random updating of our activities

Hi, this is Dani Nicholson. It is now December and we have had some noteworthy events from this year. The biggest has been the addition of Skype in the Classroom, see that page for more details. So far, over 40 classrooms reached in the United States, Canada, and as far away as Bangladesh and India. More to come as 2018 is already beginning to get scheduled.

As you can see in the photos below, board member Claudia Main has been active as not only our Secretary, but she visits the Cayucos Pier once a month or more to empty the fishing line receptacles. This is a stinky, messy job (you won’t believe all of the strange and yucky things people put inside them) but she does it with such joy knowing that animals aren’t being harmed by the hooks and fishing line and that the garbage isn’t entering the ocean.

This past November 4th, Claudia came along to Bird Fest in Calabassas, California to help present Morro and Solimar. It is held in the Santa Monica Mountains and attracts more than 1000 visitors. It is a huge event, and I’m very proud that we have been invited these past two years. If you attend, you will be happy you did, so many events, walks, birdwatching, live animal presentations, things to buy, and all with an environmental message.



Judy Irving Filmmaker, creator of Pelican Dreams, was awarded this tile and is on display at the South End Rowing Club in San Francisco where she is a bay swimmer. I love seeing Morro be the photo used for this tile. Proud me!

The Twins – Morro and Solimar – bonded

Until 2018, have a wonderful and safe holiday season. To all of you from me and “The Boys”, thank you for checking into our website.


Morro bg Oceano fgA_1Hi, this is Dani Nicholson. Until now, I have never written a blog. Here goes.IMG_2307

I have been operating Willow Tree Wildlife since 2014, but my work with wildlife has been ongoing since 2002. When I started this non-profit, along with some very good friends who share the same vision, I didn’t have a set goal, other than to help wildlife wherever the need arose. It started with education, taking Morro the Brown Pelican out to the public by way of grade schools, events, service groups, anyone who wanted to know more about the Coast’s iconic bird, the California Brown Pelican. I also knew that I would be an advocate for wildlife, again, wherever needed. Sometimes, as you can see from the article on the drought victims, it isn’t wildlife, but the oft forgotten family pet, domestic ducks and geese who have been dumped at lakes and ponds throughout every city in America (I haven’t checked each city, but you get the idea right?).

From now forward, I intend to keep this blog updated as to our goings on. Please feel free to comment or ask questions.

In 2015 some notable work that I’ve been involved in but that I’ve been working towards for many years, is to see the Fish Cleaning Stations in San Luis Obispo County modified so that they no longer contribute to seabird injuries and oftentimes, death. How? In the case of Avila Beach Harford Pier, this fish cleaning station is open to seabirds begging and perching on the station itself, the sink has large drain holes for carcass disposal, emptying onto the shallow beach where hungry seabirds en masse wait for fish. What’s the problem with that? Many. First and foremost, it creates a false feeding source, encouraging the birds to beg rather than to forage naturally. Secondly, the carcasses are mostly bones, sharp, spiny and very large. Not only do they not provide food for the birds, but worse, they can choke and kill Pelicans. You see, Pelicans have an expandable large pouch, so the fish can fit inside, but their esophagus, where the fish travel down on the way to the stomach, is not large, hence the fish get stuck and cause injury and sometimes death. I’ve held two birds who died on such fish. It is tragic and PREVENTABLE. How? Don’t feed them fish carcasses. They generally eat smaller whole fish that slide right down their throat (esophagus) such as sardines and anchovies. Thirdly, the fish oils that rain down upon them cause their feathers to become oiled which disturbs their ability to stay dry in the frigid Pacific ocean temperatures. Once they are wet to skin, they are like us, they can only last so long in the water without becoming hypothermic. With the ocean being the Pelican’s food source, unable to dive and swim causes them to suffer from malnutrition and eventually death. The good news is the the Harbor Commission at Port San Luis now recognizes the problems and along with a group comprised of Willow Tree Wildlife, Pacific Wildlife Care, The Sierra Club (Santa Lucia Chapter), and Coastkeepers, have formed an ad hoc committe with two Harbor Commissioners to make the necessary changes.


In Morro Bay, the Harbor Master has already initiated short term changes, while applying for a grant for a long term rebuild. I have been working many years  towards this change, and now that it is well on it’s way, I’m super happy. Not much work is needed by me. In 2015,  I wrote a letter to the grantor stating the need for this important fish station rebuild.

The newly remodeled Cayucos Pier, my hometown, will not house a fish cleaning station, however, it does attract a fair amount of fishing. I’m working with the County Parks and Recreation and with a UC Davis program to install monofilament (fishing line) receptacles on the pier in strategic locations. I and my volunteers will monitor and maintain the receptacles, sending the fishing line to a recycling program that turns the waste into surfboards, etc. I’ll post photos this week once they are installed – stay tuned!

Lastly, I am working towards getting a second California Brown Pelican for my education program. I hope to have news soon – stay tuned for that also!

For your enjoyment, a beautiful photo of Brown Pelicans flying! Courtesy of Judy Irving, Pelican Media.diving pelicans in Florida

Solimar, our new California Brown Pelican

It is now November of 2019 and I didn’t keep my promise to keep this blog updated – naughty me! But, I do have good news to share. In 2016, Judy Irving and I drove to a small town in Northwestern Oregon, Astoria, to pick up another California Brown Pelican from the Wildlife Center of the North Coast. We had originally been told “he” was as “she” and so had already named her Marisol, which in Spanish means sea and sun. While returning home with our new pelican in a large crate in the back of Judy’s van, we discussed name change and very quickly, Marisol became Solimar, which is the same meaning sun and sea but is also a beach in Ventura California. Solimar had a broken wrist on his right side – see the photo above. He can fly up to about 4’ and can reach his perches and pool.

Morro and Solimar getting into mischief

Solimar and Morro took about a week to become accepting of one another, but once they did, they are inseparable. You can view our Facebook page for recent photos.