Stone Canyon Creek Restoration, Bird Survey

Volunteering to help with Creek Restoration

Please join the Santa Monica Baykeeper and UCLA’s Institute of the Environment to help restore the only remaining section of unburied creek on the UCLA campus.
The once mighty Stone Canyon Creek was a dominant feature of the UCLA campus in the past. Over the years, as the campus expanded, the creek was forced underground and now only this small segment behind the Anderson School of Business remains. The vegetation that persists at the creek site is dominated by invasive vegetation which is choking out the few remaining native plant species.
Help us eliminate this infestation of invasive vegetation and replant the area with native vegetation. This is real work that will really benefit the environment. The newly established vegetation will serve as habitat to birds and other wildlife on campus. Santa Monica Baykeeper will provide all the tools and training but we need your muscle!

To find out dates for restoration work and other ways to volunteer (e.g., watering plants over the summer), please contact Heather Burdick at Santa Monica Baykeeper (phone 310-305-9645 ext. 3 or email) or see their volunteer page.

About the Stone Canyon Creek Restoration Project

Stone Canyon Creek runs above ground for a ways just behind the Anderson School buildings on the north part of the UCLA campus.  In UCLA's early history (1920s-1930s) this was one of two creeks that wound through campus, but now it is almost entirely underground.

Today the creek, in addition to being much diminished, suffers from litter and from a whole lot of plants that are not native to this area (or even this continent).  Some of these plants are "invasive," meaning that they can grow and spread rapidly and choke out native plants, which hurts the local ecosystem and makes it harder for animals who evolved to live in this par! ticular habitat.

The Stone Canyon Creek Restoration Project will restore this section of Stone Canyon Creek running through UCLA by removing massive amounts of non-native plants and replacing them with native ones. The restoration will be the centerpiece of a long-term planning process for improving upstream and downstream portions of the Creek and incorporation the Creek into UCLA’s new Sustainability Initiative.

The project is led by Rafe Sagarin, Research Biologist in the UCLA Institute of the Environment.  The project is made possible by a grant from the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project's Small Grants Program.  Collaborators on the project include Mark Abramson of Heal the Bay, Jess Hall of Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission & the Ballona Watershed Taskforce, and Travis Longcore (Geography Professor) of the Urban Wildlands Group.

Anyone who is interested is more than welcomed to become more involved in this project!  We will need a lot of volunteers to help tear out old plants and put in new ones, and there are various other opportunities for collaboration (setting up a web cam to watch the creek, more biological assessments, assessing water quality, working with the elementary school, landscape planning, trying to figure out exactly where the creek starts and where it ends up after going underground, etc.). 

Original email from Rafe Sagarin:

From Rafe Sagarin, Research Biologist, Institute of the Environment (10/18/05):

I am pleased to invite you and as many of your friends as possible to the first stage of restoring Stone Canyon Creek, on Sunday, October 30, from 9:30am  to 1pm.  Gloves and tools will be provided by Heal the Bay, but please bring water and sunblock.  A BBQ hosted by the Environmental Bruins will follow, at the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center.

Stone Canyon Creek is one of the last naturally banked creeks in our watershed and it runs right through our campus. It's long been forgotten, tucked behind the Anderson Business School and choked by invasive weeds and vines. On Sunday Oct 30th, with our partners from Heal the Bay, we will begin the process of making the creek once again a beautiful and ecologically sound part of the campus. We will be ripping up those nasty invasive plants and getting the ground ready for replanting with native shrubs, trees and grasses.

We need at least 40 volunteers to get the job done. It will be a fun and satisfying day along the creek, so please get your friends to join you. We will also have Creek restoration days on Jan 22 (sun), Feb 4 (sat), Feb 26 (sun) 2006. This is a great opportunity to be! come a p art of UCLA's environmental history.

Also, if any of you are design inclined, we need to make temporary signs to let everyone know what we are up to down there. Let me know if you are interested in helping me with this.

See you there!

Rafe Sagarin

Map of UCLA: map_ucla.pdf

Map of Anderson School with Creek: Anderson_overhead_map+creek.pdf



The Return of Stone Canyon Creek

Meg Sullivan's 2007 senior thesis in Landscape Architecture explores the prospect of returning additional parts of the creek to daylight, on the UCLA campus and in Westwood Village.

PDF: Sullivan2007_ReturnOfStoneCanyonCreek.pdf

Creek Photos

Aerial photo of UCLA in 1929; see the Creek (left) and the Arroyo (right) that Loye Miller wrote about. (click thumbnail for larger image)

Pictures from the restoration so far.
Video of a palm tree biting the dust.

