Guest Contributor Beth Holden-Garland Reports on Kids’ Nature Walk in the Silver Strand, March 8, 2015

  On Sunday, March 8, the SSMHOA Kids’ Committee organized an afternoon nature walk  along the Grand Canal and the Ballona Lagoon South of Washington Boulevard. The docent was biologist Robert “Roy” Jay Vande Hoek, Director and co-founder of the non-profit Ballona Institute, who is an expert on the Ballona Wetlands ecosystem. He was joined by Marcia Hanscom, Executive Director of the Institute. Committee member and Block Captain Beth Holden-Garland hosted the event with the assistance of of Committee member Jessica Schwarz. SSMHOA Board Member Eric Beane, Chair of the Committee was unable to attend as he was on hockey duty watching his son in a playoff tournament.

Below is Beth’s report and her photographs of the occasion:


The Nature Walk Group gathers on Roma Court

 It was a lovely warm day, and about 20 kids and 15 adults joined us on the walk.  We walked along the path and the first bird we came in contact with was a bright iridescent red hummingbird who landed on a perch and looked at us all.


We started at the northern end of  the lagoon where Roy walked us to a vacant lot where we could observe nature more closely.He pointed out a snowy egret and we all observed its behavior in trying to find fish in the mud.


 He gave us a detailed explanation of how the egret essentially has 4 “fingers” (3 plus a thumb) and uses a scratching motion, as well as a sideways, semi-wading technique to get the fish to come to the surface.   We watched the egret do quite a bit of fishing.


Roy explains how the egret’s “fingers” are designed to catch fish.


Roy shows kids a horn snail. A favorite food for fish in the Grand Canal which ultimately ends up in the bellies of birds who feed there.

When his stomach was full, the egret started jumping up and down with joy which made everyone laugh. Roy showed us the horn snails that live at the bottom of the canal, and told us how they eat mud (which has bacteria, protein, and algae in it), and explained that the fish eat the snails, and then the herons eat the fish, illustrating the full circle of the food chain that exists here.

Roy then took us up to the Grand Canal   and told us that there are historical marks along the cement path that mark the year (most from the early 1900s) when the gondolas used to plow the waters between Venice of America and the Ballona Lagoon. He showed us a pickle plant, and explained it’s unique behavior in making some of its leaves red, which store up salty content. This allows the rest of the plant to thrive. Then the red leaves drop to make so salty that it’s impossible for other plants to live there.  He described a breed of bird that lays its eggs and hatches their young in these plants, which is why we need to get protection for this plant.


The Grand Canal, Venice

We saw kingfisher birds fly by and a flock of young baby coots swimming in the water He pointed out that the coots have red eyes, and only like to be in the shade during the day.    We also some saw  mallard ducks flying in and out of the canal, stirring up the water, and frolicking with one another.

At the end of the nature walk, we walked back down the path south, and stopped in front my home where Roy described some of the native plants.  We saw the brilliant and delicate yellow sour grass flower. Then he showed us a native daisy, explaining that it is  a complex  flower that  made up of many smaller buds containing abundant pollen. He  explained it would take a bee 10 days to fully extract everything from it. He also showed us  a plant outside that is originally from Australia called the melaleuca quinquenervia.    The plant leaf is normally leathery and flat, but when a thrip occupies it, it turns curly.   So he found both leaves that were occupied by a thrip  and ones without that were still flat.

  We returned to my house  where, with the help of  our neighbor Jessica Schwarz, we had set up a long table with refreshments including  delicious brownies. We also set out arts and crafts materials related to nature.



Planet Earth made from Play-Doh


Kris Ellenberg’s daughters came down and sang a song from “The Lorax” which they learned in their class last year [‘The Lorax” is a children’s book written by Dr. Seuss in 1971. It was made into a movie in 2012. In the story, The Lorax is the Guardian of the Truffula Forest fighting against a business entrepreneur who is destroying the forest and the environment for personal gain]


The Truffula Forest Restored by the kids.

All in all, a great event during which both children and adults not only learned a great deal about how important the Grand Canal and the Ballona Lagoon are in terms of our ecosystem, but also enjoyed at beautiful day together with friends and neighbors.


About The Silver Strand News

Resident of the Silver Strand, Marina del Rey, California
This entry was posted in Silver Strand Clubs and Groups, Silver Strand Events, Silver Strand Marina Homeowners news and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Guest Contributor Beth Holden-Garland Reports on Kids’ Nature Walk in the Silver Strand, March 8, 2015

  1. Nora Nicosia says:

    Beth ….You are to be commended for organizing a great experience to observe nature for our SS Kids and in addition do art work at your home……..Nora

  2. Elise Hicks says:

    I love that our children truly grasp the importance of preserving our precious resources! Well done, Beth Holden-Garland, Roy Vande Hoek and all others who contributed to this wonderful event.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s