Ballona Institute Publication

Ballona Field Notes by Jack von Bloeker
from
1928 to 1941:

WETLAND RESTORATION POTENTIAL AND RARE SPECIES' RECOVERY IMPLICATIONS

by
Robert Jan "Roy" van de Hoek
Ballona Institute
Playa del Rey, California
2005 (1st Edition)
2006 (2nd Edition)

This second edition of the field notes by Jack von Bloeker has been revised by this author in October 2006. The changes from the first edition are this opening paragraph and second paragraph, both of which are new features. In addition, I have expanded some of the field notes by Jack von Bloeker from 1931 with three new field notes from 1931 and two new field notes from 1932. One of the new 1931 field records is of the federally endangered Pocket Mouse. The second new field note of 1931 is a notation of the "state protected" Snowy Egret. The third field note of 1931, is an expansion of the Gopher Snake to include the discussion of multiple types of prey items that Jack found in the gopher snake when he dissected this snake. Keep in mind that 1931 was 75 years ago, seemingly quite far back in our past from this notable year of 2006, in regard to natural resource conservation in Playa del Rey and the Ballona wetlands. You will find these two new entries below under the year of 1931, under May 7 and October 31 respectively. As for changes to the 1932 field notes, I added a date of April 17, regarding a Western Skink, and I expanded the April 10 record for the Gopher Snake to include the notes about the prey items of this snake.

Jack von Bloeker explored the Playa del Rey sand dunes and Ballona salt marshes for a decade from 1928 to 1941. His field notes during this period are invaluable for the science of ecological restoration and natural history. He recorded field zoology information for birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects. There are some notes on climate, particularly rainfall, during this period as well. After 1940, the focus of Jack von Bloeker's field work began to shift to the Channel Islands with several expeditions being made to all eight Channel Islands off the coast of southern California. Below are a few excerpted field notes from 1928 to 1941 by Jack von Bloeker:


1928
July 22, 1928 (Sunday). Bald Eagle individual unable to fly due to oil on its plumage was seen near the salt marsh lagoon in Playa del Rey.

1929
February 2, 1929. Green Heron captured at edge of Ballona Creek in tule bordered pond about one mile upstream from Playa del Rey.

April 15, 1929. Cliff Swallow colony found building their mud nests on the side of a bridge across Ballona Creek in Playa del Rey.


1931
May 7, 1931. Pocket Mouse (9 adults), Perognathus pacificus, collected at Playa del Rey on May 7, 1931.

August 15, 1931. Lark Sparrow (adult male) collected in the meadow of Playa del Rey.

August 16, 1931. Yellow-bellied Racer captured in the Playa del Rey sand dune.

August 19, 1931. Yellow-bellied Racer (second snake) captured in Playa del Rey Sand Dune.

August 22, 1931. Cooper's Hawk (adult, female?) seen in the morning perched on top a telephone pole near the intersection of Imperial Highway and Manhattan Boulevard. Adult male Bell Sparrow collected on top of the sand dunes at El Segundo.

September 4, 1931. Gopher Snake specimen capture at Playa del Rey, in the meadow near the base of the dune, measured five feet seven inches long from the tip of its snout to tip of tail. Dissection of the alimentary canal of this individual revealed that it had swallowed 3 adult and 4 immature pocket gophers, 1 harvest mouse, and 2 meadow mice shortly before it was collected.

October 16, 1931. Western Savannah Sparrow captured in a mouse-trap set on the meadow slope of the sand dunes in Playa del Rey.

October 25, 1931. Sharp-shinned Hawk swooped into the midst of a covey of California Quail, striking and instantly killing a female just after she burst into flight. The hawk was shot a few minutes later as it circled to return for its prey and both specimens were preserved. Mockingbird collected in the meadow of the Playa del Rey sand dune. California Thrasher caught in rat-trap on the meadow slope of the Playa del Rey sand dune. Western Meadowlark collected in the meadow of Playa del Rey.

October 26, 1931. Tule Marsh Wren caught in a mouse-trap on the meadow of the Playa del Rey sand dune. Adult female Lincoln Sparrow caught in a mouse-trap in the meadow of Playa del Rey.

