Archive | June, 2014

Marine Mammals

Common Dolphin

Common Dolphin

Southern California is home to over 200 different mammals. Within driving distance, we can reach the desert, the mountains and even forests, getting us closer to the local wildlife. We’re also fortunate to be near the coast, which exposes us to a whole other set of mammals; marine mammals. Marine mammals are similar to other mammals, like having warm blood, giving live birth, secretion of milk by females to their young. The only difference is that marine mammals have adapted to living all or part of their life in water.

In the United States, all of our marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and unfortunately, many of them are on the endangered species list.

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

The largest mammal in the world happens to be a marine mammal; a whale. If you’ve ever gone whale watching, hopefully you caught a glimpse of these enormous creatures. In California, we have the opportunity to see 5 types of whales: Humpback Whales, Orca Whales, Gray Whales, Blue Whales, and Fin Whales. The latter 3 are on the endangered species list.

Whales are known for migrating long distances. Gray whales migrate an incredible 12,000 miles round trip every year. They travel between their southern breeding grounds off Baja California, Mexico and their northern feeding grounds off Alaska. Whales feed in colder waters and stock up on food for their journey to warmer waters where they mate and give birth. They breed in warmer waters because the calves don’t have thick layers of blubber yet to protect them from colder waters.

Orca Whale

Orca Whale

For whales, a little discrepancy starts to grow when it comes to teeth, so let’s back up for a second. Whales are a part of the marine order Cetacea, which includes dolphins and porpoises. A lot of whales don’t have teeth, called baleen whales. They have bristle-like, brooms, in place of teeth that act as filters, catching smaller fish and sea creatures. Whales that have teeth fall into a suborder called, Odontoceti, which means toothed whale. Orca whales and dolphins are a part of this suborder and belong to the delphinidae family, making Orca whales, dolphins. A grey area builds because “Orca whales” are actually dolphins, and dolphins are apart of the suborder for “toothed whales,” so some scientists consider dolphins to be a type of whale, while other scientists do not.

Seals

Seals

Speaking of dolphins, in southern California you might see 2 types of dolphins – common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. These creatures are very intelligent, and have many strategies of getting food. One way is they follow behind big whales or boats and eat the fish that get tossed aside. Another way is hunting for prey in groups. They surround schools of fish and pack them in the center. They each take turns eating while the other dolphins prevent the fish from escaping. Another way is cornering the fish against coral, called “corraling,” and repeating the process described above.

Some marine mammals spend time on land. These are marine mammals from the pinniped order meaning “fin-footed, which is comprised of walruses, seals and sea lions. These semi-aquatic animals spend most of their lives in the water but go ashore to mate, give birth, and escape predators. Seals are divided into two families – otariidae and phocidae. Otariidae are the “eared seals” and sea lions, while phocidae are the “earless” or true seals. Most animals shed hair and skin throughout the year, but pinnipeds shed it all at once called molting. This process of shedding skin and hair also takes place on shore.

Sea Lions

Sea Lions

The slight differences between marine mammals is fascinating, where each adaptation leads to a different approach to survival. If you want to get a close look at some of these animals, try going on a whale watch tour, or visit our local Channel Islands.

Common Snakes of Southern California

Rattlesnake

Rattlesnake

A lot of people are scared of snakes. The way they slither on the ground, sticking out their long, split tongue, while making hissing sounds can be intimidating. However, how much of our fear is based on real life experience? Or how much of our terror may be due to the way snakes are depicted in movies and the media as aggressive, venomous creatures?

Snakes are naturally defensive reptiles, whose behavior is often misinterpreted as aggressive. This means a snake is more scared of you. In most cases, you are bigger, stronger, and more capable of winning a fight, so it is a natural instinct for a snake to be cautious around you. A snake would rather not engage with you unless it has to.

Gopher Snake

Gopher Snake

Even though most snakes will not attack you unless they feel threatened, it is still a wise choice to be cautious if you discover one on a hike, at the park, or in your yard at home. Some of the more common snakes you might see in southern California are rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, coachwhip snakes and garter snakes.