More photos here


Creek Presentations

Presentations from the Ballona Wetlands Symposium 5/12/05

Stone Canyon Creek at UCLA - Rediscovering a Natural Resource - by Rafe Sagarin

Presentations from the 5/26/06 meeting

Stone Canyon Creek at UCLA - Rediscovering a Natural Resource (Updated!) - by Rafe Sagarin

Stone Canyon Creek Restoration, Monitoring, Mapping - by Mark Abramson

Stone Canyon Creek: Ballona Watershed Context - by Jessica Hall

Of Birds & Bruins: students, wildlife, and the restoration - by Bobby Walsh & Jason Finley

Intro to the Bird Survey

Did you know there's a natural stream on the UCLA campus?  That's right!  Stone Canyon Creek can be found behind the Anderson School (north campus), and a project is now underway to restore that part of the creek to its native state.  But wait!  Before the replanting begins we wanted to get an idea of what birds utilize the area in its present state, so we can track changes after restoration.  We got help from volunteers to gather observations for a pre-restoration Bird Survey from Oct. 17th to Oct. 30th, 2005, when restoration began.  Now, any observations made while restoration is in progress will be helpful too.  Anyone can volunteer!  It takes only about 10 minutes and can be done at any time of day. We've got everything you need right here.  It's a fun way to get to know your local wildlife better, and to help out a worthy cause! Any questions?  Email: [sorry, I've had to disable the email accounts due to spam.  find my email address elsewhere on the site or contact the Environmental Bruins]. We also need help with the Creek Restoration itself on various dates, to be announced, and we need help maintaining the new plants.


Bird Survey Photos!

Birds photographed at the Creek.  Click one to see its profile page.


About the Bird Survey

Before the restoration of Stone Canyon Creek begins in earnest (Oct. 30th, 2005) [and also, afterwards], we're helping to get an idea of what birds utilize the area in its present state.  If we get a snapshot of the bird life and activity around the stream now, before restoration, then that data can be compared to data from new observations of the same area, after restoration.  That would allow for some assessment of the impact on wildlife, if any, that restoring a creek like this might have.  That kind of assessment could help in future efforts to restore more of the creek (upstream in the elementary school area and even in Bel Air), and in long term future efforts to "daylight" the creek, that is, to bring it back up from underground so that a real live stream would once again flow through the UCLA campus, or at least parts of it.

Note that the bird activity at the creek seems likely to decline during and immediately after the restoration efforts, simply due to the removal of plants and the general disruptions.  But once the new, native plants grow in, bird activ! ity shou ld rise again.

We decided that the best way to record as many observations as we could in the short amount of time before restoration was to set up the resources so anyone interested could volunteer to help out and go on his/her own at any time.  That way we'd hopefully collect more data AND introduce more people to the lovely Creek location and the wonderful bird life we have here at UCLA!

The Bird Survey has been organized by Jason Finley (Webmaster of this website, Birds of Westwood) and Bobby Walsh (Activities Coordinator of the Environmental Bruins), with input from Rafe Sagarin, Research Biologist in the UCLA Institute of the Environment and leader of the Stone Canyon Creek Restoration Project.

Bird Survey Data!

Data from Pre-restoration Bird Survey, Oct 13th-29th, 2005


Also check out the data from the campus-wide bird count, Feb 12th, 2006

Volunteer Instructions for the Bird Survey

The pre-restoration Bird Survey of Stone Canyon Creek (on the UCLA campus) is done, and the data will be posted before long.  Thanks to all those who helped.  We still need help with the Creek Restoration (see above), and bird observations during restoration will also be helpful.

( Any questions?  Email:  [change AT to @])

