The true definition of hard work was introduced to me by my father who till this day has his own business in landscaping. As soon as I turned 6, every summer and weekends he would take me to The Santa Monica Mountains, where he had a client who owned a ranch in Malibu. The second I stepped foot on that ranch, I felt like the character Max from, Where the Wild Things Are. I was amazed by the peacocks, and the numerous trails that this land had. It expanded my imagination in ways that I can now say is a part of my life. My father had a crew of about 10-12 men who did fuel mod on this land which was roughly 8 1/2 acres. After witnessing their strategies, I soon became a part of their team.
In 2009 my older brother started working at Mountains Restoration Trust. At that time, I was working at a landscaping company. One day I asked him, “what is it that you do exactly?”, and as he was explaining it to me, I realized how interested I was on the topic, not only because the way he described it but it reminded me of how I fell in love with nature in the first place. Soon after that I took a chance and started volunteering by going with him to help weed whack certain sites. Shortly after that, MRT offered me a job. I started in 2010 and haven’t turned my back since.
I’ll never forget the first time I walked into the Masson House it was extremely scary, but then as I was walking through the kitchen and the living room my fears became into questions as I saw the historic pictures hanging on the walls, they caught my attention because I was drawn to every facial expression I saw on all of the pictures. All of the faces were serious and showed that they all had unique stories to tell. At that moment, I knew that MRT was more than just learning about plants. There was so much history and knowledge that came with this opportunity that I couldn’t wait to discover more about. This will be my 9th year at MRT, and you can consider me as one of those people who love what they do for a living
When I first came to Los Angeles in 1983 I was a little skeptical about whether I would ever feel at home in such a sprawling metropolis. I rented a small apartment in Santa Monica and went for long bike rides along the coast in order to get outdoors and find a connection to nature. I certainly loved the sandy beaches, but I found them way too crowded. Then one day a friend of mine asked me to go hiking with her in Topanga State Park and that was all it took to make me fall in love with Los Angeles.
Before that hike I had not realized what an extraordinary resource the Santa Monica Mountains were. My focus had been on my job in a downtown law firm and getting to the beach whenever I could. The Santa Monicas were just these hills in the distance. But once I started exploring them I realized just how rugged and wild they are.
After spending many a Saturday hiking in the Santa Monicas I decided I wanted to live closer to the mountains so my husband and I moved with our two young sons to Monte Nido. Our children grew up exploring the creeks and trails of the Santa Monica Mountains and to this day we all spend as much time as we can enjoying our nation’s largest urban wilderness park.
Shortly after we moved to Monte Nido I discovered there was a nonprofit land trust called Mountains Restoration Trust which had recently launched its Commemorative Oaks program in Malibu Creek State Park. I signed up for one of MRT’s volunteer days to remove invasive non-natives and help plant thousands of oak trees. There I met Jo Kitz who taught me so much about the extraordinary ecosystem of the Santa Monica Mountains. She gave me such a deep appreciation for just how productive this ecosystem is and how important it is to protect it.
In 2010 I was invited to join the Board of MRT and I eagerly accepted. To me the Santa Monica Mountains are what make Los Angeles special.
“Jo was a champion for science, conservation and restoration. Each and every time we talked science she immediately understood why it was important and asked how she could support more of it. She was quick to use science to defend the efforts of MRT and to provide further protections for the Preserve. She was a true eco-warrior.” – Lee Kats, Biology professor, now Provost at Pepperdine University and MRT Board Member
It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of MRT’s long-time dedicated Program Manager and Co-Director, Jo Kitz. She was 86. Jo joined MRT in 1989 and managed oversight of the Cold Creek Canyon Preserve, and other MRT lands. She worked on development of the Cold Creek Conservation Plan with the CA Coastal Conservancy, and MRT’s Commemorative Oaks Program at Malibu Creek State Park where “her” trees are now flourishing and of healthy size. She worked ceaselessly and physically, leading to her nickname, the ‘Intrepid Weed Warrior.’ Jo’s lifelong passion for the environment manifested itself through over 17 years of activism and conservation even before she joined MRT. She worked with the Sierra Club Task Force, became a founding member of the California Invasive Plant Council (CAL-IPC), and in 1994 was named a Fellow of the California Native Plant Society, the highest honor bestowed upon members of CNPS. Jo was also a Board Member for the Santa Monica Trails Council and helped create the annual Santa Monica Mountains Trails Day. The culmination of her tireless dedication to the environment led her to being named State Assembly Member Fran Pavley’s Women of the Year in 2004. Jo was an incredible friend, mentor, and colleague to many of us at MRT and we stand in tribute to this remarkable woman.
