EGRETS, SEA LIONS, AND HERONS— WONDERS OF THE WETLANDS
As the 2017-2018 school season wraps up, the Havasi Wilderness Foundation has been busy meeting with students throughout Los Angeles County who have experienced the wonders of wilderness education in one of two outdoor venues. After a visit to the Malibu Lagoon, nearly 100 energetic students at Clover Elementary enthusiastically greeted HWF’s Founders Alex Havasi and Marilyn Fordney, and Communication Specialist, Lola West who paid a visit to their library to discuss their recent journey into the wilderness.
If you have not been following our latest blog adventures, let us tell you a bit about Malibu Lagoon.
Malibu Lagoon is comprised of 110 acres of wetlands, sandy beach, and a saltwater marsh that make up the habitat for an abundance of wildlife. Each year, over 200 other species of bird can be found pecking through the brackish waters in search of food. Meanwhile, below the water’s surface, hundreds of species of small fish and plankton try to avoid becoming a hungry bird’s next meal. As the tide recedes, a secret world of brightly-colored starfish, sea anemones, slugs, and snails is revealed and visitors can walk along the shore or balance on newly-exposed rocks to get a better look at the animals living inside of the tide pools. If you visit during the right season, the shores surrounding the lagoon might be crowded by dozens of sea lions!
As with most schools in Los Angeles, students who have limited exposure to such wild spaces get excited to share their experience from Malibu Lagoon. At Clover Elementary, dozens of tiny hands shot up in the air as Alex Havasi asked students what kinds of animals they saw at the wetlands. “Egrets, sea lions, and the great blue heron,” the kids began to reply.
The Snowy Egret is a medium-sized bird with an impressive wingspan, a magnificent frame, and bright- yellow feet. Though the Snowy Egret is very similar in form to its larger cousin, the Great Egret, their hunting styles could not be more different. The more animated Snowy Egret uses its brilliantly-colored feet to stir up surrounding waters and herd tiny aquatic animals before plunging its head in the water to capture its prey. Photographed below is one students depiction of a snowy egret as seen at the lagoon.
Swimming up to 25 mph., the California sea lion is among the fastest of any sea lion or seal found in the ocean. While they are considered slow to their predators (think sharks and whales), a sea lion’s speed offers an advantage when it is hunting for the fish, squid, and crustaceans that it likes to eat. Diving as far as 1700 feet to capture fish, sea lions are considered aquatic mammals, but when resting, breeding, birthing, or shedding their fur, these adorable creatures spend large chunks of time on shore to keep away from their finned predators.
Great Blue Heron
With a six-foot wingspan, the great blue heron is easily the largest heron in North America; It’s long legs, curved neck and slate-gray body can be found in a variety of freshwater and saltwater habitats including marshes like the Malibu Lagoon! A diverse diet of fish, reptiles, invertebrates, and small mammals allows the great blue heron to live within many different habitats. Unlike the egret who taunts its prey by moving its feet, the great blue heron stands still in shallow waters, patiently stalking their prey and waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike with its sharp bill.
It is a joy to be able to connect with students who rarely have a chance to spend time in nature, and we are fortunate to be able to work with so many wonderful teachers and wilderness guides. A special thanks to Clover elementary teachers, Joyce Deutsch, Jackie Bonilla, Tara Lowery, and Jeff Olf for encouraging your students to explore the world around them. If you would like to support our work, please visit us online and make your tax-deductible donation TODAY!
After receiving a medal for wilderness achievement, students at Clover elementary shared beautifully drawn and thoughtfully written reports with us. Check out a few of these reports below!
As it came time to say goodbye, this diverse group of students wished a kindhearted ‘thank you’ in a number of different languages.
谢谢 Xièxiè (Mandarin) Спасибо Spasibo (Russian) Tack (Swedish) Asante (Swahili) Gracias (Spanish)