From the Classroom

Birding at the Baylands

Citizen science birds.JPG

It was another stunning day at the San Pablo Baylands, when thirty of Linda Judah’s high school Biology students flocked to the restored tidal marsh determined to identify and count birds. Initially students groaned that there were no birds in sight. The high tide meant that the many birds that dot the shores at low tide were elsewhere awaiting their daily timed feast.

Monitoring the marsh bird species is especially valuable as indicators for assessing the health of the wetland ecosystems, and species presence and quantity is a measurement of the success of wetland restoration. Marsh bird populations are expected to increase as the tidal marsh habitat matures; therefore, monitoring changes in bird populations provides evidence of the success of the restoration. 

After a discussion about bird monitoring, citizen science and the tangible value of the data collected, the students were given the specific guidelines used to document exact environmental conditions and location where birds are observed and counted. Assigned to five spots along the levee, students groups took their binoculars, descriptions of frequently observed birds, and were instructed sit for 15 minutes looking out towards the bay. The stillness of the glistening water gave quiet reset for families of ducks as they slid across the surface, and the marsh mounds that broke through the silvery surface provided vegetation for Great Green Herron and a blue egret. The deceptively still day was actually alive with multiple bird species that quietly enjoyed this evolving habitat. Students were stunned when the reported back to their classmates the variety and quantity of what they had observed.

As this environment continues to evolve into a rich ecosystem, the Sonoma Land Trust needs volunteer citizen scientists to help monitor bird use at the Sears Point tidal marsh restoration site. The data gathered will help inform SLT and the larger wetland restoration community about how birds respond to the changes over time.

If you are interested in participating in bird monitoring, the Sonoma Land Trust is hosting a training session with renowned bird expert Daniel Edelstein on December 2, at 1pm, at Sears Point Ranch. New volunteer bird monitors are expected to attend the training session. Dates of bird monitoring sessions are being scheduled and currently include December 8 and 11.