Wearing fishing waders out in the middle of Medea Creek in Oak Park has allotted me multiple encounters with the locals, and the one thing I’ve learned from all of those interactions is that no one knows exactly what I am doing out there.
Perhaps there needs to be a scene set for this situation….picture a man wearing long sleeves in chest high Orvis waders with multiple items hanging from him with carabiners and string, a bucket under one arm, latex gloves beneath work gloves, all in an environment that is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Picture this strange creek man pulling metal baskets out of the water and inspecting them (for what no one is sure), then putting dog food into them and shoving them back into the water. I would imagine that for those walking on this trail every day, such a sight would raise an eyebrow and perhaps warrant an explanation. This is especially true if you are a person with an appreciation for nature and see this creek person as a potential threat to your natural landscapes. You may ask yourself, “Who is this person? What are they doing in the creek? What are those baskets? Why are there so many? Whom does he work with?”
Throughout the almost 3 years that I have worked at Mountains Restoration Trust, I have had the privilege of managing countless crayfish removal volunteer events. In 2017 alone I worked with over 1,500 members of the public to remove crayfish from Medea Creek, and because of that I am no stranger to debunking myths about my work. One memorable encounter with a local resident occurred while one of the biologists in our team was removing crayfish beside a culvert. A man stopped to ask him what purpose he had in the area. Why was he here and why was he tampering with the wildlife? The crayfish where there, he said, and now have a purpose. They had a job. The job in question was to eliminate mosquito larvae and reduce incidence of disease such as West Nile Virus. This is not the case, the biologist explained. The presence of crayfish will almost surely increase the population of mosquitoes. Why and how does such a correlation exist? The answer is that crayfish (who do not eat mosquitos) eat the native tree frogs and dragonfly larvae (who do eat mosquitos).
I had another memorable encounter with an oak park family that reinforced these common misconceptions with my work. The pair stopped us and inquired as to whether or not “the baskets” were ours. We indicated that they were ours and pointed out that these were not “baskets” but traps, and traps for crayfish. The boy responded that he and his dad came down to the creek to open up the traps and free the crayfish. After exchanging shocked glances with my associate, we quickly asked the boy his reason why. Again, it was because they were believed to eat mosquitos. Then he hit us with a more existential reason: crayfish have existed in these creeks for many years, don’t they belong there? Summoning my best young person logic, I told him that even though they have been here for a while, that does not necessarily constitute automatic membership. Native species are critical to the environment because they provide a service – such as the native tree frogs and dragonfly larvae keeping the mosquito population down – but invasive species that exist in our habitats do not provide a service.
Needless to say, I give lessons in stream ecology quite often. And while at times it is difficult to explain what this “creek man” is doing, I take great pleasure in teaching locals about their environment and restoring our Santa Monica mountain habitats. I encourage everybody to come to our volunteer events to experience and learn from the ecology of their backyards and perhaps become a creek person themselves!
Schlais Brings Community, Environmental Science and Operational Experience
CALABASAS, Calif.– Mountains Restoration Trust (MRT) announced that D. Ezekiel Schlais has been named the organization’s new Executive Director, effective August 9. 2018.
