Nature Gardens at NHM: LA's Urban Nature

Showing posts with label : Sam Easterson

August 31, 2012

What's that Bird of Prey Eating?

We've had another visitor at the pond. Since it's a bird, Kimball was kind enough to write this week's post!


"Cooper’s Hawks, Accipiter cooperii, such as this adult, have frequently been recorded by Sam Easterson’s “camera traps” as they drink and bathe at the Natural History Museum’s North Campus pond.  These hawks are among the most conspicuous vertebrate predators in urban Los Angeles – a significant turn of events given that this species was on the National Audubon Society’s “Blue List” as recently as the 1970s.  The “Blue List” – a sort of early warning list of potential endangerment – included species “suffering population declines or range diminution in all or parts of their range.”  Cooper’s Hawk populations have rebounded spectacularly in part because of reductions in the use of...

August 17, 2012

We've Got Flying Neon Toothpicks in Our Pond

I admit it! I totally stole the title of this week's blog from my Facebook friend John Acorn, aka The Nature Nut. To be specific, I gleaned this gem of a title from one of his books, Damselflies of Alberta: Flying Neon Toothpicks in the Grass.

Today, instead of taking lunch like a normal person, I went out to the pond with Kimball Garrett to survey for adult Odonates. Odo-what? I mean dragonflies and damselflies (the flying neon toothpicks), the jeweled predators of the sky.

Among other things, Kimball and I found damselflies for the first time. Yay! Here are some pictures of what we found:

The first ever damselfly to be found in the pond!
Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula

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May 10, 2012

Who's Visiting the Pond?

On the tails (mammal and bird tails that is) of last week's post, I thought I'd continue to focus your attention on our wonderful new pond. Sam Easterson has set up some of his trusty camera traps next to the waterfall to see who might be visiting the pond. Check out the following images to see what he has found so far.

 

 

 

Nighttime is busy at the pond!

 

 

 

 Stray cat...sorry, there aren't any fish in the pond yet
and no you can't eat them when there are!
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April 13, 2012

Hey People We've Got Baby Opossums

Remember back in December, when I said I'd let you all know if we had baby Virginia opossums, Didelphis virginiana? Well it's spring, and right on cue they're here! Sam Easterson's camera traps have caught the babies (we think there are three) on video over the last week, and although many people don't find opossum babies cute, there are a few of us here at the Museum that do. Check them out and make your own assessment.
 
Out for ride on Mom's back!
 
Here are some interesting facts about opossum babies.
  • The opossum gestation period is only 11-13 days.
  • When they are born, the babies are the size of a lima bean!
  • Female...

March 30, 2012

North Campus DIY

This week I've been working with Jared Nielsen, one of the Museum's Exhibit Technicians, who also happens to be a DIY (Do it Yourself) enthusiast. With his help we've managed to build and install two nest boxes and launch our first garden surveillance balloon!


Jared installing a nest box in the Shadow Garden

The other nest box in the Home Garden

The nest boxes we chose are made of PVC and designed to be particularly appealing to certain cavity nesting birds such as Western Bluebirds, Sialia mexicana.  These birds have been spotted in Exposition Park by Kimball Garrett, the Museum's resident ornithologist, and we hope they'll stick around to use our new nesting sites. The boxes...

March 16, 2012

Breaking and Entering: Squirrel Moves into Opossum Den

We have another new sighting for the North Campus. A California ground squirrel has been spotted using the opossum den located underneath one of our Museum sheds. So far it seems that both the opossums and the squirrels are sharing the space!

 

 

 

 

Sam Easterson's camera trap captures the first image!
 

This is what Jim Dines, our Mammalogy Collections Manager, has to say about them:

The California ground squirrel, as its name suggests, is common throughout California as well as the rest of the western U.S. Scientists know this rodent as Otospermophilus beecheyi (formerly known as Spermophilus beecheyi...


December 28, 2011

Opossums Love Tin Foil!

A few weeks ago, Sam Easterson followed a trail of tin foil and discovered the den of a Virginia opossum, Didelphis virginiana, underneath one of the Museum's storage sheds. Since then he set up camera traps around the den to see what was going on. This is what we found...

A night of tin foil escapades.
What on Earth are they doing with all the tin foil? Tin foil hats to ward off alien thought control maybe?


All kidding aside, it seems that this opossum has extracted a tasty morsel from inside the shiny package and is taking it down into the den.



Afternoon stroll?
The next day, one of the opossums...

November 30, 2011

Scat: Owls and Opossums Oh My!

Mystery abounds in the North Campus, for who's been leaving scat under the footbridge? I discovered a vast array (about 10 pieces) of scat while I was searching for fungi a few weeks ago, and of course I snapped some pictures to try and identify our most recent visitor.
 

Who does this scat belong to?


My gut told me the scat belonged to either a Virginia Opossum,  Didelphis virginiana, or a Raccoon, Procyon lotor. To get a definitive answer I did two things. Firstly, I sent this picture to Jim Dines, the Museum's Mammology Collections Manager. Secondly, I put Sam Easterson on the project to set up a camera trap.

 

 

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September 23, 2011

Vaux's Swifts and Ghetto Birds

This past Monday a few of us embarked on a real urban nature adventure. We traversed the city streets of Los Angeles to witness one of the coolest nature spectacles I have ever seen in downtown Los Angeles, 6,500 Vaux's Swifts, Chaetura vauxi, spiraling into an old building shaft!

Ghetto bird and swifts share L.A.'s skyline alike!

According to Kimball Garrett, NHM's Ornithology Collections Manager, these swifts stop in L.A. during their spring and fall migrations to and from their breeding grounds in the Pacific Northwest and their overwintering sites in Mexico and Central America. While in L.A. they gorge themselves during the day on flying insects found in areas such as the L.A. river and Griffith Park, and roost at night in various shafts and chimneys around the city.

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September 12, 2011

Paper Wasps Sting Museum Taxidermist!

When Tim Bovard, the Museum's taxidermist, told me about getting stung by wasps on the fourth floor patio, I had to investigate, especially since I sometimes eat lunch up there. During a much needed afternoon break from my computer, I went in search of the offenders.

What I found on my afternoon foray were some large and impressive nests, definitely worthy of a blog entry. So of course I asked Sam if he would take pictures for me, and I went to work identifying them. 

Common paper wasp nest, Polistes exclamans

The species living on our patio are Common Paper Wasps, Polistes exclamans, which have a widespread distribution through much of the southern United States. These insects construct a papery nest from fibers they gather off dead wood or plant stems. Next time...