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For Immediate Use                                                                                               Contact: Alison Sheehey, (760) 378-2531
May 21, 2008                                                                                                                     

CSU Monterey Bay - California Transect

A Lesson In the Ecology of Central California

by Alison Sheehey

Weldon, CA - Twenty-three students from CSU Monterey Bay along with three professors, four assistants, spouses, and two little girls arrived in several vans on the morning of May 21st as part of a general ecology class called the California transect.

As part of the course, individual students had to give presentations about a particular area, plant or animal at particular stops along the two week journey from the coast to the desert through central California.

Francisco Santana was assigned to study the Kern River Valley and the preserve. He prepared a nice handout and then started to talk. While he did a good job of describing the area, two funny or just plain strange things occurred during his talk. Three quarters of the way through the presentation, he began to mention the resources that attract visitors from all over the world to the Kern River Preserve, just as he mentioned rare birds... a rare male Summer Tanager flew in and perched above the group and started singing. (Later we discovered the male and female built a nest where the group had been sitting). Being the consummate naturalist, I immediately interrupted the talk to explain the rarity of the Summer Tanager and what great timing the birds arrival was for the group.

After a slight pause to ooh and ahh over the "flying neon tomato" color of the tanager, Santana continued his narrative, as he was listing the other attractions that bring nature tourists, plants, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies... what should flit in as if on cue, but a Western Tiger Swallowtail. The butterfly chose that moment to fly in and land on one of the student's notebook. After which it flew up to his shirt and chose to just perch on him for several minutes. It was a magical talk and the animals cooperated as if they were trained to do so.

The rest of the morning was spent with me giving the class a lesson on the natural history of the area with a heavy emphasis on the geology. After which we went for an interpretive walk along the nature trail to end of the lecture portion of the visit.

The class treated me to a tasty lunch and then took off for Whitney Portal with an impending storm brewing (they got snowed on). It was a great visit and I look forward to their visit next year as they were the most enthusiastic and attentive group I had so far been privileged to speak to.

See the website of their journey:

Click on images to see a larger version

Diversity of Habitats in the Kern River Valley

Chaparral | Great Valley Grassland | Great Basin Desert | Mojave Desert | Sierran Forest

Visit the Kern River Preserve in Weldon, California. Open every day of the year from dawn to dusk.

About Audubon Kern River Preserve

The Kern River Preserve is managed by Audubon California for the preservation of one of California’s largest contiguous cottonwood-willow riparian forests and the wildlife it supports.

Audubon Kern River Preserve supporters provide financial and volunteer support for Preserve outreach, education, wildlife habitat protection & stewardship.

Since 1905 Audubon has been protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

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