MRT’s Board of Directors Vice President, Dr. Robert Wayne, on behalf of the MRT board, stated “After an exhaustive search, we are proud to name Ezekiel Schlais as Executive Director. Schlais brings an experienced environmental science background, a wealth of operational experience, and a lifelong passion for nature to MRT. We are confident that Schlais will elevate our acquisition, restoration, scientific and educational efforts in the Santa Monica Mountains. He is the right leader as MRT embarks on its next chapter with renewed focus, a supportive community, and an incredible team. Together, we will continue to restore our local mountains’ ecological fortune.”
Schlais has extensive experience leading and innovating environmental communities, partnerships and projects. He has guided a number of institutions through pivotal transitions and has frequently worked with underperforming organizations to affect positive change. Schlais is known for building inclusive cross-industry communities that deliver meaningful environmental solutions. As the Head of Strategic Initiatives for UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES), examples of his community-science partnerships include: launching a high school learning platform, creating a coalition of sustainable business leaders, cultivating the funds to establish the first university diversity center in green science, managing an annual $1M+ Gala, and playing an integral role to inaugurate the Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award. Prior to IoES, Schlais served as Vice President of Origination with The Gores Group, where he sourced and managed complex acquisition opportunities. Schlais has worked with various environmental organizations and conservation science teams, including the Placer Land Trust, The Sierra Nevada Conservancy, Pepperdine and U.C. Davis.
“I cannot imagine a more important or exciting time to join MRT,” said Schlais. “We are well-positioned to foster a community-driven environmental renaissance in the Santa Monica Mountains. With an accomplished 37-year legacy in acquisitions, restoration, science and education and with a second-to-none staff, MRT is primed to expand our connections across diverse communities and to deliver local-to-global resource solutions in the face of climate change. This Executive Director role is the perfect opportunity to combine my industry experience and passion for ecology, which examines the interdependence of organisms to one another and their physical surroundings.”
Schlais holds a Master of Business Administration from the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University and a Bachelor of Science in English from Seaver College at Pepperdine University. He has lived in the Santa Monica Mountains since 2000 and currently lives in Malibu with his partner Julian and their dog Chance. You can most often find Ezekiel running the 500+ miles of trails available in the Santa Monica Mountains.
It is a beautiful summer morning in the Cold Creek Valley. It isn’t hot yet, but by noon the temperature will be in the 90’s. Today, the mission is to water our Pepperdine restoration area (named for the organization that contracted the mitigation) off of Stunt Road in Calabasas. This site consists of over 500 native plants that are situated on upland slopes within MRT’s Cold Creek West Preserve. Planting began only last November so regular watering is crucial to pull these plants through the recent heat wave and the long summer drought. With high temperatures ranging from the 90’s to the 110’s, even the old established oaks in the Santa Monicas are having trouble. This site was chosen to restore a part of the Preserve that was used for a driveway before MRT obtained the property, which has subsequently become infested with invasive species such as black mustard, wild oat, ripgut brome, and Italian thistle. However, in order to water this area which can only be reached by foot, MRT installed an irrigation line that is accessible from an upper part of Stunt Road and flows through a fire hose down to our site over several rocky cliffs. As the water flows from the tank in the MRT work truck down to the auxiliary tank at the restoration site, I gaze at Calabasas Peak which rises to form the Northern boundary of the Cold Creek basin. To the west, Ladyface Mountain comes first with Conejo Peak visible in the misty background some 25 miles away. I can barely make out the two MRT restoration technicians down below at the site prepping for a day of watering, weeding, and the never-ending task of plant maintenance. In the picture accompanying this post, one can see the white water tank at the very bottom left with Adin Shy-Sobol, and the tiny dot that is Becca Kosugi making her way across the site just above and to the right. Although MRT was founded over 35 years ago in 1981, most of our vegetative restoration crew are relatively recent additions. We have employees with vastly diverse backgrounds and personal histories: from Biology to Mechanical Engineering to English degrees, from scientists to record store clerks, from fresh college grads to people looking for a new start after having been in the workforce. The common thread however, is a passion for the natural environment of Southern California and to restore it’s native beauty as best we can. With someone like Tom Hayduk (see last month’s newsletter for a column from Tom) in charge of the vegetative restoration work MRT does, it’s hard not to find beauty out here. From his hand planted “Elderberry Eden” site, to his tireless dedication tending the various MRT nursery sites, to his weekly educational volunteer events, Tom has personally improved a significant portion of the habitat in the Santa Monica Mountains. As one of the employees who has found this field after having been in the workforce for a while, I’m always excited when others choose to take the plunge and follow this path.
