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Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach has long been an excellent location to see shorebirds, but since its restoration it’s even better. In the summer it hosts a very large tern colony. We’ll take our time to circle one or more of the lagoons, using our telescopes for good looks. If you have a scope, bring it. In addition to all the usual shorebird, duck and seabird suspects, we’ll look for: Western & Clark’s Grebes, Reddish Egret, Osprey, Avocets & Stilts, Semipalmated Plover, both Yellowlegs, Red Knot, Baird’s & Pectoral Sandpipers, Dowitchers, Phalaropes, various terns including the (not-so-common) Common Tern, and the Belding’s race of Savannah Sparrow. Rarities occasionally pop up such as Sharp-tailed Sandpiper or 2012’s Lesser Sand Plover, both Asian species. Next to the cliffs we’ve seen warblers, sparrows, finches and woodpeckers.
Family guide: 2-3 miles walking on pavement, boardwalks and dirt trails. Morning temps. start cool.
Directions: San Diego Fwy (#405) south to just past Garden Grove Fwy (#22) east. Exit almost immediately thereafter onto Bolsa Chica Rd, continue south on Bolsa Chica Rd. to Warner Ave. Right on Warner Ave. to Pacific Coast Hwy. Left (south) on PCH, pass the traffic signal, make a U-turn at the next turn-around on the divided highway and return to the preserve entrance on your right. Meet there. Allow 50-60 minutes travel time from Santa Monica.
Meet at 8:30 a.m. in the parking lot. Leaders: Ellen Vahan (310-476-3359) & Liz Galton.
Map to Meeting Place at Bolsa Chica
Map to probable walking route
Hit the Ground Running: Roadrunners of Southern California.
For years, Mark scoured the hills of San Diego County, chasing down roadrunners in order to study the effects of habitat fragmentation upon them. Now located in the Santa Monica Mountains, Mark continues his research on our local roadrunners. In his presentation, Mark summarizes his thesis work, using it, citizen science data and the wider literature as a lens for studying the distribution of this iconic bird in the greater Santa Monica Mountains region.
Mark Mendelsohn is a wildlife and vegetation biologist working under a cooperative agreement between the Mountains Restoration Trust and National Park Service in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. His love for field biology sprouted during his undergraduate work at Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo, after which he moved to San Diego State University to complete his master’s degree.
Our meetings return to 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. Please leave your coyote at home, however much they whine to come.
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]
This Week’s Lesson – The Humble Hoopoe
The Hoopoe is another member of the list of twenty Unclean Birds whom we’re not supposed to eat. This list comes in numerous versions due to the problems of translating ancient and rare Hebrew words, but that’s a topic for a later lesson. For now, we’ll stay with the Hoopoe, a bird common in Eurasia and Africa, yet most uncommon in ways we shall see.
And these ye shall have in detestation among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are a detestable thing….the hoopoe… (הַדּוּכִיפַ֖ת – had·dū·ḵî·p̄aṯ “the hoopoe”)
Lev 11:13-19 Holy Scriptures accor4ding to the Masoretic Text (HSMT)
Slightly larger than an American Robin, a Hoopoe is 11-12″ long, including its slender and slightly decurved 2″ bill. It weighs only 1½ -3 ounces, the same as your quarter-pound hamburger after cooking. The head, neck, breast and belly colors varies from rufous to cinnamon to tawny; the wings and tail are black with irregular white bands; the bill, eyes and legs are black; the long crest feathers are tipped in black. It is an attractive, lively and inquisitive bird. Its name is unlikely to be forgotten or mistaken because for most people who know it, the name is echoic of its call, which varies from hoop-hoop to oo-poo-poo. [Video & call link]
The scientific name is Upupa epops (Latin name upupam + Greek name έποπα). Some other common names are: Arabic hud-hud, Dutch hoppe, French Huppe, Italian upupa, Maltese Daqquqa tat-toppu, Polish Dudek, Portuguese poupa, Spanish Abubilla, Turkish ibibik.
