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New plan for maintenance at Whittier Narrows Recreation Area is designed with nesting birds in mind

September 22, 2010 |  4:24 pm

Great Blue Heron

When local ornithologist and conservationist Michael San Miguel heard the call of a marsh wren that had apparently been disturbed by an effort to cut down cattails in South El Monte's Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, he went into action, e-mailing county officials and Audubon Society chapters to protest park maintenance that interfered with wildlife.

Sadly, San Miguel didn't live long enough to see changes made; he died in July while conducting a spotted owl survey in the San Gabriel Mountains. But his concern for Whittier Narrows' birds has led to a new, more bird-friendly maintenance plan for the park in which tree-trimming and the cutting of vegetation will be restricted to winter months when it's less likely to interfere with nesting.

"But no matter what time of the year it is, if a bird is nesting nearby, we will stop trimming and cutting," said Mickey Long, natural areas administrator for the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department. The plan does allow for work to be done outside the winter months if it's needed to rectify a safety issue, such as the removal of a dangerous tree limb.

The move toward a new maintenance plan will impact an area frequented not just by marsh wrens, but also by great blue herons, double-crested cormorants and other birds. One of the three manmade lakes in the park has been designated as a wildlife preserve, and "that lake's two islands are now regarded as bird sanctuaries," according to Long. Naturalists have welcomed the plan, which may be implemented at other regional parks if it proves successful at Whittier Narrows.

Learn more about the new park maintenance plan in environmental reporter Louis Sahagun's recent story in The Times. Read about the best times of the year to prune your own trees and shrubs at The Times' home and garden blog, L.A. at Home.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A great blue heron flies over Legg Lake in the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area in South El Monte. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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