I am originally from the DC-Baltimore section of the east coast. When I graduated from tiny St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2008 with a BA in English, I was fairly clueless about what to do. The economy had just tanked and Washington DC was hit especially hard. The only “real” job I could find was a paralegal position at a foreclosure and bankruptcy firm in DC that represented major banks. Although it was miserable I kept pushing because I didn’t really have any other options, so when a friend asked me to move out to Los Angeles to help start a business, I jumped at the chance. Five years later, the business had been sold and I needed to find “real” work again. I returned to paralegal work, only to discover (surprise surprise!) that the only work I could find was fairly miserable law firms that needed help with things related to a struggling economy – corporate loss mitigation, debt collection, etc. As before, I took a job that I didn’t want because it was all that was available. After six months of paralegal work at an awful debt collection law firm, I was rescued by something I had never even considered possible: the federal government! The National Park Service in Thousand Oaks was offering internship positions in their restoration ecology department. Not only did I not have any experience, but I hardly knew what restoration ecology even was. Even so, the people at NPS loved my enthusiasm and decided to give a 29 year old paralegal with an English degree and no scientific experience a chance. I absolutely loved it from day 1; native plant nursery work, invasive species mitigation, interpretive talks with visitor groups, and botanical monitoring all became part of my weekly routine, and I went from dreading the alarm clock every morning to being excited about having a new adventure in the Santa Monicas. After concluding my internship at NPS, I was welcomed at MRT. Although the plethora of sites over several large preserve areas were intimidating at first, I quickly learned to love all of MRT’s land and projects. The La Sierra Preserve holds an endangered species (Lyon’s pigmy daisy, Pentachaeta lyonii) and a wealth of other rare native plants such as various Calochortus/Mariposa lilies (Calochortus albus, C. catalinae, C. clavatus, and potentially C. plummerae), spiny tarweed (Centromadia pungens), and a beautiful grove of black cottonwood trees. The Cold Creek Preserve is equally amazing with its own endangered species (the Santa Susanna tarweed, Deinandra minthornii) and several rare plant species including red shanks (Adenostoma sparsifolium), giant stream orchid (Epipactis gigantea), Fish’s milkwort (Polygala cornuta var. fishiae), splendid mariposa lily (C. splendens), and Indian warrior (Pedicularis densiflora). Our Cold Creek Preserve is unique in particular because its spring-fed waters are the highest water quality in the mountains, giving it the resources to support incredibly diverse and fragile habitats. This gives MRT not only a precious resource, but a crucial responsibility to manage and protect these lands. I won’t say the work is easy, and I won’t say that it doesn’t get hot/cold, wet/dry, windy/stifling out here, but every day is supremely worth it to myself and the rest of the crew because we believe in the work we are doing and we believe in MRT. I am so glad to have been welcomed in to this new field where I am excited to get to work. Every day in the Santa Monicas is an adventure – from thorns to snakes to secluded desert waterfalls – and I’m thrilled to call it home.
After a busy planting season, the MRT veg crew are now focusing on site maintenance for our restoration sites and other protected lands. Our current planting sites are at de Anza Park, Malibu Creek State Park, Headwaters Corner, Cold Creek High Trail and La Sierra Preserve. Since the end of the planting season, we have been catching up on our weed maintenance program by removing non-natives through weed-whacking and selective hand-weeding while avoiding the large-scale use of herbicides.
