Haskell Creek reveals wonders as well as mysteries

Cormorant (All images courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County)

Cormorant (All images courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County)

By Charles Hood

Guest Contributor

With staff from the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park, I was at the Sepulveda Wildlife Reserve the day after the recent “fishing for science” derby. We were not trying to avoid the fishermen — quite the opposite — just a scheduling thing, that we got there a day too late.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Looking for fish in Haskell Creek is a pleasure and yet a unique frustration. We know more about the ecology of wolverines in Alaska than we do about the interactions of the fish in the L.A. River and its feeder streams.

For me, an English major turned birder, I still struggle even with basic identification issues. The little minnowy ones I call Gambusia or mosquitofish, but that’s only because that’s what everybody else says. Do we really know?

Tilapia

Tilapia

And I have eaten carp and tilapia, but am not sure I could tell all the different forms and color phases apart.

Yet as one looks into Haskell Creek upstream from the dam, other questions arise. How long do the fish here live? What is there “pecking order” or resource partition, species to species? What eats them? There is one Belted Kingfisher present here — why not more? (It may be a bit too closed in, in terms of tree canopy, or there may not be enough unrestricted perches. That’s just my wild guess. They may drive one another away: a dominant bird may lay claim to the best part of the creek and see any trespassers off straight away.)

Turtles too come into it. The main lake has a lot of Red-eared Sliders; what’s their role in taking (or not taking) fish from Haskell Creek? In the main lake we saw something that was new to me. A dead coot was floating in the lake while turtles investigated it on each side. Were they trying to scavenge the carcass, but perhaps blocked by the dense feathers?

Red-eared Slider

Red-eared Slider

As the results from the fish survey on the 19th are tallied, we can make one small step toward answering these questions. It will be a long journey, one in which everyday observations from scientists and non-scientists alike have equal parts.

If any blog readers want to share thoughts or observations, do please pass them on: Charles Hood, chood@avc.edu. The museum is working on a book that will be an overview of urban nature, and if you would like to share a perspective or experience, please email me.

Midges

Midges

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