Of course, we’ve seen a lot of changes in our own area lately, mostly due to the drought. Hillsides have turned brown early, and there’s little or no water in our streams and very little food for the birds. As a result, we’re not observing some of our favorite birds in the numbers we’ve seen in the past.
Climate change is hitting our birds hard. According to Audubon’s scientists, 170 California species will be threatened with extinction in the coming decades if we fail to take action on climate. Many of these imperiled birds are local favorites, such as the Western Bluebird, Golden Eagle, Brown Pelican, Burrowing Owl and Hooded Oriole.
Up and down California’s Central Valley, farmers are working with Audubon California to create habitat on their properties. It takes extra time and sometimes even requires the sacrifice of potential cropland, for them to provide food and homes for birds and other wildlife.
A Yolo County walnut grower took cuttings from his orchard to build brushpiles that swarm with White- and Golden-Crowned Sparrows all winter, and California Quail year-round. A Merced County farmer who grows blueberries, cherries and walnuts gave up 3 acres of her 75-acre ranch to install a large expanse of native trees and shrubs that feed Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, and Black-headed Grosbeaks. A farmer in Solano County expanded his creekside forest and now supports Swainson’s Hawks, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and various flycatchers. And commonly, we see bird boxes–for Barn Owls, Western Bluebirds, American Kestrels, Wood Ducks—lining farm fields and providing the nest site structure often missing from the farmed landscape.
Today, these activities are carried out for many reasons, most commonly out of an appreciation for wildlife and the desire to support and see more of it. No one does this for profit. But could they? As an Audubon supporter, would you be willing to pay a premium for a cherry, a walnut, or a tomato that you knew was grown by a farmer who also grew birds? Thank you for taking the time to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
“Some eggs are hatching right now,” Cynthia Hartley said. I had just arrived at Ormond Beach in Oxnard, California to learn more about Ventura Audubon’s Snowy Plover program. In my position as the Coastal Chapter Network Manager, I have learned a great deal about the Western Snowy Plover, but wasn’t sure if I had ever seen one. That was about to change on this field trip. Cynthia is the biologist who monitors the nesting Snowy Plovers at Ormond Beach. We were joined on our walk by Ventura Audubon chapter members Bruce and Joyce Schoppe and Jim Susha, who have been very active in protecting this colony. [Read more →]
Yesterday marked the second year of symbolic fencing on Pacifica State Beach. Pacifica Shorebird Alliance works with the City of Pacifica, Sequoia Audubon Society, and Audubon California to create signs and seasonal symbolic fencing for roosting winter Western Snowy Plovers. Many local beach-goers did not realize that there was a federally recognized endangered species on the beach. Symbolic fencing with signs shows people where the main habitat is, and helps educate the public about the importance of providing these birds with a safe space.
The fencing on Pacifica State Beach led to one of the largest wintering populations in recent years — the group has high hopes this year will bring even more birds.
Large numbers of Elegant Terns have arrived in our Richardson Bay Audubon Sanctuary over the last week. On Monday, an estimated 400 were seen roosting and foraging over the bay; nearly 200 of these were observed resting on Aramburu Island’s new shoreline.
Elegant Terns do not breed in the Bay Area. More than 95% of their entire population breeds on one small island in the Sea of Cortez (Isla Rasa). Adults usually lay just one egg, and once the young have fledged, they move north along the California coast where the fledglings learn to forage on their own, taking advantage of schooling anchovies and other small fish. They usually arrive in the Bay Area sometime in June and stay through late October/early November, when they head again to southern South America for the winter. Young remain relatively dependent on adults often for more than six months after fledging.
In Richardson Bay, up to 700 have been observed at once—which is approximately 1% of the estimated global populations—but prior to the 2012 Aramburu shoreline reconstruction there were very few sightings of terns using the island. Starting in the late summer of 2013, they roosted on the island’s new beaches in the hundreds. In fact, on August 16, 2013, we counted nearly 400 on Aramburu Island alone.