With multiple revegetation projects and others in development, the nursery has become the foundation of the program. The MRT nursery has been operational for almost nine years. Our growing grounds are unique in many ways, one being that the nursery complex is spread out in five locations. The shadehouse at Headwaters Corner was our first nursery structure, built in 2009 by two Eagle Scout projects and used to store seed propagation flats. In May of 2010, we began to use the “April Rd greenhouse” located on State Park property above the old Ronald Reagan Ranch. This greenhouse stores many native collections and with its great light provides near optimal growing conditions for our native propagules.
In 2011 we got permission from State Parks to restore and occupy a large shade structure located behind the Malibu Creek State Park campground. The PVC structure that supports the shade cloth was re-glued at this time and at least twice since after winter storms. This shadehouse stores our one-gallons and treepots and is much cooler than the greenhouse in summer, although adversely colder in winter.
We are using the small greenhouse I installed in the backyard of my Canoga Park home to grow all our coast live oak, valley oak and scrub oak saplings, California bay laurel, hollyleaf cherry, coffeeberry chaparral yucca and other native collections. This greenhouse has found its niche to provide a safe place for these young trees, because there is no predation by mice or squirrels who, if given a chance, will steal every acorn sown in a tray overnight. Nursery Assistant Manager Betsey Scheets has also been growing natives in her backyard nursery, and provides a few species to supplement our stock, including blue-eyed grass, creeping snowberry and yerba buena.
In the nursery, we continue to propagate from seed, cuttings, division and salvage. As the nursery manager I am particularly proud of the modifications we have made in the past year to improve our seed propagation program. Although we will continue to sow seed in propagation flats, we have also found success in direct seeding into 2-inch x 7-inch liners (50 per tray) and sowing multiple species per pot, all common to the same habitat type. For example, we typically have been sowing different combinations of deerweed, golden yarrow, woolly aster and showy penstemon seed, all appropriate companion species for grassland habitat, then lightly cover this seed and sow purple needlegrass seed, cover again with light layer of soil and then compress soil. We then tightly wrap these trays with hardware cloth caging to prevent rodent damage and leave these trays in the greenhouse environment for optimal light and moisture to allow for natural seedling development. These liners can be planted directly into the ground or repotted to one-gallon pots. We have had great success with establishment of these plugs at a revegetation project at Malibu Creek State Park, with 300 plantings without any fatalities. Another key part to this successful planting has been the use of coco disks installed over the watering basins and wrapped around the neck of the protection cages to greatly increase the moisture retention in the soil.
On Thursdays I work with Betsey and our April Road greenhouse volunteers from 9am-2pm to complete all our propagation and repotting work for the week. Long-time volunteers include Karen Cleaver, Virginie Snyder, Juliet Montgomery, John Ulloth, Phil Peck, Michael Hart, and new volunteers Chad Lee and Ben Schmit. These volunteers are dedicated to the work and become skilled as they gain experience with repotting and propagation methods, while enjoying the company and environment found in our greenhouse cathedral. I should add that this greenhouse also houses nesting birds, lizards, snakes, and pesty mice, with honeybees and yellow jackets, buzzing all about in search of moisture more so than plant nectar or human blood. If you would like to join our greenhouse crew, please send me a note of your interest.
I will be working with volunteers on June 30, July 14 and July 28 at the Cold Creek Valley Preserve to remove invasive species and collect native seed. This is a great opportunity to learn native plant and weed identification and much more while working and hiking in our valley preserve. Other upcoming volunteer veg events are scheduled for June 7 (at de Anza Park in Calabasas), July 14 at Potrero Creek in Newbury Park, and July 21 at Malibu Creek State Park. All events occur from 9am-12pm. Please sign up here.
