- dangered species. Bring binoculars for better viewing. *Volunteers interested in helping to protect from various threats during the nesting season can call Ms. Vigallon at 323.481.4037 or email tern@laadubon.org Photo left: Brian Kott 10 wholelifetimes.com

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