Peak numbers are expected to occur in September, making it a great month to visit the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary for some birding.
Santa Barbara residents didn’t need to be reminded of the hazards of putting oil drilling and oil transportation facilities near the ocean.
They learned this important lesson way back in 1969, when an accident on a Union Oil platform fouled the beaches and killed frightening numbers of birds and other wildlife. Smaller incidents over the years have kept the memory alive, so when a pipeline broke and dumped 105,000 gallons of crude on Refugio State Beach and nearby waters in May of this year, residents could rightly they say had seen this story one too many times.
But there is something about this one that seems different, and that’s the realization that perhaps the problem here isn’t oil drilling or pipelines, but actually oil itself.
When I was younger, we used to take bread to the pond to feed the ducks. Seemed like a nice thing to do and a way to interact with wildlife. However, feeding wild animals food meant for people can have many detrimental effects. The ducks in this photo from Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda have “angel wing”, which may have been caused by consumption of bread left by human visitors:
“Look closely at the two darker ducks in this picture, and you might notice their wings sticking up a bit strangely. This condition is called “angel wing” and prevents them from being able to fly. The sad truth is that this condition may be caused by eating bread left by well-meaning park visitors.
While kids can get away with eating junk food once in a while, young birds can’t. Birds grow much faster than humans. What they eat is very important to their proper growth and without proper nutrition, problems occur, like “angel wing.”
Help protect waterfowl by letting them find their own food at the pond, and never feeding them food from home!
There are a lot of skills that restoration ecologist Rachel Spadafore relies on as project lead on the restoration of Sonoma Creek Marsh. She is one of Audubon California’s foremost plant experts and can discuss soil quality with the best of them. Now, thanks to her experience with this project, she can add mice herding to her repertoire.
Sonoma Creek is home to the salt marsh harvest mouse. This rodent is endemic to San Francisco Bay salt marshes and is listed on both the state and federal endangered species lists. The healthy, functioning wetland that Audubon is creating in Sonoma Creek will greatly benefit this local population.
But in order to drive in and out the heavy machinery needed to create the wetland, the restoration crew required an access road. To prevent any injury to the mouse population, Rachel spent yesterday flushing the critters from the access road location. She summed up the experience as, “herding mice is a lot like herding cats.”
We are happy to report that no mice were harmed and the completion of the road was a success.
Sure looks that way. Readers may recall our complaints earlier this year about an Army Corps of Engineers plan to kill 11,000 Double-crested Cormorants and destroy 26,000 nests on Oregon’s East Sand Island in order to protect endangered salmon hatchlings. Well, our friends at the Audubon Society of Portland have obtained documents showing that at least one study commissioned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service indicated that killing the cormorants would not have any impact on salmon survival. Despite Audubon protests, the Army Corps moved forward with its plan this spring, and obtained a permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The killing of birds at East Sand Island has already begun. According to the Oregonian, 158 cormorants have been shot and 5,089 nests destroyed.
In the most depressing news we’re going to see in quite a while, a Golden Eagle released into the wild just three months ago after being rescued by firefighters was killed yesterday by a wind turbine in Livermore.
In a decision that has far-reaching implications for both bird conservation and wind energy, a U.S. District Court judge yesterday set aside a controversial rule that would allow operators of wind energy facilities to accidentally kill Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles for up to 30 years. The eagles are currently protected under federal statute, though wind energy companies can obtain a five-year permit. The industry pushed for the extension to give developers more “regulatory certainty.”
U.S. District Court Judge Lucy H. Koh determined that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service failed to adequately determine the impact of the permits on eagle populations, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit was Debi Shearwater, a charismatic leader of bird tours along California’s central coast. The American Bird Conservancy was also among the plaintiffs.
Yes, alligators can be seen at our Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary. Alligator Lizards (genus Elgaria), to be precise. A beautiful, medium-sized lizard native to the area, it eats small invertebrates, other lizards and small mammals. These lizards are typically found in urban and highly populated areas. A funny fact is that they will poop in self-defense if threatened or handled.