The LA Times published an encouraging report over this past weekend on the recent discovery of nesting Burrowing Owls in a ghost-town close to Los Angeles’ International Airport (LAX). The article, “This LAX-adjacent ghost town is now ‘priceless coastal real estate’ for rare owls” by Louis Sahagun, highlights a success brought by many years of focused restoration at the LA Dunes Preserve. This area used to be filled with houses in the Surfridge Community, until the land was acquired by Los Angeles World Airports to make way for the steady stream of jets taking off and landing at LAX. According to the article, Burrowing Owls are not the only species who have begun to thrive in this unlikely location - the federally protected California Gnatcatcher, Blainville’s Horned Lizard, along with legless lizards, have also made an appearance. In fact, there have been discussions in the scientific community about re-introducing species, such as the critically-endangered Pacific Pocket Mouse, to this area as well. Volunteers have been diligently removing invasive plant species every month for the past three years, and their efforts have allowed native vegetation to take root, making the habitat even more suitable for native wildlife like burrowing owls. Dr. Peter Bloom, who was interviewed for the article, stated that “the dunes have become critical to the survival of the species”.
In a related news story published in the OC Register yesterday, Burrowing Owls have also begun to appear at Fairview Park in Costa Mesa. The article, “Long Absent Burrowing Owls Are Popping Up In Costa Mesa’s Fairview Park”, follows Dr. Peter Bloom and biologist Barry Nerhus, as they catch and band two of the Fairview Park Burrowing Owls. Long-term plans for wetland restoration at the park are being discussed, which would likely increase the chances of Burrowing Owls coming back to this area in years to come.
If you happen to spot one of these banded owls (or any banded or tagged bird in the United States), please report your sighting to the Bird Banding Laboratory online at www.reportband.com. The Lab will keep track of your encounter, and will forward the information you provide directly to the researcher who banded or tagged the bird. You will also receive a certificate of appreciation for your efforts!
(Photo: the lone Burrowing Owl at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, banded by Pete Bloom)