Snakes don’t generally live in your yard unless there is a reason to, like rodents. If you see one in your yard, the first thing you should do is make sure any children or pets are in the house, then try to identify it and determine if it is venomous. A more common venomous snake you might see is a rattlesnake. They are easier to identify then other snakes because of the rattle on their tail and the sound they make. Sometimes the rattle may be broken or missing, so in any case, don’t get too close. Also baby rattlesnakes might be a little harder to identify since their rattles aren’t very visible. Another way to identify them is by their triangular head and thin neck. If the snake is venomous, like a rattlesnake, you should call animal control to have it removed. Snakes help keep our rodent, bird and insect population in balance. So please don’t kill it.

Garter Snake

Garter Snake

Some non-venomous snakes you might encounter are gopher snakes. They have round heads, and are commonly misidentified as rattlesnakes because of the coloration of their skin. They also rattle their tail in a similar manner, but have no rattle. Coachwhip snakes love the grass, and are active day hunters. They are very thin, like a whip, hence the name. They are so thin that it can be hard to determine the head from the tail at a distance. They are extremely fast, but also non-venomous. Garter snakes are also common. Some people even have them as pets. They are mildly venomous but unable to kill humans.

Coachwhip Snake

Coachwhip Snake

If you’re out on a hike, it is important to be cautious of your surroundings. Always look ahead of you and where you are stepping. Avoid going off trail into bushes and places where it is harder to see a snake. Snakes are more active between April and October. On very hot days, they hide under rocks and in holes, so be aware of where you place your hands and feet. If a snake bites you, it is important to stay calm. A snake has two types of bites, a strike and a feeding bite. A “strike” bite is to let you know that you are too close and invading their area. A feeding bite will hold on. If bitten, try to identify the snake to know whether is venomous or not. If it is not venomous, it will probably hurt, but is more scary than anything else. If you are bitten by a venomous snake, you should get to a hospital as quickly as possible, but don’t start running. Running will increase your heart rate and speed up the venom through your blood. Try keeping the wound below heart level and wash the wound with water. Don’t try and suck out the venom with your mouth, or constrict the area by tying something around it. Sometimes a snake doesn’t release its venom when striking, but in any case, go to the hospital to be safe.

Snakes have a pretty bad reputation, but there really is no reason to be scared of snakes. If you stay away from them and watch your surroundings carefully, the chances of you getting bitten by a snake are small.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tippi Hedren’s Shambala–Haven for the Big Cats

LionBecause we annually contribute as a member to The Roar Foundation/Shambala Preserve for the big cats, Tippi Hedren, the President and Founder, told us about an upcoming theatrical production of interest. This one-night-only performance was on Saturday, June 7, so we decided to attend “Remembering the Ladies.”

It was a fabulous, knock-your-socks-off show at the Colony Theater in Burbank that starred singer Toni Morrell from Great Britain and her talented husband and Tigrismusical director of the show, David Dial. The show pays loving tribute to the legendary ladies of film, stage, comedy, and music through character impersonations and comedic humor by Toni. Captivating on-screen images were used throughout. The Hitchcock blondes were a segment of the show and tied into that was a film of the big cats by William Dow who is the photographer for the Shambala Preserve. It showed how well these wild animals look because of the care received at Shambala.

TigerAs a surprise, there were many celebrities in the audience, such as Loni Anderson who got up and gave David Dial a big hug. Toni introduced many of the celebs–Shirley Jones and her hubby Marty Ingels, Louis Gossett, Jr., Linda Gray, Kristy McNichol, Ann Jeffreys to name a few. Even the famous hairdresser to the stars, Jose Eber, wearing a cowboy hat attended the show.

What we came away with after experiencing this event is that we got to hold on to the glamour and sentimentality of yesterday that is so difficult in today’s world. We saw and heard what these legendary ladies have left us to remember forever. And last but certainly not least is what Tippi Hedren has contributed by establishing Shambala to help save the wild cats that others have neglected and mistreated.

