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California Condors still battling DDT from years ago…

Recent eggshell fragments retrieved from reintroduced California Condors have appeared abnormally thin – according to senior wildlife bioligist, Joe Burnett with the Ventana Wildlife Society. The discovery raised a disturbing question: whether or not DDT – the deadly pesticide that has been banned in the United States since 1972 – could produce reproductive problems in Condors nearly four decades later.

Ventana biologists have been comparing the thickness of the eggshells recovered from the Big Sur birds with those produced by the Southern California condor flock that lives many miles from the coast. The Southern California birds do not feed on marine mammals, and their eggs are normal. Mr. Burnett says that preliminary results from Ventana’s study suggest that the Big Sur eggs are “substantially thinner” than those from the inland birds, and that early indicators point to DDT as the principal cause of the thinning.

The DDT that pollutes the Palos Verdes Shelf originated half a century ago with the Montrose Chemical Corporation. At the time, Montrose was the world’s largest producer of what was once hailed as a “miracle pesticide.” According to Carmen White, the Environmental Protection Agency’s remedial project manager for the site, in the 1950s and ’60s Montrose discharged its untreated DDT waste directly into the Los Angeles County Sanitation District’s sewer system. An estimated 1,700 tons of DDT settled onto the seabed, where it continues to contaminate Pacific Coast waters. The E.P.A. has declared the area a Superfund site, and Ms. White is coordinating a plan to cover the most contaminated parts with a cap of sand and silt in 2012.

More from NY Times article.

 

Posted by on November 15, 2010 in Photography Adventures

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South Coast Botanic Garden

I visited the South Coast Botanic Garden early Thursday morning with Patrick Santinello. Our mission was to find the Thick-billed Kingbird that has been wintering here along with the Varied Thrushes recently seen in the pines of Yarrow Rd. We arrived just after 7AM to find out that the garden does not actually open to the public until 9AM! Fortunately a very nice ranger graciously allowed us to enter before everyone else. Her remarks as we left were, “You’ve got the whole place to yourselves!” We went straight to the lake where the Thick-billed Kingbird was being regularly seen. We spent 20 minutes listening and looking for the TBKI but no luck. We had a juv. Sharp-shinned Hawk fly by while we were observing a Fox Sparrow on the ground.

We decided to head over to the pines to find the Varied Thrushes. Again, after 30-45 minutes of searching we found nothing. 🙁 We did however stumble upon a female Purple Finch! They are irregular but sometimes come down from the mountains in winter, along the coast. Lots of Warbler activity, mostly Yellow-rumped (with the males starting to get their beautiful breeding colours). Also had a few Townsend’s, Orange-crowned, Yellow and lots of Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

Feeling a bit bummed that we still hadn’t found any of our target birds we decided to try our luck for the Kingbird back at the lake. After a few minutes, lo’ and behold I heard the definite call of the TBKI! I turned around and saw it flying up in the air and landing back in a nearby tree. We rushed over there and spent 15 minutes watching and photographing it. A little later we heard the cry of 3-4 Red-shouldered Hawks playfully circling over the trees above us. A juv. Cooper’s hawk and Red-tailed Hawk were also in the mix with a couple of American Crows that were not happy at all they were treading on their “turf”.

Thick-billed Kingbird
Thick-billed Kingbird

Gadwall
Gadwall

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

Oh, and before I forget. Some images from Wednesday afternoon…Dick Barth located a Brant at the Ballona Creek mouth that morning. I’ve been trying to get better photos of Brant for quite a while now so I decided to go look for it. No such luck. The US Coast Guard/Army were in the middle of dredging the sand out of the channel. So much for any hopes of finding a Brant there!! I did find a very nice adult Glaucous-winged Gull along with a 1st year bird with no manners!


Glaucous-winged Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull

Glaucous-winged Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull

Another treat was a Brandt’s Cormorant that was practically following me around. I kept moving backward since I couldn’t fit the entire bird in my lens, only to have it continue walking toward me. This went on until a large poodle decided to try and make friends with him. The Brandt’s Cormorant did not oblige and after a couple of snaps the poodle continued along it’s way (unleashed by it’s owner, of course). The Cormorant didn’t seem to mind that much though.


Brandt's Cormorant
Brandt’s Cormorant

 

Posted by on February 20, 2009 in Photography Adventures

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