Interpreting Nature

By Stacey Vigallon, Director of Interpretation, and Carlos Jauregui, Restoration Coordinator

In the early spring of 2014, Los Angeles Audubon partnered with Environment for the Americas to host two interns as part of the mutli-state Celebrate Shorebirds Internship Program. Interns participating with us had the opportunity to not only collect data on shorebirds, but also work on bilingual outreach projects. We’d like to thank our interns, Sally Garcia and Carlos Jauregui, for their hard work during their internship days this spring and summer! Carlos, now a Restoration Coordinator for Los Angeles Audubon, describes the work he completed during his internship. His experience underscores the important role that the Audubon network can play in connecting young professionals to conservation opportunities.

I first heard of the opportunity to intern at Environment for the Americas from Jeff Chapman, director of the Audubon Center in Debs Park. I had interned at Debs Park the previous summer and helped with their summer camp. He emailed me and told me that he thought I fitted the job description and requirements well. I am grateful that he let me know about the internship because it has been a great experience with a variety of objectives.

The internship started with a week in San Diego for training. We stayed at a hostel in the Gas Lamp district of San Diego. We spent a lot of the time learning to identify shorebirds and what to look for when we are trying to identify the birds. Shorebirds can be a bit tricky to identify because many of them look pretty similar and they change plumage throughout the year. A couple of birds that I had trouble distinguishing from each other were the Western and Least Sandpipers. Least Sandpipers have yellow legs, but it can be difficult to see the color clearly if the light is not coming from the right direction or if the bird’s legs are covered in mud. Later in the season, when the birds develop their breeding plumage, it can be a bit easier to distinguish between them.

EFTA Tern Banding

Assisting with tern banding in San Diego. Photo Credit: Carlos Jauregui

I enjoyed the internship because it touched on many different objectives and goals. Early in the internship I would walk on the bike path by Ballona Creek and survey shorebirds. It was very calming to walk the path and focus on the birds. We had to survey at low tide, so the time I would survey would change. I got to survey later in the day and got to enjoy a few sunsets as I finished my surveys. The purpose of surveying is to monitor the migration pattern of the shorebirds. There are other interns that are located north from here, all the way to Alaska. The numbers changed dramatically in the ten weeks that I surveyed Ballona Creek. The greatest amount of birds in the 1.5 mile stretch that I would survey was over 300, and the least amount was under 20. It was eye-opening to see the difference in numbers that a few weeks can have.

EFTA Sunset shorebird survey CROP-6X4

A sunset after a completing a shorebird survey | Photo Credit: Carlos Jauregui

Another part of the internship has to do with outreach and informing people about the migration of birds. I had a couple of tabling events, where I would set up a table with information about migratory birds and an activity that would help people understand the difficulties of migrating. I also visited a few classrooms and had an activity for the children. We played the Migration Game. The Migration Game is a game where the students learn about the difficulties the birds experience while migrating and we talk about how we can help the birds in their long journeys. The children enjoyed it and it was great to see them very enthused to participate.

I have also been able to assist in a summer camp for children in 6th and 7th grade and I have also worked on habitat restoration. Working with children is always very fun and we got to take field trips to places I had not visited before. A couple of the places we visited were the tide pools in Palos Verdes and Franklin Canyon. It was great getting to know all the campers and learn about the sites we visited. I have also been working on habitat restoration at Kenneth Hahn, Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, and Leo Politi Elementary. It is tough work, but the work that has already been put in by the Los Angeles Audubon interns and Greenhouse interns from Dorsey High School has made these parks look a lot better and have helped the wildlife a great deal.

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Carlos Jauregui leads Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Program students on a hike at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area | Photo Credit: Robert Jeffers

After the internship I was hired as the Restoration Coordinator for Los Angeles Audubon. I was very happy when they offered me the position and a bit concerned with the new responsibilities I would have. Luckily, there are a couple of people that have worked on restoration for a while and they helped me when I had questions. It didn’t take a long time for me to get comfortable with my new role and the job is very rewarding. The position allows me to continue working with Snowy Plovers and Least Terns and also working with students ranging from elementary to college. Restoration allows me to spend the day outdoors and keep an eye out for birds, insects, and reptiles while working. I have already learned a lot about the plants, weeds, and the restoration process. I am looking forward to seeing more changes to the parks as we continue to work on removing weeds and planting native plants.

Published Western Tanager Vol. 81 No. 2 Nov/Dec 2014