July had barely begun before IXL volunteers were at it again! A group of brave IXLers spent the evening of July 4th helping at Shoreline Park in Mountain View, Calif. by protecting a sensitive wildlife habitat during Independence Day celebrations.
This area, just west of the Shoreline Amphitheatre, is home to Western burrowing owls, a low-flying bird that nests during the spring and summer. They tend to hunt in early mornings and early evenings by hovering low to the ground or even running and pouncing along the hillsides. There are regulations on driving in the area, but assistance was especially required on a night when hundreds of humans attempt to invade the owls’ habitat for a better view of the fireworks.
The habitat was surrounded by a low, flimsy plastic fence which, the volunteer coordinator told us, people climb or cut through every year to get a better view of the fireworks. It was our duty to keep people off the lawn and redirect them to the official firework viewing areas.
It began as a very tame, relaxing event where we just walked the perimeter and chatted. However, over the course of several hours, there were mobs of people who broke through the fence. Three dogs were able to get in—a real danger to the birds—and had to be chased out. Students on bikes looked for weak spots in the border to sneak in. Police were called to handle rowdy celebrators who wouldn’t listen to the volunteers.
Our presence was enough to keep most people out of the protected areas, but we did have to turn several celebrators away. The ensuing firework show felt like a victory—we had successfully protected the owls!
Thanks to a very kind and generous couple of volunteers, we were able to celebrate our efforts with a fresh apple pie while we waited out the traffic.
Read more about the burrowing owl habitat at Shoreline Park here.
By Julia Zhu, Senior Software Engineer