October 31, 1931. Snowy Egret (single bird) was seen perched on the Hyperion Pier in Playa del Rey on October 31, 1931. In his published scientific report, Jack noted the status of the Snowy Egret as follows: "Rarely observed in the Playa del Rey salt marsh."

November 1, 1931. Mockingbird collected on the meadow slope of the Playa del Rey sand dune.

December 5, 1931. Hutton Vireo (adult male) was taken on the meadow slope of the dunes of Playa del Rey.


1932
January 24, 1932. Tule Marsh Wren caught in a mouse-trap in the salt marsh sloughs of Playa del Rey. Western Savannah Sparrow caught in mouse-trap in the salt marsh of Playa del Rey.

Febrary 13, 1932 (Saturday). Mud Turtle observed slowly walking in old road in meadow. Short-eared Owl collected in the meadow of the Playa del Rey sand dune. An adult female Roadrunner taken in the meadow region of the Playa del Rey sand dune. Flock of 20 White-throated Swift seen above the meadow of the sand dune region. One male Belted Kingfisher collected at Hyperion Pier. Mockingbird collected on the established fore-dune of Playa del Rey. An adult male Robin was found dead on a lawn near El Segundo was given to me by a small boy. An Alaska Hermit Thrush was collected on in the meadow of the Playa del Rey sand dune. A flock of seven Western Bluebird were seen in the meadow of Playa del Rey, and two of these were collected as specimens. Female Dusky Orange-crowned Warbler was collected on the dunes of Playa del Rey. Adult male Townsend Warbler collected in a natural basin on the seaward slope of the dunes of Playa del Rey. Western Meadowlark collected in the meadow of Playa del Rey. Tule Yellowthroat taken in the meadow of Playa del Rey. Adult male Dwarf Cowbird collected on top of the sand dunes of Playa del Rey.

February 17, 1932. Yellow-bellied Racer captured on the meadow slope of Playa del Rey Sand Dune.

March 6, 1932. Red-tailed Hawk found at an occupied nest high in a Eucalyptus tree near Palisades del Rey. It was not determined if eggs were in the nest. Tule Marsh Wren caught in a mouse trap on the meadow of the Playa del Rey sand dune.

March 13, 1932. Red Racer was captured on Ballona Creek on the south bank, only 1 mile from the ocean. The winter of 1931 to 1932 was a wet winter with abundant rains. Abundant Tree Frogs observed and captured. Lincoln Sparrow caught in a mouse-trap in the salt marsh of Playa del Rey.

April 9, 1932. Black-chinned Hummingbird (adult male) collected at a tree tobacco in the meadow of the Playa del Rey sand dune. Eight specimens of Anna's Hummingbird collected at a tree tobacco in this vicinity.

April 10, 1932. Red-tailed Hawk seen bringing ground squirrel and cottontail rabbits to the nest. Mammal traps set in the late afternoon in the Playa del Rey Sand dune in the meadow region. Gopher Snake captured on the meadow slope of the Playa del Rey Sand Dune. This gopher snake contained 1 silky-haired pocket mouse, 1 coarse-haired pocket mouse, 1 parasitic mouse, 4 white-footed mice, and 2 harvest mice. It was somewhat smaller than the September (1931)taken specimen, measuring only four feet ten inches in length.

April 11, 1932. Rattlesnake found in one of the many mammal traps that were visited in the morning at Playa del Rey Sand Dune on the back slope in the meadow at base of dune. The Rattlesnake was captured with a Silky Pocket Mouse which was in the beginning steps of being swallowed.

April 17, 1932. Costa Hummingbird (adult male), along with a male Allen's Hummingbird and an adult male Rufous Hummingbird, collected in the meadow at a tree tobacco in the Playa del Rey sand dune. A flock of 30 Western Crow seen in a grain-field just northwest of El Segundo. Adult male Hooded Oriole collected in the meadow of Playa del Rey. A Western Skink was captured on April 17 in the meadow proper under boards.

April 18, 1932. Red-tailed Hawk seen bringing ground squirrel and cottontail rabbits to the nest. Bullock Oriole collected in the meadow of Playa del Rey. Adult male Black-headed Grosbeak collected in the meadow of Playa del Rey.