They are distantly related to the kingfishers. On their “birds of prey” branch of the Tree of Life, they split from Owls 75.9 million years ago (MYA), from Trogons 72.1 MYA, from Kingfishers & Bee-eaters 69.6 MYA, from Hornbills 55.3 MYA and from Woodhoopoes & Scimitarbills 35.2 MYA. [Don’t rely on the permanence of these dates. Research continues.]
Their nesting begins as early as mid-April around the Mediterranean; in Northern Europe as late as early June. Nesting behavior of non-migratory resident birds cycles around the rainy seasons. Nest are in tree cavities, walls, cliffs, earth banks or termite mounds. The female incubates 4-6 (sometimes as many as 12) blue, gray, green, yellow or brown eggs for about 18 days. The male brings her food, but no water, as they are not known to drink. They don’t remove the eggshells or fecal sacs of their young, unlike most other cavity-nesting birds. The young – helpless with sparse down when hatched – fledge (leave the nest) in 3 to 4 weeks,
and may stay with their parents until nesting season returns. They feed on the ground and use trees for safety and night roosting. Their typical flight is slow, undulating and a bit haphazard, belying their impressive speed and maneuverability should a falcon take pursuit. Their long crests – normally held flat – may be raised in excitement or alarm. They can be found alone or in small bands which are probably family units, but they are not gregarious. Hoopoes can be tamed; one became accustomed to eating a boiled egg for breakfast.
Shorebirds and waders often have chunky bodies and long slender bills, but they usually stay close to water, when not actually in it. In the Hoopoe’s preferred dry, park-like habitat, only Lapwings remotely resemble them.
Until recently the Hoopoe was classified into ten subspecies, but one was split off as Madagascar Hoopoe Upupa marginata (a decision lacking universal scientific agreement), leaving the rest of the Hoopoes stuck with the less euphonious name, Eurasian Hoopoe.
Hoopoes have been admired for millennia and are well-represented in our art. Bartolo’s often reproduced painting, St. Francis Preaching to the Birds, depicts a pheasant, a quacking duck, several small birds in a tree and a Hoopoe in the foreground on the ground, all paying rapt attention to the words of this,
presumably their favorite saint. There are two stories of Francis involving preaching and birds. The first is that Francis and friends were walking through the Spoleto Valley of Italy when he spotted a flock of birds and ran over to them. “Beloved birds,” he greeted, expecting them to fly away. They stayed, and he preached while they silently listened. The second is that Francis, preaching to a crowd from a balcony in Alviano, had to contend with swallows building nests nearby and chattering noisily. Francis finally called to them, “My sisters, swallows, it’s my turn to speak now, because you’ve already said enough. Listen to the word of God. Stay still and be quiet until it’s over.” Reportedly the swallows fell silent until Francis finished. Francis seems to have loved everyone and everything. Would that today’s Italians felt as friendly towards their birds, rather than eating them all, large and small.
Wall paintings in the Egyptian tomb of Khnum-hotep II, dated to 1950-1900 BCE, clearly shows a Hoopoe and many other birds.
Many scientists say the Hoopoe is the sole species in their evolutionary family, Upupidae. Humans are similarly alone; our cousin Homo species are long extinct, probably at our hand. The Old World range of the Hoopoe virtually replicates ours at the end of the last ice age. They dislike large bodies of water and never made it to Australia, most of Japan or the New World, although they occasionally stray across the channel to England.
Ever since Homo erectus, our predecessor species, left Africa and wandered to the far reaches of Eurasia, our ancestors have found Hoopoes close at hand. Throughout our shared range we find them in savannas, open woodlands, forest clearings, cultivated ground and gardens, probing the ground with their long slender bills. As we adapted to life as herdsmen and farmers, Hoopoes remained nearby, gleaning our pastures and fields. The snails, spiders, centipedes, ant-lions, and lizards which they gleaned from our gardens and fields and ate within our easy eyesight, is what branded them an Unclean Bird. [Snails were definitely a no-no.] Divine taboos were not placed on tiny forest birds unnoticed by human eye, no matter how loathsome and lethal to humanity their choices in cuisine might be. They gave us their lively beauty and ate our pests. Sometimes our landscape changes suited them; sometimes not. Mostly, we coexisted.
