It’s Good to Know You’re Not Alone.

Back in December I received an email from Audubon California. One of the links caught my eye. It directed me to an article on their blog titled, Could Global Warming Research Inspire A New Wave Of Green Birding? While I don't agree with part of the opening sentence, overall it's a fine article.

While no one is going to say that people looking at birds are a remotely significant source of the global greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, there is a growing number of birders who are exploring less carbon-reliant ways to enjoy the wonders of nature. After all, they those(Ed.) folks might say, if we're going to talk about the threat to birds from global warming, and ask lawmakers to take action, birders should at least do their part. The idea of green birding is nothing new, but as Audubon is talking more about the impacts of global warming on birds, some say that it's time to focus more attention on the practice.

One of these people is Martin Byhower, a past president and current board member of the Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Society in Los Angeles County. Back in 2006, Byhower founded a Green Birdathon for his chapter. The event worked in every way like every other birdathon fundraiser (people are asked to pledge a certain amount of money to the chapter for every species identified during a set period of time), with one exception: the birding group can't use any motor-powered vehicle other than public transportation.

This video embedded in the article is not only a fine example of having fun while “green” birding but it took me back in time to the places I used to bird in Southern California. It made me get out an old dusty file marked “Richard's past”.

Martin Byhower and I have a few things in common besides being green birders. Martin was president of the Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Society from, I believe, 2007 to 2009. Over 20 years earlier I was president of that group from 1985 to 1987. Martin explained that Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park was one of his favorite places to bird and had served on it's advisory committee. Back in my days it was just called Harbor Park and it was my favorite place to bird and was also the place I became interested in butterflies. I also served on it's advisory committee. I still have this old black and white photo hanging on my wall.

While a great place to bird it had many problems. Today the park is closed while many of those problems are being addressed. The link takes you to a Daily Breeze article. Another blast from the past. I used to work there.

Surrounded by refineries and busy streets, Harbor City’s Machado Lake from a distance appears to be an unexpected metropolitan oasis.

But get a little closer and the trash is hard to miss. Even harder to miss are the signs of reality that go largely unseen: pesticides, homeless encampments behind the shoreline brush, and invasive species such as black water snakes and snapping turtles that don’t belong there.

In fact, as noted by Mark Gold, adjunct professor for UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the former president of Heal the Bay, in an L.A. Observed blog post, it’s the largest project in the state being taken on under the Proposition O Clean Water Bond measure passed by California voters in 2004.

And while it might not fix everything that’s wrong with the park and lake, Byhower said the $111 million project will go a long way toward making the lake — and the 231-acre park it’s in — a cleaner and more nature-friendly environment.

I used to watch endangered adult Least Terns train their young to feed from the top of the boathouse on the lake.

Update: Not long after publishing this post I received a call from a Mitch Heindel. He asked me if I was the Richard Hubacek that had participated in a Palos Verde/South Bay Audubon Christmas Bird Count in such and such year. I told him that I was. Apparently he was the compiler of that CBC. We had a fairly long chat. He had left the area before my term as president of that Audubon Society and had come back after I had left. We reminisced about Ken Malloy and the park named after him. It turns out that Mitch had also been on the park's advisory committee. He referred me to a website he had established for the park. You can find it here. Mitch has since moved to Utopia, which is in Texas. He also told me that Martin Byhower had also recently moved to Texas. I know of another birder that moved to Texas. I'm personally glad I moved north and not east.

In the video Martin's wife Eileen takes you to Madrona Marsh in the City of Torrance where I grew up. “The Madrona Marsh Preserve is thought to be one of the last remaining vernal freshwater marshes in Los Angeles County.” While just 54 acres it was a battle to save the preserve. I still have my symbolic Deed of Trust for one square foot.

Martin ended his “green” birdathon at what was called White Point in my days. It is now called White Point Nature Preserve & Education Center. The military wanted to build housing on it. The soccer people wanted to put soccer fields on it. Ken Malloy wanted a state park. I spent many hours helping him in his efforts. I left for Northern California before the issues were finally settled. Today most of the land is preserved with only a small portion used for military housing. It's preserved as long as it doesn't fall into the Pacific Ocean. That was always a problem in the area. This is the picture hanging on my wall.

This is a Google Earth picture today. Note the road in the lower right side.

It's good to see that there has been continued success in the battles of the 80's. The name Ken Malloy came up a couple of times in this post. Ken was a mentor and friend to all that met him including myself. He was an example of what one man can accomplish through sound reasoning, gentle persuasion and persistence. Ken passed away in 1991. This picture, taken in 1985, is me congratulating Ken for being chosen to receive the 1985 Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Conservation Award for his efforts to preserve White Point.

Well enough with the past. Based on the title this is not a post about my past life. On May 23rd I received another email from Audubon California. I'm beginning to warm up to them. Featured in this email was Keith Hansen with the headline of Why Keith Hansen cares about global warming.

Hummingbirds are the reason wildlife artist Keith Hansen cares about global warming. His studio in Bolinas attracts numerous Allen's Humingbirds and Rufous Hummingbirds. To help protect the birds he loves, he embarked on a carbon-free big year.

I have a few books that are illustrated by Keith Hansen. Two of them are Birds of Yosemite and the East Slope by David Gaines and California Bird Species of Special Concern published jointly by Western Field Ornithologists and the California Department of Fish and Game.

Keith Hansen's carbon-free Big Year was done in 2010. You can find a list of locations and birds he found on his blog.

So count them. That's two emails from Audubon California inside of a year that featured “green” birding. There are other birders out there that feel the same way as me. My ego would like to think that I have had a small part in those emails. You might recall from the top of this post that the original California Audubon article stated…”there is a growing number of birders who are exploring less carbon-reliant ways to enjoy the wonders of nature.” As followers of this blog will note, I wrote to Brigid McCormack, Executive Director of Audubon California last October about my disappointment with Audubon not doing enough about encouraging birders to change the way they bird. You can read my Dear Brigid letter here.