What a difference nine days of sunshine makes.
Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area, which was 15 feet under water at one point during the last El Nino storm, appeared to have made a full recovery Wednesday.
Fifth-grade students of Capistrano Avenue Elementary School in Canoga Park were treated to dry trails and ideal weather conditions as they toured the wildlife area as part of an environmental education program sponsored by the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society.
"It's a gorgeous day today so we should have some good bird sightings and the children should enjoy their experience," said Carolyn Oppenheimer, an executive board member of the society.
Divided into four groups of 15, the students spent the morning of bird- and animal-watching through binoculars and examining under microscopes tiny organisms that live in the area's 12-acre lake. Unexpected sights resulting from the recent storm, such as rabbit carcasses hanging from tree limbs and dead fish scattered throughout the area, were also observed.
The children recorded the temperature of the lake water and were given instruction on testing the pH level, under the guidance of naturalists trained by the society.
So what were Wednesday's findings?
"The temperature is 70 degrees and the pH level is 7.5," naturalist Susi Haugland said. "The wildlife is looking good today."
Since October, the society has conducted daily tours of the wildlife area for local elementary schools to provide hands-on experience in scientific testing and observation.
Through the end of this month, naturalists will teach the children about such topics as conservation of habitat, food chains and the interdependence of plants and animals, said Oppenheimer, who also serves as a naturalist.
"Many of these children come from places where they don't get to see the natural environment very often and we feel that you need to see something before you can appreciate it," Oppenheimer said.