Audubon leaders

Mary Parcell, left, and Elaine Layne walk El Dorado Park recently.

They’re not just some feathery friend (or foe) with wings.

“Birds are important because they’re the window into our environment,” El Dorado Audubon (EDA) Society president Mary Parsell said. “They’re most relatable to people.”

She added the feathered beings are relatable because people see them in their yards and elsewhere, and notice when certain breeds are or aren’t present.

The nonprofit society has devoted itself to protecting birds and their habitats since 1969, when it formed as a chapter of the National Audubon Society. The name comes from El Dorado East Regional Park and Nature Center, Parsell said, but it serves the region, including Avalon, Artesia, Bellflower, Carson, Cypress, San Pedro, Signal Hill and more. The EDA has led nature/bird walks for the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority since 2009, as the wetlands are considered an Audubon Important Bird Area, Parsell said. But all of the local parks are crucial, she added.

“It’s important to a lot of birds,” Parsell said. “It’s (the wetlands) in the Pacific Flyway and there aren’t many open areas for birds to rest (when migrating).”

More than 166 species of birds have been recorded at El Dorado Park within a year, including both resident and migrating birds. And the group keeps watch over more.

“We’re interested in the center and the parks, the L.A. River… We’ve worked on this string of pearls for a long time,” Parsell said. “There’s always something going on. We’re lucky to have a lot of parks here.”

Although the EDA has been in the birding business for decades, Parsell said public interest in protecting the winged creatures has picked up through the years. For instance, she said the group was part of the discussion in the SEASP (Southeast Area Specific Plan), first with consultants and an early task force, then at the City Council during public comment. SEASP is a master land use plan in southeast Long Beach, and includes the Los Cerritos Wetlands.

“The (City) Council people were listening,” Parsell said. “You get it out there in conversation and people listen. (Third District Councilwoman) Suzie Price put in her conditions.”

One of the EDA’s more recent undertakings, she said, is an effort to implement the National Audubon Society’s “Creating Bird-Friendly Communities” program.

“It involves these different things,” Parsell said. “It shows you what you can grow in your yard to attract birds and makes recommendations. A lot of times, people don’t know what to plant.”

Parsell said extensive research was conducted in places like Cornell University in New York, on what to grow, as well as building construction.

“There are all of these different designs on how to protect birds,” Parsell said. “They can try to fly through the window because they think it’s the sky.”

These were given to SEASP decision-makers, Parsell said, which included a color copy of all Audubon’s recommendations.

“Sometimes it’s easier to flip through something,” Parsell said.

Her own interest in birds began as a child, when her mother began sharing field guides for birds, reading to her, Parsell said. That fascination continued, she said, and when she went to her first Audubon meeting, she was hooked.

From then on, she said she started believing birds convey much of what’s happening in the environment. Those signs are pretty good for the Long Beach area right now.

“It’s based in science,” she said of the group’s regular bird counts. “What we see is pretty normal (compared to the national and regional trends)... Nothing too alarming is happening.“

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Emily Thornton is a Grunion Gazette contributor and can be reached at

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