  1. See where you'll be going!
    • Stone Canyon Creek is behind the Anderson School complex, which is on the northern half of the UCLA campus.  A map of the Anderson School & the creek is included in the Survey Kit (below).
    • UCLA Campus Maps - If you're not familiar with the location of the Anderson School, here is an online map (click in the northeast quadrant), and here is a printable map (pdf file).
  2. Pick a day/time to go!
    • Observation takes about 10 minutes, but you can stay and enjoy the tranquility even after you're done!  You can ! also do more than one observation back-to-back, but must use a new Census Form each time (below).  For example, you can observe for twenty minutes, and start a new form halfway through.  This is a great option if a whole bunch of birds suddenly appear 9 minutes into your observation!
    • Choose any day before Sunday, October 30th, 2005. That's when creek restoration begins, so Oct 29th is the last day to go. Weekends and weekdays are all okay. [Update: ongoing surveys after October 2005 will still be valuable!]
    • Choose any time during daylight. Typically you'll see the most birds in the morning, but go whenever you can as we can use data from all daylight hours, and you should still see birds at any time of day.
    • Rain?  Don't call off your obsevation just yet.  Most birds will stay quiet and lay low during the actual rain, but as soon as the rain lets up, watch out: they'll explode out of the bushes and run amok, singing and flapping around looking for insects!
    • Go as many times as you'd like! We need as much data as we can get. Just be sure to use a new Creek Census Form each time (below). If you have time between classes on North Campus, that'd be a great time to do observations!
    • [This section was from Oct 2005 and is no longer relevant; kept for historical purposes] If you'd like to go when there will be a more experienced "birder" (one who watches birds) there at the Creek, you can meet up with Jason Finley or Bobby Walsh on one of the days/times listed below. But note that the resources provided here (below) should! allow b eginners to identify the birds on their own reasonably well.
      • Wed Oct 19th, 2005- 11:15am - Bobby
      • Thurs Oct 20th - 8:30am - Jason
      • Fri Oct 21st - 11:30am - Jason
      • Mon Oct 24th - 7:30am - Bobby
      • Wed Oct 26th - 11:15am - Bobby
      • Thurs Oct 27th - 8:30am - Jason
      • Fri Oct 28th - 11:30am - Jason
  3. Get all the stuff you'll need!
    • UCLA Printable Campus Map (pdf file - Optional, if you need it to find the Anderson School)
    • Creek Bird Survey Kit (pdf file, 5mb) This file is a 6 page packet with everything you need!  Print it out and read it over before heading to the creek.  You can also cruise the website here for reference before and after your observation.  These are the contents of the Survey Kit:
      • Page 1 - Creek Census Form: instructions on how to do your observation, and a form to record your data.
      • Page 2 - Creek & Observation Point Location Map: a map of the Anderson School with the creek and the observation point painted in.
      • Pages 3-5 - Creek Bird Guide: a short and very useful beginner's guide to the birds you're most likely to see at the creek, with pictures!
      • Page 6 - Creek Confusing Pairs Guide: a helpful guide for distinguishing a few pairs of similar-looking birds
      • !
    • Creek Bird Sounds (zip file containing mp3s, 7.2mb) - These MP3s are recordings for the birds you're most likely to see/hear at the creek this time of year.  Listen to these beforehand, and then bring them with you on an MP3 or CD player (if you have one)!  Often you'll hear a bird without seeing it, so being familiar with the sounds (and checking them again soon after) can really help to identify birds.  Each MP3 track starts with a statement of the bird's name, followed by the sounds.  Birds typically have two sounds they make: a song (like a little tune), and a call (single notes, like chirps or peeps).  Most birds won't be singing at this time of year, so we've just included the calls for most, but have left the songs in for the few that do sing year-round. [Note: These files are small excerpts of copyrighted bird recordings from several sources. Our using them for the Creek Survey falls under Fair Use as defined by U.S. copyright law. You agree by downloading these files to only use them for the scientific and educational purposes of the Stone Canyon Creek Restoration Project Bird Survey, and to not distribute them further.]
    • Binoculars (optional) - If you have binoculars, bring 'em!  They can help with birds that are farther away, especially small ones, but they're not necessary either.
    • Extra Creek Census Form (pdf version) , Extra Creek Census Form (Word doc version) Here is just the Creek Census Form by itself, so you can print more if you go to the creek more than once.  The Word document version can be used to type in your recorded data to be turned in (see below).
  4. Go and count the birds!
    • Be sure to bring with you:
      • UCLA Campus Map (if needed)
      • Creek Bird Survey Kit
      • Creek Bird Sounds (on an mp3 or CD player, if you've got one)
      • extra Creek Census Forms (optional, in case you're going there more than once)
      • binoculars (optional)
    • Just follow the instructions in the Survey Kit.
  5. Turn in your Creek Census Form!
    • Type up your results and email them to: (change AT to @)
  6. Reflect on all the awesome birds we share our campus with!
    • Start noticing all the different birds around you, and come back here to Birds of Westwood to find out more about them, and where/how to see mor

In the News

Stone Canyon Creek in the Daily Bruin! (10/27/05)

Birds of Westwood in the Daily Bruin! (10/27/05)

Stone Canyon Creek in UCLA Today!  (11/8/05)

Working to restore a historic campus creek (11/20/09)


Starting 10/18/05 2:26am  


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