Friday, May 13, 2016

El Niño Brings Unexpected Beach Visitors

Tropical Sea Life Head to El Norte
Warm Temperatures are an Irresistible Lure

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

(weather scientists' name for the El Niño storms they predicted) may not have waded ashore in SoCal this year, but it did bring some unexpected visitors to Orange County's beaches. Many of them ones for the record books!

Even though the monster rains were a no-show, El Niño's warmer ocean currents weren't and the increased temperatures made the OC a desirable spot for sea life not normally seen this far north. 

SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel learned that some of the marine animals that ventured into our coastal waters included:  a Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake, Pacific Seahorses, gelatinous creatures called By-the-Wind Sailors, Pelagic red crabs, and an array of tropical fish ranging from giant whale sharks and tiny puffer fish to yellowfin tuna and blue-striped marlin. 

"Every tropical fish seems to have punched their ticket for Southern California," U.C., Santa Barbara, marine scientist Milton Love said, noting the crowded waters.

One of the most surprising ocean visitors was a rare (and highly venomous) Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake that washed up on the sand at Bolsa Chica State Beach in December during a Surfrider Foundation beach cleanup.

By the time volunteers discovered the snake it was dead, but when Surfrider sponsor La Video Drone sent video to the news media, it soon became apparent that the snake wasn't your typical find. Shortly afterward, Tony Soriano, Surfrider's Huntington/Seal Beach Chapter Chairperson, got a call from the Natural History Museum of Los AngelesCounty.

Before long, Gregory Pauly, the museum's Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, was on the scene, calling the snake "an extremely important and rare find." He said, "This is only the third documented record of a Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake washing ashore in California."

Soriano added that it was definitely a Surfrider beach cleanup for the record books: "306.57 lbs of trash picked up; 20 lbs. Styrofoam collected; 1 rare sea snake found."
 In January diver Roger Hanson came across the sighting of a lifetime – a tiny Pacific Seahorse cruising along in Los Alamitos Bay. Hanson, a veteran diver with over 5,000 dives to his credit, couldn't believe his eyes.  The bright orange, whimsical seahorses are normally found in Latin America. Quoting Jacques Cousteau, Hanson said, "'You never know what you're going to see on your next dive.'"

Since then there have been other sightings of seahorses in Orange County and as far North as Santa Barbara Island.
In Newport Beach the sands were dotted a vivid, Windex-blue in April with the arrival of hundreds of By-the-Wind Sailors that literally blew into town on the winds and landed on the beach. Apparently drawn by the warmer water temperatures, the jellyfish-like sea creatures, which are about 2 1/2 inches long, were quickly snapped up by hungry sea gulls.

As for the Pelagic red crabs, which look like tiny lobsters, they have been popping up in fishing nets and washing up on beaches for months, far removed from their Baja California natural habitat.

With new beach arrivals in the OC continuing to surprise us, there's no telling what other visitors will follow in the warmth of El Niño's wake. As we've already seen, "Some like it hot."

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Heifer Int'l Turns Hunger Into Hope

Providing the Milk of Human Kindness

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

You've probably heard that proverb. It comes from the writings of 12th Century Sephardic Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, a rabbi, physician and Torah Scholar.
Today, Maimonides' proverb is one of the underlying principles of Heifer International, the non-profit organization whose mission is "to work with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth." 


Heifer International, based in Little Rock, Arkansas, doesn't just give food or money to people in need. It provides them with farm animals, tools and education so that they can become self-sustaining, feeding themselves and their communities and creating basic industries on which to build. 

With Earth Day recently putting the focus on protecting the Earth's vital resources of land, water and air, SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel think now is the perfect time to focus on one more vital resource - man...and the development of each person's health, well-being and potential.

For Heifer International, that began with one cow named Faith...and the milk it provided.  

Founded by Dan West, an Ohio farmer who served as an aid worker during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Heifer International came about when West realized that it wasn't enough to give hungry refugee children a single cup of milk.
What they really needed was a cow. Then they could have milk every day.

West turned his idea into a reality in 1944 and the first three cows that were donated were named, "Faith," "Hope," and "Charity."

To keep the momentum going and "pass on the gift," the recipient families had to promise that they would donate the first female calf born to another poor family - a practice of giving forward that continues to this day.

Since then Heifer International has grown into a worldwide organization that provides needy families in rural villages with cows, chickens, bees, and a host of other, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, oxen, water buffaloes, llamas, alpacas, camels, frogs and rabbits.


This gives villagers both food to eat and a source of income - milk, eggs, honey, and more that can be traded or sold at market.

Heifer International also shows people how to practice sustainable farming techniques and develop crops that are suited to their local regions.  

In addition to individual donations, Heifer International's work is made possible by partners such as Danone, Foundacion Coca-Cola, Pepsico Foundation, Keurig Green Mountain, Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, Starbucks, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, WalMart, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and others.

SurfWriter Girl Patti and her husband Greg Kishel were excited to hear from Heifer International this week that their donation went toward sending goats to Nepal as part of the Empowering Women Farmers in Nepal project. The goal is to help 138,000 Nepalese families increase their income to more than $2,000 a year by raising the goats and selling the milk.    

To date, Heifer International has worked in 125 countries and helped 25 million families lift themselves out of hunger and poverty.

When it comes to ending world hunger, it turns out:

 Milk does a community good.

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