Vaux swifts swoop over the river

April 29, 2010 § 1 Comment

…and hole up for the night in groovy downtown digs.

Creekfreaks! Friday Audubon will be docents for interested viewers of the Vaux Swifts who LA Times reports are hanging out in an abandoned chimney in downtown LA. They feed on insects above the LA River and then make their dramatic descent into the chimney for the night.  Recent articles note that they used to use other chimneys but those have been disappearing from the city.  The chimneys themselves are an urban adaptation for a bird that would normally use the hollows on old growth trees.  This is one of the largest west coast migrations of swifts, so having a rest stop and our humble LA River here is extremely important for the species!  (And readers, does anyone know if this mean that future downtown LA development would have to consider impacts to migratory birds, if a developer wanted to remove a chimney?)

Here’s Audubons’s announcement for the gathering:

On April 30, join the Audubon Center at Debs Park and the Los Angeles Audubon Society in Downtown LA to witness an urban natural phenomenon: A “swoop” of Vaux’s swifts. Stopping by LA on migration from points south, like Guatemala and southern Mexico, to points north like Canada and Alaska, these visiting swifts will roost in an old chimney in Downtown LA for the next few weeks.

This Friday gather with your fellow Angelinos on the top floor of the parking lot at 440 Broadway. Bring a picnic, binoculars, and something to sit on. Best viewing between 6:30 pm and 8:00 pm If driving, please park below the top level of the parking structure, so that there will be safe viewing from the top level (parking costs $3 on weekdays, $6 weekends). From the Red Line, you can access the parking lot from the Pershing Square Station by walking to Fifth and Broadway.

Staff from the Audubon Center at Debs Park will meet interested participants at the Highland Park Gold Line Station at 6:15 pm on April 30. Please bring your TAP card, or purchase a day pass.

More info here:

Finding the lost creek in your neighborhood

October 18, 2008 § 1 Comment


Compton Creek

Compton Creek

If you’re a Creekfreak, and you’ve not figured out where the water used to flow in your neighborhood yet, then this post is for you.  From 2001-2003 I mapped the old streams and wetlands of the LA area in Illustrator, and began to lay them out for public consumption.  And then got sucked into other projects.  So here they are, in all their imperfection – but quite legible if you are a map reader.  Just go to the side panel to the page labelled Find a former waterway or wetland near you!


These maps are based on 62,500 scale 1896-1906 USGS maps, 1888 Detail Irrigation Maps, and slightly informed by later 24,000 scale USGS maps.  The overlay maps are not definitive:  the 24,000 scale maps, circa 1919-1930s, show streams not indicated on the earlier, larger scale maps, while showing at the same time considerable stream and wetland losses to development.  In other words, I have a lot more drawing to do.

But this is about you, dear Creekfreak.  If you live in the following areas, you may find a creek or wetland on one of these maps in your neighborhood:

Eagle Rock     Glassell Park     Highland Park     Lincoln Heights     

Cypress Park     Pasadena     South Pasadena     Alhambra

Boyle Heights     East Los Angeles     Downtown     Echo Park     

Silverlake     East Hollywood     Hollywood Hills     Koreatown

Mid-City     West Adams     Culver City     Baldwin Hills

Cheviot Hills     Mar Vista     West Los Angeles     West Hollywood

Beverly Hills     Bel Air     Brentwood     Santa Monica

Venice     Marina del Rey     Inglewood     Hawthorne

Gardena  West Athens     Willowbrook     Watts    

Compton     South Gate     Lynwood     Vernon    

Maywood     Torrance     Carson     Lomita     Wilmington

Long Beach     San Pedro     Palos Verdes     


Happy searching!  And let us know what you think!

Rivers Lost to City

September 20, 2008 § 7 Comments

Click on image to enlarge article

I did a double take on this title.  Was this the Judith Lewis piece, Lost Streams of Los Angeles, featuring, among other things, my creekfreaky research and advocacy for LA’s buried streams?  

No, this is a 1924 Los Angeles Times article, a wistful and racially peculiar (to be charitable, we’ll call it naive) obituary to the streams that were being buried at that time.  While not making any strong environmental case for preserving these streams, the author nostalgically laments the decline of a more pastoral era, stating: “And so the romance of the city goes – the prosaic storm drains and high priced lots have run the alluring arroyos out of business.”  

The story also fills in this Creekfreak on a long-simmering mystery – the name of the creek that used to flow through Lafayette Park – Arroyo de la Brea (Tar Creek).  Worth noting the name, as there is a parking lot across the street from Lafayette Park that oozes tar to this day. If you’re into weird urban geology, ask the car rental company permission to go to the back of the lot and take a look.

From the City of Los Angeles Navigate LA archives

For the curious, here’s a stormdrain map of a portion of Arroyo de los Reyes, the downtown creek mentioned in the article.  I am working on the connection of this to Echo Park-historical maps clearly show two streams that joined where Echo Park lake is today, with a perennial creek flowing along the path that is now Glendale Blvd to 2nd Street.  But the maps lose the flow around Figueroa.  This description here may fill in the gap – and we Echo Parkians may now have a name for our buried creek!

More later on lost rivers – and more importantly a City effort to preserve what’s left.

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