For more details about the Shambala/The Roar Foundation, go to www.shambala.org

Havasi Wilderness Foundation

Drought Resistant Plants

Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro Cactus

We see plants every day. Whether in a home garden, on sidewalks, or the local mountain areas, they’re everywhere, and are an essential element to our earth’s eco-system. Different plants live in different areas of the world, largely dependent on factors such as exposure to the sun, temperature, moisture and soil composition. Some areas are colder, have more moisture in the air, or higher annual rain fall, while perhaps other areas can be more dry or reach hotter temperatures, making climate an important factor when determining a plant’s survival. In areas where there is less rain fall, and hotter weather, plants have to be more drought resistant. Drought resistant plants have different features that help them endure the aforementioned weather conditions.

California Poppies

California Poppies

Plants work together. They are a community. Most plants you see are native to the area or have adapted over time to the region. In dry areas, where water is harder to come by, plants share their resources and cycle the moisture among themselves. This process can become difficult when weeds grow within the community because they don’t share.

Drought resistant plants that have adapted to living in dry areas, are generally called xerophytes. One type of xerophytes are succulents. The definition of a succulent depends on whether or not you are including the roots into the equation. Succulents are generally described as plants that have thick, or fatty leaves and stems that help them to retain water. Cacti are the most common and popular succulent. If the roots of the plants are brought into the definition, then it would include geophytes. Geophytes are plants that have underground storage structures in their roots that help retain water. They sit on bulbs, corms and tubers that protect their water supply from herbivores.

In areas that don’t get a lot of rain, or where plants have to go long periods without rain, drought resistant plants still manage to get water. In coastal areas, these drought resistant plants get their moisture from the morning fog, and in mountain areas, they get moisture from clouds. Plants that thrive in these weather conditions have special characteristics that help them survive.

Drought Resistant PlantsTake notice of the small or divided leaves of the Silver Lupin, or the waxy coating on the Sugar Sumac. Those features along with plants with hairy leaves help the plants to retain or reduce water loss during transpiration. Transpiration is when water evaporates from the plants leaves and gets released back into the atmosphere. Because water can be scarce in the desert and hotter areas, some plants that retain large amounts of water need to protect themselves from animals. Sometimes the plant leaves are prickly and have thorns like many cactus and the Coastal Prickly Pear seen above. Other ways plants might protect themselves is by growing in high, difficult to reach areas or staying camouflaged. Some might even be poisonous like poison oak, eucalyptus and milkweed.

Milkweed

Milkweed

Plants also have a way of protecting themselves from the hot sun. Unlike humans and animals, who can easily sit under the shade on a hot day, plants are stuck where they are. Too much sunlight can damage plant cells. When temperatures get too high, plant cells release unstable and highly reactive compounds. When this compound builds up to a certain point inside the cell, the plant triggers alarm signals that release heat-shock proteins that help neutralize the compound.

Drought resistant plants are great for home gardens. We all want a beautiful garden, but perhaps don’t have the time to water plants as frequently as some plants may require. Drought resistant plants require less maintenance, reduce your water bills, and also help support water conservancy. Drought resistant plants also come in a stunning variety of species and colors that can really brighten up your home. As you can see, plants are intriguing organisms, whose complexity is reflected in their beauty—beauty that has also adapted in many ways to extreme climate and geography conditions.

A Special Presentation by Havasi Wilderness Foundation at the Ventura County Bird Club

VC-Bird-Club-Flyer

Green Iguana

Green Iguana

We want to invite you to a special presentation, “Costa Rica Wildlife Adventures” on Thursday, June 26th at 7:00 pm at the Ventura County Bird Club’s monthly meeting. During this presentation, we will take you on a visual journey into some of Costa Rica’s rain forests and cloud forests and identify many common and rare bird species and other animals of these unique ecosystems.

Golden-Hooded Tanager

Golden-Hooded Tanager

Costa Rica, a country in Central America, is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island.

During this presentation, we will take you through some of these rain forests and explore the region’s diverse and exotic wildlife including the many species of birds.

Three-Toed Sloth

Three-Toed Sloth

The Ventura County Bird Club is a nonprofit organization founded in 1980 to promote and educate members and the public of proper care for all birds. It is a bird rescue organization. The Club strives to keep members informed of the latest news about birds. Each month, the Club presents an educational program at their general meeting. You do not have to be a member to attend this presentation: Everyone is welcome.