Students at Normandie Elementary learning about watersheds, pollution, and drainage systems in Los Angeles. Here, a student is drawing a storm drain at the north side of her school.

I officially moved back to Los Angeles on Wednesday, and on Friday I was helping Stacey from LA Audubon with a watershed environmental education presentation at Normandie Elementary. It feels a little surreal, having lived at my work site in Ensenada and having not driven for three months and then coming back to Los Angeles, the city of traffic and density of people. It couldn’t be any more different than Baja. In Baja there was one major highway (Highway 1) that you took if you wanted to go north or south. 

Anyways, back to my first day…I parked my car after driving for 40 minutes, and as I was walking towards the front gate of the school I saw Carla! Carla is one of the Environment for the Americas interns I met during the week long shorebird survey training in San Diego. I knew that I would be working with her, but I wasn’t expecting to see her so soon. It caught me by surprise, but I was happy to see her again.

We caught up briefly, and swiftly helped prepare for the presentation we were to give to two classrooms. I had never presented an environmental topic to two groups of almost 60 fifth grade students, and I was looking forward to seeing the logistics and differences in behavior with the larger group. To be completely honest, the group could not have been more perfect. All of the students were engaged, and although they did fidget and have the occasional side conversation, everyone was genuinely interested in the watershed presentation that Stacey gave. It was interactive and included visual aids such as a map, and a bucket of water meant to represent a watershed which she polluted with colorful water, leaves, and trash. This was a fun way to introduce pollutants, and it got the information across. To make the presentation even more memorable and fun, Stacey brought compasses with her so the students could begin learning how to use this tool as scientists. She also handed out a data sheet that they used to map out storm drain locations, as well as watershed pollutants.

After helping out with the watershed presentation, Carla showed me her shorebird survey site on the West side called Playa del Rey. She has actually noticed decreasing shorebird activity in that transect, and hypothesizes there will be close to no birds in a few weeks.

This location was a lot different than the locations I surveyed in Baja. There were giant town homes sitting five feet away from each other here, and there was a lot more human disturbance in this environment. The trash was dense on the sides of the channel; it surprised me to see so much garbage in such a nice area of Los Angeles. The bike trail that we walk on to survey was busy with cyclists and joggers, which I’m sure is a factor in bird activity.


Photo by Lupita Solano

During our bird survey, Carla spotted this hawk. We spent a good ten minutes looking at it, trying to identify it. We were between a Cooper’s or a Swainson’s Hawk. If you look closely at its left talon, you can see the remainder of what we believe was a bird. 


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