By Brad Rumble, LAAS Director at Large

For The Western Tanager, July/August 2017, Vol. 83 No. 6

Judith Raskin was a Los Angeles Audubon volunteer and citizen scientist. She began birding Echo Park Lake in 2000. Consider all the natural history she packed into this, her first posting on the Los Angeles County listserv on November 3, 2005:

This morning for the second time in a week and the first time since August 15, a Caspian Tern hovered over Echo Park Lake, Los Angeles. The first two times, there was a pair of them; today, just one, but today’s tern flew over the lake long enough and circled a number of times so I was able to identify it. Prior to these sightings, I have not seen a Caspian at Echo Park Lake since 2003.

Judy’s enthusiasm is apparent in that post, and certainly it was evident in her actions. She regularly led bird walks at Echo Park Lake, which she described in one of her frequent announcements as “a little oasis just a bit north of downtown Los Angeles.” Christmas Bird Counts, Backyard Bird Counts, America’s Birdiest County, simple walks—everyone was invited.

To review all her posts really is to learn much about the natural history of Echo Park Lake. What comes through is her sense of wonder, and also her commitment to the precision of data. Those who knew Judy will recall her reportage of Ross, a wild Ross’s Goose.

2011.02.06 Ross Goose MacArthur Park

Here’s her first report on the bird:

Wednesday, December 28, 2005
This morning at Echo Park Lake, Los Angeles, I saw what I believe was a Ross’s Goose. Small bird, white, small head, with a few black feathers at the rear, orange-y bill and legs. It was smaller than any goose I have seen before, and smaller even than most of the Mallards that hang around the lake. It was on land, hesitating before munching on goodies tossed out by a regular bird feeder person, didn’t mix with other ducks or geese.

Four days later, Judy posted:

The Ross’s Goose is still there, to my delight.

She would give occasional updates on the Ross’s Goose who stayed, and it is through Judy’s post of February 1, 2012 that we know it was moved to MacArthur Park. No doubt many think of Judy when they see the Ross’s Goose which still resides there.

Mary Loquvam, then Executive Director of Los Angeles Audubon, connected me with Judy. On April 18, 2010 Mary and I hiked up to MacArthur Park with a group of student birders from Leo Politi Elementary School. Judy had taken the time to create a student-friendly checklist to record our observations. As soon as we met up with Judy she captured the students’ attention. We observed 23 species that day. Those students are now about to start their junior year of high school, and they’re doing great things. Judy would be pleased to know that one of them, Jerry Molgado, is a Restoration Leader with Los Angeles Audubon and is a steward of the native California habitat at my current school, Esperanza Elementary—only a couple blocks east of MacArthur Park.

MacArthur Park Bird Walk Group

On the same listserv which Judy used to communicate her bird walks, observations and wonderings, Dan Cooper posted this tribute on October 31, 2014:

Judy was indefatigable in getting the community involved in birding Echo Park Lake, and always led a big, eclectic group—by far our biggest group of the count—around the lake, opening the public’s eyes to the birds and nature in the inner city. Afterward, they’d move on to Vista Hermosa Park and lunch, and maybe MacArthur Park for good measure.

Entering her hand-held checklists a few days later (always snail-mailed—who needs a computer these days?!), I was always reminded of the best of Audubon—individuals taking time to get others out into nature; just paying attention to and enjoying wherever they happen to be. Simple stuff, but important.

MacArthur Park bird chart-4-10-2011 

Los Angeles Audubon honors the memory of Judith Raskin and expresses gratitude for her generous legacy bequest.