We often describe MEMBG as an urban oasis and that’s something we feel is true on many levels. It’s a natural oasis within the traffic, concrete and buildings of Los Angeles. Its stream and ponds and lush tropical vegetation amidst the arid landscape of Southern California are a literal oasis. And something that we’re very proud of is that it’s an oasis of biodiversity. With over 3000 plants that are intentionally grown within the seven-acre footprint, not to mention the turtles, koi and crayfish that we care for, there’s a lot we know about the biological diversity within the Garden. But we’re also really curious about the organisms that we didn’t intentionally bring to the Garden. The birds, insects, fungi, and all the other things that live there. In the past few weeks MEMBG has partnered with the UCLA Bruin Naturalist Club (BNC) to begin documenting these organisms. We’ve co-sponsored two public events with the BNC, the first focusing on aquatic insects within the stream, the second on the birds which occur in the Garden. We’re happy to report that both events were lots of fun and very informative!

The aquatic insect survey was conducted at night when the insects are most likely to be active. A special guest leader, aquatic entomologist Dr. Carlos de la Rosa was visiting Los Angeles (his son Charlie de la Rosa is a phD student as UCLA and board member of the BNC) and was kind enough to lead the survey. Dr. de la Rosa is the Director of the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica and is very experienced at insect surveying. The insects were captured and photographed by using a white sheet and bright lights to attract them. It turned out to be a bit cold the evening of the survey, so the insect activity was lower than normal. The group still found a few aquatic species including non-biting midges (family Chironomidae), and a caddisfly (order Trichoptera). They also found some non-aquatic insects including some moths (family Noctuidae) and plenty of click beetles (family Elateridae). Precise identification for these insects are still being worked out. It was a great excuse to visit the Garden at night, and we hope to survey again when the weather is a little friendlier to insects.

Click beetle, Elateridae

Click beetle, Elateridae

Caddisfly, order Trichoptera

Dr. de la Rosa and students capturing insects

The birding survey took place in the morning to observe the birds when they are most active. The weather was beautiful, and the birds were out in numbers. Within two hours we observed 30 species! * This survey was led by Dr. Richard Hedley, a UCLA post-doctoral researcher and incredibly knowledgeable birder. We had a great mix of participants, from highly skilled birders like Dr. Hedley to many who were having their first birding experience ever. Having the experts guide the newcomers was great, the subtleties in morphology, behavior and songs of different species were shared, opening up many eyes to how much is going on around us that we often overlook.

These events have confirmed what we already knew, that the Garden is an oasis of life in West Los Angeles. There’s plenty more to learn about the organisms which live in and around the Garden. An upcoming bio-blitz of the UCLA campus will send survey teams out into the campus starting from the Garden on April 14th.  If you are interested in participating this event, follow the link above. And if you find an interesting organism in the garden or nearby please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!

*Birds observed at MEMBG March 16th, 2017

Swan Sp. (flyover)

Red-shouldered Hawk

Band-tailed Pigeon

Mourning Dove

Anna’s Hummingbird

Allen’s Hummingbird

Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Yellow-chevroned Parakeet

Black Phoebe

American Crow


Bewick’s Wren

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Hermit Thrush

American Robin

Northern Mockingbird

Cedar Waxwing

Orange-crowned Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Townsend’s Warbler

Spotted Towhee

California Towhee

Song Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Western Tanager

Hooded Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

House Finch

Lesser Goldfinch

American Goldfinch