Ballona Photography | A Docent-ing View . . .

A Docent-ing View . . .

December 05, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

By Bev-Sue Powers

Each September, the local Audubon provides six weekly, three-hour training sessions for people who want to be a volunteer docent for the upcoming year.  All they ask in return is to be a docent at least twice a month.  In October, I completed the training and the first week of December, I completed my first two docent-ing sessions, which were as different as night and day.  The first was with a group of fourth-graders, and the second included a group of Taiwanese biologists sresearching the impacts wind turbines have on migrating birds.

Every Tuesday and Thursday during the school year, 30-40 kids from one of LAUSD’s grade schools arrive at the Ballona Wetlands for a three hour tour hosted by the local Audubon.  The kids are divided into smaller groups and assigned to a docent.  Each docent (or docent team) makes sure each kid has binoculars, knows how to focus and use them, and then takes his/her group through the five stations:

  • The Migration Station: The kids learn about how, when, and where birds migrate along the Pacific Flyway. The station includes a clever exercise that demonstrates the challenge and dangers migrating birds face when wetlands disappear. (Did you know that 90% of the wetlands in California have disappeared in the past 40-50 years??)
  • The Birding Observation Deck: Here, kids see and learn to identify the wide variety of bird species that call the Ballona Wetlands home. (Over 200 species of birds can be found in the Ballona Wetlands!)
  • The Microscope Station: Kids are shown how to use microscopes to see and draw the tiny life forms living in the mud and water, most of which are food sources for many of the birds.
  • The Birding Scope Station: Located on the Ballona Creek, a scope is set up to zoom in on special birds along the banks, in the water, or spotted in the salt pans.
  • The Trails: Kids walk the various trails connecting the stations.  On the trails, the kids learn about what comprises a wetlands, the various sub-ecosystems in the Ballona Wetlands, and discover some of the plants and animals live in each.

Every first Saturday of the month, Audubon has an “Open Wetlands” from 9am-noon. Typically, 30-70 people show up throughout the morning. Visitors are checked in and given binoculars to use if they don’t have any of their own. Docents are available at the stations mentioned above, but visitors are free to explore the trails and different stations on their own. A group from Taiwan were already familiar with many of the bird species, as related species migrate along the Asian Flyway through Taiwan. But they were most thrilled to see our hummingbirds, which only live in North America!

(from left) Here's Chien-Hung Yang (with Formosa Natural History Museum and Raptor Research group of Taiwan), the female biologist (I didn't get her name), Lien Yu-Yi (with the National Taiwan University, Institute of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), and lead Docent Lynn. 

It was also heartening to meet young adults who were studying environmental sciences at the university level and seeing the Ballona wetlands for the first time.  One of the favorite returning visitors was a 6 or 7 year old who had only missed ONE Open Wetlands monthly event since 2013!

See you at an upcoming Open Wetlands day!

Where: Ballona Wetlands entrance. Park behind Gordan’s Market in Playa Del Rey. 

When:  9am-noon, 1st Sat. of the month.

 

 


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