Robert "Roy" van de Hoek Reports on the Natural History of Los Angeles ...

Ballona Institute
Los Angeles, California
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Whittier Narrows Recreation Area:
Natural History Notes


by
Robert "Roy" van de Hoek
Biogeographer, Environmental Historian, and Conservation Biologist
Ballona Institute

322 Culver Boulevard, Suite 317
Los Angeles (Playa del Rey) California 90293
roy@naturespeace.org
roy@ballonainstitute.org
robertvandehoek@yahoo.com

March 12, 2010

Whttier Narrows Recreation Area, owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but unfortunately leased and managed by Los Angeles County, deserves to be owned and managed by the U.S. National Park Service. Let us boot the negligent military engineers out of this wildlife area and give the rangers and naturalists of our National Parks a chance to show all of us the infinite possibilites of nature at Whittier Narrows.

Whittier Narrows Recreation Area is located in California within the County of Los Angeles, adjacent to several cities, namely South El Monte, Montebello, Whittier, and the City of Industry. The natural history of Whittier Narrows Recraiton Area is interesting for many reasons. For example, there are many kinds of natural birds that use Whittier Narrows Recreation Area throughout the course of a year, from the smallest birds of the United States (hummingbirds) to some of the largest birds (hawks).

For example, I saw some special birds on March 10, 2010. Between 4:30pm and 5:30pm, at the end of the day, I observed and counted 16 American White Pelican. I saw a male Belted Kingfisher that was very full of voice in its calls. I saw a Double-crested Cormorant flying by with nest twigs in its beak, and it alighted in a Eucalyptus tree with many other cormorants. I saw several Great Blue Heron in breeding plumage. And there were many American Coot in Legg Lake. Seeing an American Osprey flying, searching for a fish in Legg Lake was a real joy too. As I departed away from Legg Lake toward my car, I hear the beautiful song of the American Robin. The melodious song filled the air with beauty. And then I saw the robin, with the sun rays on its gorgeous reddish-orange breast, hence the name of "Robin Red Breast" which amazed me to see a beautiful bird singing a beautiful song.

Another interesting aspect of the natural history of Whttier Narrows Recreation Area is the extremely clayey-silty soil, which supports a very rare mole, not found elsewhere in the lowland plain of Los Angeles County, now largely urbanized. Through atural selection and evolution over millions of years, this unique mammal has virtually lost the need for its eyes, because this mole burrows through the loose clayey soil, where there is no light. Thus, the eyes are quite reduced in size. The name of this unique mammal is the Broad-footed Mole, which scientists and natural historians, and naturalists know as Scapanus latimanus.

In fact, there are so many more interesting facets to the natural history of Whttier Narrows Recreation Area, it seems important to write about it for the public on this web page. In the future, this web page will explore more about the natural history of Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, such as its fascinating biodiversity, from lichens to trees, and even frogs. Did you know that there is even a rare native mole that lives in the soil amongst the picnic areas and play areas, around the trees, and generally around all of Legg Lake? This rare mole is not acknowledged by the government, nor given protection or treated sensitively by the public or public agencies? Why is this very special mammal around Legg Lake ignored at Whittier Narrows Recreation Area?

As you can see from these brief natural history notes, Whittier Narrows Recreation Area is indeed unique and magical for the diversity of birds, as well as a mystery not only to you but to many residents and citizens of Los Angeles County, so much so, that there really is a need for us to know more about this special park. But for now, this brief essay by this eclectic natural historian, naturalist and scientist of Los Angeles will have to suffice. Stay tuned and revisit this web page in the future to learn more about the natural history of Whttier Narrows Recreation Area, namely its flora and fauna and habitat.