April 30, 1932. Red-tailed Hawk seen bringing ground squirrel and cottontail rabbits to the nest. See notes from 55 days earlier on March 6, 1932, for evidence of this hawk incubating eggs in the Eucalyptus tree. Also, note evidence of this hawk bringing prey over the course of 20 days ago (April 10) and 12 days ago (April 18), proving that food items were brought for at least 20 days. Bullock Oriole collected in the meadow of Playa del Rey. Three adult male Western Tanager collected on the meadow slopes of the sand dunes of Playa del Rey.

May 1, 1932. Rosy Boa discovered on the meadow slope of the Playa del Rey Sand Dune. Adult male California Horned Lark caught in mouse-trap set in the meadow of the Playa del Rey sand dune. Bushtit nest found with 6 eggs about four feet above the ground in a bush in the meadow slope of the Playa del Rey sand dunes.

June 5, 1932. Pocket Gopher burrow excavated in the meadow area of the Playa del Rey Sand Dune, where I found a Slender Salamander at 33 inches below the surface in a pocket gopher burrow. Bullock Oriole collected from willows in the salt marsh.


1938
February 15, 1938. Found a California Toad less than 30 yards from the high tide zone in the edge of the coastal strand.


1939
April 2, 1939. Ring-necked Snake captured that was 17 inches long. It was found in a clump of Tuna Cactus.

July 11, 1939. A skin for the Ring-necked Snake was found under a clump of Tuna Cactus.

October 26, 1939. Horned Lizard found impaled by a California Shrike on a sharp twig of California Croton bush by Mrs. D. Pool. One Say's Phoebe was observed on Hyperion Pier. Two specimens trapped on the seaward slope of the dunes of Playa del Rey.

November 3, 1939. A group of about 30 White-throated Swift seen abovethe sand dune and out over the ocean.


1941
October 29, 1941 (Wednesday). Tule Wren caught in a mouse trap in the salt marsh sloughs of Playa del Rey.

November 1, 1941. Western Savannah Sparrow captured in mouse-traps in the salt marsh.

December 2, 1941 (Tuesday). A group of six White-throated Swift were seen flying over the salt marsh at Playa del Rey.


AFTERWORD:
Ballona Field Notes and Jack von Bloeker
for
Wetlands Recovery and Dune Restoration

by
Robert Jan 'Roy' van de Hoek
Conservation Biologist
Ballona Institute & Wetlands Action Network
322 Culver Boulevard, Suite 317
Playa del Rey, CA 90293
(310) 821-9045

Jack von Bloeker observed wildlife in Playa del Rey at both the Ballona Wetlands and the LAX Sand Dune during the 1920s and 1930s, ending finally in 1941, with the Pearl Harbor Attack and the beginning of World War II. In addition to his field notes, he also collected zoological specimens from the LAX sand dunes, LAX meadows (prairie), and Ballona salt marshes. His scientifically accurate natural history field work will be vital to doing genuine recovery and genuine restoration of the Ballona wetlands and Ballona wildlife in the lower Ballona Valley. The Ballona Institute has a copy of these field notes from 1928 to 1941. In addition, the Ballona Institute has extensive archives that include field notes, reports, historic books, pamphlets, maps, photographs, gray literature, and other ephemera from various researchers about the natural history and cultural history of the coast of southern California, with a particular focus on the wetlands and sand dunes of Ballona Valley, but also including such locations as Malibu Lagoon, Catalina Island, California Channel Islands, Carpinteria, Morro Bay, Mugu Lagoon, Santa Clara River Estuary, Los Angeles River and its estuary, Bolsa Chica, Seal Beach, Misssion Bay, and Newport Bay. Extensive literature, both published and unpublished, with a focus on scientific data and historic data beginning in the Spanish period, through Mexican period, and to California statehood in 1850, encompassing the 1770s to 2005, spanning 225 years, are in the archives of the Ballona Institute. Some of these archived materials were donated by anonymous donors, but most of these items have been located over the last 10-20 years from various museums and herbaria from across the United States. The Ballona Institute is also investigating the close linkages that exist between California and Massachusetts via its shared early naturalists and scientists that visited both states. The Ballona Institute currently has its offices and library in Playa del Rey, California.