Hoopoes and Humanity: Fellow Passengers on Spaceship Earth
Hoopoes and humans are orphans; solitary species within our respective families. The large mammals preserved in La Brea pits were probably hunted into extinction by humans. Australian species vanished when Aborigines burned the landscape to suit their own needs. The aurochs, cave bears, elephants and rhinos of Europe are gone. Half of Hawaii’s bird species disappeared during the millennia between the arrivals of Polynesians and Euro-Americans. Humans are a dangerous species and the future of any creature that gets in our path is not promising. Our only successful adversaries are those who avoid confrontation and, like water, seek the low road, remaining obscure, like bacteria, rats and cockroaches. But through all the changes and depredations of human history, Hoopoes held their noble visibility, sharing our lands and lives, yet staying at arm’s length, neither dangerous nor useful to us.
Humans typically exhibit an anthropocentric view of nature – “What does it do for me?” This attitude may muster economic forces to protect species or habitat, because, “Maybe we’ll find a cure for cancer!” We make much ado about the value of an individual’s life and freedom, yet rarely extend concern and courtesy to our fellow passengers on our earthly ark. Their lives have value for them as ours do for us, whatever one thinks of the other. If we understood that “dumb animals” participate as richly in their own lives as we do in ours, we might not act as we do towards them. What may we learn from them?
Hoopoes are a good example of how the meek may yet inherit the earth. Better yet, perhaps they unintentionally do what Jesus, much later, told his disciples when he sent them out to preach:
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16 New King James
Bible Factoid #6 – Catching Forty Winks
One way to do textual analysis and gain a glimpse into a writer’s mind is to find their favorite words and determine just how much they like them. All following citations are from the King James Version.
I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights… Genesis 7:4
…and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights…. Exodus 24:18
And forty sockets of silver he made under the twenty boards… Exodus 36:24
…the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness… Deuteronomy 2:7
Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing… Luke 4:2
To whom also he shewed himself…being seen of them forty days… Acts 1:3
As in modern parlance, “Forty? What’s up with that?”
What with all the armies and ages and apostles, numbers are very common in both Jewish and Christian scriptures. We even find an important Jewish scripture, fourth book in the Torah (Pentateuch) entitled “Numbers” in the Christian version. [The Jewish version is more appropriately titled “In the Wilderness.”] So let’s look at some numbers.
I combed through my bible concordance, counting citations for all numbers (one, two, etc.) and ordinals (first, second, etc.). It didn’t give all citations – just significant ones. I discovered that “forty” was by far the most common of multiples of ten between ten and one hundred (first chart). Among all numbers (second chart) it was fourth, surpassing 1000, 100 and even 10 itself.
BibleStudyTools, a great online site for biblical nit-picking, lists 145 occurrences for the word “forty.” Here “forty” rates only sixteenth, but this list includes all citations of the word, such as:
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Gad, were forty and five thousand six hundred and fifty.
The verse above counts as one citation each for: forty, five, thousand, five thousand, six, hundred, six hundred, and fifty. These sorts of biblical citations are innumerable (pun intended). There are fourteen citations like this one, every one beginning with “forty and xxx thousand…” Although this exceeds the limits of randomness, I did not include citations such as these in my two charts.
Thirty-nine citations referred to counts of various sorts: “So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities…” (Numbers 35:7) Seven citations referred to ages: “Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building…” (John 2:20) I didn’t included these either.
Six citations referred to the flood, twenty to Moses on his various mountains, ten for Israelites wandering in the Sinai desert, four for Jesus meditating in the desert. Such clusters were counted as one citation each.