We are a non-profit organization who have dedicated ourselves as stewards of the Santa Monica Mountains. We are caretakers of the land, preserving its natural beauty for future generations.It’s a daunting task for sure. The eco-system seems so fragile. How can it survive the assaults of pollution, invasive species, development, and climate change?
We won’t pretend to have all the answers, but we seek out and provide opportunities to be part of the solution. We believe in a multi-faceted approach that includes all parties and points of view, working together towards a holistic understanding of the human role in the environment.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “BRING BACK THE STREAMS”?
We are proud to have started a wide variety of projects, from land acquisition and trail building to woodland and aquatic restoration. What unites all of these projects are the streams, which run from the tops of the mountains out to the sea.
Streams and creeks are the lifeline of the mountains, like the veins in our body. They nourish the entire organism. They can become riddled with plaque choking the circulation — trash, waste material, invasive species, and other forms of pollution. To have healthy mountains, with vibrant flora and fauna, it is necessary for the water to flow, Native plant species on the banks of these waterways help support local native wildlife, allow for the frogs and the newts to propagate, and for the fish and the birds to reestablish themselves.
By bringing back the streams, we revitalize our native stream ecosystem of the Santa Monica Mountains. One creek, one stream at a time.
WE CAN DO THIS, BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP
Dry Canyon Creek is a success story in our own backyard. Through the hard work of our staff, consultants, volunteers, and generous donors, we have transformed the headwaters of the Los Angeles River from a weed-choked dumping ground to a healthy, vibrant environment. Along with the regrowth of native plants, indigenous critters are finally moving back home, including frogs.
Frogs are the ecological equivalent of canaries in the mine. All over the planet, their diminishing numbers have been alarm bell warning us of dangers to our environment.
Here in the Santa Monica Mountains, our Bring Back the Streams! campaign plans to intensify existing efforts to rid the creeks of one of the biggest threats — the invasive red swamp crayfish from Louisiana.
Call them crayfish, crawfish, or crawdads, these alien invaders are hazardous to the health of our streams and dangerous for aquatic wildlife populations. They make snacks out of frogs’ eggs and baby newts. While they’re around, amphibians don’t have a chance! They have no natural predators here in Southern California. Unless we step in.
We are the people who use the mountains for recreation, for solitude, for fresh air. We are the people who thrill to see animals in the wild, who photograph the views. We, the people who build our homes close to nature, who study the wild flowers and watch the birds, who shut down our laptops on a Saturday afternoon and take our kids for a hike.
One stream at a time. It is possible, and it can be done.
We are trapping and removing the crayfish, the same way our great-grandfathers in the old days used to do it. One by one, we pull traps from the creeks, manually removing hundreds of thousands of crayfish from the waterways. With our naturalists and biologists, volunteers from local communities go on trapping expeditions in Malibu and Las Virgenes Creeks almost every week, making a huge difference in the native amphibian population.
We intend to expand this effort to include other creeks and streams. Part of that plan includes the acquisition of small parcels of land along Cold Creek and La Sierra Creek where a number of small feeders and tributaries are located. Homebuilders are included in these discussions so that thoughtful consciousness occurs in determining new sites.
MOUNTAINS RESTORATION TRUST IS TAKING UP THE MANTLE…
…because we can do this. Our plan seems compact in size, but we have our eye on the bigger picture. We are partnering with other conservation groups. We are teaming up with naturalists, educators, city officials, business leaders, and ardent nature lovers. With so many different perspectives and experience levels, we can focus on different strategies for different needs.
As a non-profit organization, we are committed to being transparent and accountable. As a non-governmental organization, we have the flexibility to be innovative in the actions we take to protect our natural environment. In a time when the federal and state governments are pushing fracking on federal lands thinking of selling protected parklands, we are making it our mission to protect the land in perpetuity.
Mark Twain’s favorite amphibian is the “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” a nickname for none other than the once plentiful California Red Legged Frog. With streams and creeks running unimpeded and restored to pre-polluted states, this local legend hops off the endangered species list and returns to the Santa Monica Mountains.
