The Leo Politi Elementary School is located in a densely populated area of Los Angeles and surrounded by concrete. Yet birds such as the Cooper’s hawk soar over its playground or the song of a northern mockingbird might be heard through a classroom window.
Amidst this urban landscape, the school—in partnership with Los Angeles Audubon and with a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—transformed their pavement dominated grounds into a wildlife friendly habitat. Now students observe spiders weaving a web at recess and the Sibley Guide to Birds is a standard in the classroom.
But dedication to nature doesn’t just end when the school bell rings and class is dismissed. The students at Leo Politi are engaged and passionate about the outdoors, as evident from the over a dozen students and three former students who participated in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count this past Sunday. Joining them were university students, graduates of LA Audubon Society's environmental stewardship program at inner-city Dorsey High, along with parents and members of the Los Angeles Audubon Society.
“It's inspiring to watch our current students interact with the older students and members of Los Angeles Audubon Society as they bird the campus. The students really come to see their familiar campus in a whole new light as they sharpen their powers of observation and engage in content-rich informal conversation," said Principal Brad Rumble of the day.
Before starting the count, the students learned the history of the Christmas Bird Count, the longest running citizen science survey in the world. They then surveyed the entire 8 acre campus, including the 5,000 square foot wildlife habitat. The students themselves entered the results in eBird (user name: PolitiBirder). The results show an impressive day of birding, including a Cooper’s Hawk, black phoebe and ring-billed gull. The group watched two American kestrels sitting on a lamppost, and to the delight of all one suddenly flew down and alit in front of them. Another thrilling moment: sixty cedar waxwings shimmering in flight.
“We're all surprised at how much bird life we observed and recorded right here in the inner city without stepping off campus,” remarked Rumble.