After subtracting 121 citations of low or no significance, twenty-four remained. I examined sixty different numbers; three had greater frequency than “forty.” Not unexpectedly, they were “one,” “first” and “seven” (second chart) “One” and “first” need no explanation of significance; “seven” is a magical number in many cultures and religions, and its high frequency was expected. For the same reason, I expected “three” to be higher than its 6th place rating. At the bottom, “sixty” and “ninety” were never used meaningfully (symbolically).
So, again…what’s up with forty?
The most common opinion is that forty symbolizes trial, testing or judgment.
And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. Genesis 7:12
And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years… Exodus 16.35
And [Moses] was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights… Exodus 34:28
…the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. Judges 13:1
And Jonah…said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. Jonah 3:4
And [Jesus] was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan… Mark 1:13
There is also the legal limit on lashes, which can certainly be considered a “trial.”
Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed… Deuteronomy 25:3
Another explanation is that forty symbolizes a “generation of man.”
And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith… Genesis 26:34
And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. Numbers 14:33
And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died. Judges 3:11
To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Acts 1:3
One source claims:
According to saint Augustin, forty expresses the perfection ‘because the Law was given in ten commandments, then it is through the whole world that the Law has been preached, and the whole world is composed of four parts, Orient and Occident, South and North; therefore, by multiplying ten by four, we obtain forty.’
I didn’t know that St. Augustine had enough imagination to come up with that doozy.
But the two popular explanations don’t cover the many dozens of non-random appearances of “forty.” I have the suspicion that it was also used as we use “dozens,” “bazillion” or “many” – an indefinite large number that simply sounds good to our ears.
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Reuben, were forty and six thousand and five hundred. Numbers 1:21
About forty thousand prepared for war…to the plains of Jericho. Joshua 4:13
…and David slew the men of seven hundred chariots of the Syrians, and forty thousand horsemen… 2 Samuel 10:18
And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots… 1 Kings 4:26
Then made he ten lavers of brass: one laver contained forty baths… 1 Kings 7:38
In the four corners of the court there were courts joined of forty cubits long and thirty broad… Ezekiel 46:22
The writers of the bible didn’t do that with “sixty” or “ninety.” That’s omething to think about while you’re trying to catch forty winks.
Link to Part I – What About That Dove?
Link to Part II – Sandgrouse or Quail?
Link to Part III – Junglefowl in Judea!
Link to Part IV – Birds that Sow, Reap and Store
Link to Part V – The Friendly Raven
Next installment: We take a slight detour and visit “The Wise Hoopoe,” a story from the Quran.
The word “hoopoe” comes in two forms in the bible.
הַדּוּכִיפַ֖ת (had·dū·ḵî·p̄aṯ) “the hoopoe” 1 occurrence Lev 11:19
וְהַדּוּכִיפַ֖ת (wə·had·dū·ḵî·p̄aṯ) “and the hoopoe” 1 occurrence Deut 14:18
The root word דּוּכִיפַת (dū·ḵî·p̄aṯ) does not actually occur in the bible.
Tree of Life To navigate Tree Of Life, click binoculars icon in upper right corner, enter bird name and press “next hit” until you get to your bird.
BibleHub.com An invaluable tool. Almost a “one-stop-shopping” research site for the bible.
BibleStudyTools.com A very useful site.
1. Birds of Europe. Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterström, D., Grant, P.J. (1999) Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. – Pg 220.
2. Dictionary of Birds. Campbell, Bruce. (1974) Peerage Books, London. – Pgs 22-23, 347.
3. Handbook of Birds of the World (HBW), Vol. 6. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. (2009) Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. Hoopoes – Pgs 396-411.
4. Holy Scriptures: According to the Masoretic Text. (1955) The Jewish Publication Society of America. Philadelphia.
5. Nelson’s Comfort Print Bible Concordance. Youngblood, Robert F. (1995) Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN
6. New English Bible with the Apocrypha, The, Oxford Study Edition. Sandmel, Samuel, Suggs, M. Jack, Tkacik, Arnold J.; eds. (1972) Oxford University Press, New York
Welcome back to the official First Field Trip of our Field Trip Year. Migration will be in full swing so we should see many species. Birds often gather offshore in large feeding flocks.