Please join our campaign and help us Bring Back the Streams!
iNaturalist is the brainchild of Nate Agrin, Jessica Kline, and Ken-ichi Ueda. They originally came up with the idea for the website during their senior master’s project at UC Berkeley in 2008. A few years later, the California Academy of Sciences became involved, and from there the site and corresponding phone app have blossomed into one of the biggest citizen science research platforms in the country. From hikers and mountain climbers to beach bums and birdwatchers, anyone can be a naturalist. All you have to do is take a photo and upload it for the waiting scientists and researchers in the iNaturalist community! Just like that, you can go from being a normal person to a Citizen Scientist – documenting data one photo at a time.
“If enough people recorded their observations, it would be like a living record of life on Earth that scientists and land managers could use to monitor changes in biodiversity, and that anyone could use to learn more about nature.” Scientists are gathering data every day about what species are living where, tracking population counts and migrations. iNaturalist is a social media platform designed to help researchers gather data in locations they might not normally be able to get to — private property, remote areas, etc. iNaturalist helps to record the biodiversity in areas, the various plant, insect, wildlife forms that exist within particular boundaries. The primary goal of the site, though, is to connect more people with nature and get them outdoors and excited about what could be living in more than just their backyard.
We make observations about the world around us every day, but do we really look at what we’re seeing? We might see a wildflower, and think “that’s pretty”. But did you ever think you could be the one to identify the species of that flower, and give the local science community a data point to add to their research? Snap a photo, upload it to an app, and get an ID on the bug or plant or animal that’s in the photo. Pretty easy, right? If you don’t know what species an insect, plant, or animal photo is when you upload it, don’t worry! Just give the most detail you can and label it as “insect”, “butterfly”, etc., and that will help direct scientists or hobbyist naturalists who are identifying other photos on the site. They’ll help ID it for you, and then that information will get sent to the California Academy of Science.
Anyone with a smartphone or a computer with access to the internet can use iNaturalist! The app for your phone is free on both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, just look for the little green bird icon. Download it, and get started on your first photoshoot as a citizen science – there’s a whole world of nature out there to explore!
The red tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is North America’s most common hawk, and can most certainly be found in the Santa Monica Mountains. They have pale bellies and dark back feathers. The tail is golden cinnamon colored, it’s not as bright red as most might think! They can be easily identified by their broad rounded wings and their shorter tails.
It is an opportunistic feeder. Its most common prey are small mammals, including squirrels and rabbits, but will also eat smaller birds, fish, or reptiles. Interestingly, the red tailed hawk and the great horned owl feeds off similar prey, so competition between the two birds often occurs during twilight when both species are out hunting. You can often find a red tailed hawk standing alone atop trees and telephone poles. When the hawks mate, they pair up and fly in large circles. The male will dive down and then climb back up to where it can perform the circling dance again to try and impress his mate. Then it will grab another bird with its talons and dive back down. Red tailed hawks may mate for life. Females can lay up to five eggs yearly and the eggs, incubated by both sexes, incubate for about four to five weeks. After the young hatch, they leave the nest about six weeks later.
Though they mate for life, red tailed hawks are not social creatures. They won’t hunt in populated areas, like a Coopers Hawks or a sharp-shinned hawk. They favor open fields and mountain habitats, like our very own Headwaters Corner. Mountains Restoration Trust staff have spotted quite a few red tailed hawks circling our property, likely hunting small mammals like squirrels that hide out in our trees.
Want to know more about these graceful predators? Check out the resources below!
“Red-Tailed Hawk.” National Geographic Photo Ark, National Geographic, 11 Nov. 2010, www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/r/red-tailed-hawk/.
“Red-Tailed Hawk.” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2015, www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-tailed_Hawk/id.
“Raptors of California.” California Department of Fish and Wildlife.Gov, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2016, www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Birds/Raptors.