Some of the great birds we’ve had in September are: Brant, Gadwall, Am. Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed & Eared Grebe, Green Heron, White-faced Ibis, Cooper’s Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Sora, Semipalmated Plover, American Avocet, Dunlin,
Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Long-billed Dowitcher, Red-necked Phalarope, Heerman’s, Western, Ring-billed & California Gulls, Common Tern, Vaux’s Swift, Belted Kingfisher, American Kestrel, Black & Say’s Phoebe, Cassin’s Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Bushtit, House & Bewick’s Wrens, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Pipit, Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Gray, Townsend’s & Wilson’s Warbler, Savannah, Song & White-crowned Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark.
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 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 showed us the birds; now it’s our turn.
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 Lu (310-395-6235) 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: Parking machine recently installed in the lagoon lot: 1 hr $3; 2 hrs $6; 3 hrs $9, all day $12 ($11 seniors); credit cards accepted. Annual passes accepted. You may also park (read the signs carefully) either along PCH west of Cross Creek Road, on Cross Creek Road, or on Civic Center Way north (inland) of the shopping center. Lagoon parking in shopping center lots is not permitted.
Map to Meeting Place
2016: Jan-June 2015: Jan-May, July-Dec
2014: Jan-July, July-Dec 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.
SANTA MONICA BAY Photo by Laurel Jones
The birds on Santa Monica Bay depend on a healthy ocean to survive. Who is working to make that happen and how can you become a meaningful part of the effort?
Meet Zack Gold—a Ph.D student at the LaKretz Center for California Conservation Science at UCLA; an avid surfer and scuba diver who grew up in Santa Monica and served as a lifeguard, as well, as helping to support the establishment of local Marine Protected Areas. In his own words:
During my undergraduate research at Stanford I became really interested in human impacts on marine ecosystems as well as using genetics techniques to study marine life. While there I was introduced to environmental DNA and became really interested in being able to use this tool to study how humans are impacting marine ecosystems and what management tools like MPAs are effective in restoring marine biodiversity and ecosystem health. So I came to UCLA under Professor Paul Barber to use eDNA techniques in the Santa Monica Bay and Channel Islands to study the the effects of MPA size and design on improving our local marine biodiversity, fish abundance, and ecosystem health. I am currently studying the biodiversity of marine protected areas in LA County using a new metagenomic tool called environmental DNA. In order to help my research, I am looking for helpful citizen science volunteers to help me collect seawater samples for this project.
This project is really exciting because it will allow us to compare the health of our marine ecosystems right in our backyard and give us insights into how the MPAs are working 5 years after they have been established.
Now meet Emily Ryznar, another Ph.D student at the LaKretz Center for California Conservation Science at UCLA If you love tidepools (and who doesn’t?) then her project will be of interest to you. As she explains it:
I am attempting to quantify invertebrate diversity in CA kelp forests associated with crustose coralline algae (CCA), a very abundant algae in marine ecosystems that influences many marine invertebrates to live on or by it.
How you can help–identify invertebrates and other species growing on CCA in the field and from photographs using CPCe (Coral Point Count with Excel Extension), a specialized computer program used to quantify marine diversity from photos. Interested participants will be trained in common kelp forest species identification and use of the program. You may help as much or as little as you want, there is no hard time-commitment. Why is this important–CCA is very vulnerable to ocean acidification, which is predicted to increase in the future. CCA is required habitat for critically endangered invertebrates like abalone and coral. If CCA decreases due to ocean acidification, important invertebrates associated with CCA may also decline! CCA ecology is also relatively understudied in kelp forest ecosystems. You can reach Emily at EmilyRyznar@gmail.com
So many times we are hit with a wall of bad news about the environment and the oceans and are left feeling helpless to be able to make a difference. Now, you can. Contact Zack or Emily for further information as listed above.
It’s for the birds.