Archive for November, 2016

Delta Conservancy Logo 3I have been working at the Delta Conservancy for just over a year now. In that time, one of the major projects I have been working on is our Proposition 1 Grant Program. Proposition 1 was a water bond passed by voters in 2014. Among many other things, it allocated $50 million dollars for the Delta Conservancy to give out to fund projects that would restore habitat, improve water quality, and/or support sustainable agriculture within the legal boundary of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A large part of my role here has been to help our Program Manager and higher ranking staff to form the competitive process by which organizations could submit proposals for projects, the process of reviewing and ranking those proposals to determine which will be funded, and then the management of the specific grant awards to successful projects.

In 2015, just before I began working here, the Delta Conservancy received its first round of project proposals (there will be subsequent rounds in the fall of 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019). I was very involved in reviewing those proposals and scoring them to determine which would go on to be awarded funding. We have now gone through the entire process of reviewing the proposals, recommending the most qualified proposals to our board of directors for approval, and then writing the actual grant agreements which is pretty exciting because it now means we are able to move forward with giving funds to get projects accomplished.

I thought it might be interesting to introduce you to those projects as they get underway. I am going to be the grant manager for four of the projects from our 2015 batch of proposals, and so will focus on those projects because they are the ones I am most intimately involved with.

Of the grants I will be managing, one has gone through the complete process and has a signed and executed grant agreement with the Delta Conservancy, and that is the one I am going to introduce here.


The confluence of Marsh Creek (entering from the left) and Sand Creek (entering from the right) in Brentwood, CA (Photo by American Rivers).

The project is called the Lower Marsh and Sand Creek Watershed Riparian Restoration Planning Project. It was proposed by a non-profit organization named American Rivers with two major goals: 1) to develop a plan to select and organize restoration projects along the portions of Marsh Creek and Sand Creek where they flow through the cities of Brentwood, Oakley and Antioch, CA, and 2) to create and distribute guidelines for how to incorporate stormwater runoff into land use designs. This project has a budget of $73,493 to be spent over the course of three years.

The area where both goals of this project will focus is an area of heavy urban and suburban development. Of all the regions in the Delta, the cities listed above encompass the largest, and fastest growing, human population. The creeks in this area flow down canals that have very little vegetation along their banks and so provide almost no habitat for native birds, mammals, insects, fish, etc. The first goal of this planning project will help American Rivers and their partners to move quickly to acquire properties along the creeks as they become available, and also to design habitat restoration projects on those properties.

When heavy rains fall on the region, that water must go somewhere, and go there quickly. This stromwater runoff is a pulse of water that hits the system suddenly and washes debris, litter, and other pollutants into the creeks. This creates the need for dealing with these stromwater runoff flows in such a way as to minimize the negative impacts to the creeks. The second goal of this project will be the development of techniques for how property owners along the creeks can manage stromwater runoff. These techniques may include stormwater drains that have screens for catching trash that can then be easily disposed of, the formation on drainage ditches that will let stormwater runoff pool and then flow more slowly into the creek and so reduce erosion and limit the release of large amounts of pollution, and other practices that will benefit the creeks of the region. These guidelines will be incorporated into the property development handbook that they cities use and that property developers must follow.

In the three years that this planing project will take, it is going to be very interesting to see what restoration projects come to the surface and what stormwater guidelines are developed. I will keep you posted on these developments and also on the other grants I will be managing as they come online.

Now that it is fall of 2016, our second round of proposals are in the midst of being reviewed and scored. I am looking forward to seeing what projects are proposed and which are successful and will be funded by the Delta Conservancy.

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PBCS logoThe Drake’s Beach Sanderlings 

A Point Blue Conservation Science, Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon Team

Dear Sponsor,

The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings met again this year on the 24th of September for our 17th annual Bird-a-thon. As always, this was a fast paced day with a lot of jumping in and out of cars at sites all over Marin County. This year was another drought year for California with little or no water at many of the sites visited. Additionally, with a light breeze and clear skies for the proceeding several nights, many migrants were able to continue their journeys. This resulted in some very quiet sites. But each quiet site only inspired us to search every bramble, examine every bird, and after a day of fighting for every species, we ended with a lot of birds on our list and had a simply splendid day!


The 2016 Sanderlings group photo (Photo by Cheryl Ishida).

The team, this year was comprised of Ellen Blustein, Aaron Haiman, Catherine Berner, Lyell Nesbitt, Jonah Benningfield, Max Benningfield, John Myles, Eddie Monson, and Connor Cochrane. And the level of enthusiasm on this year’s bird-a-thon was at a particularly high mark which made the day particularly special.

We began at the Bear Valley Visitor Center to try to hear some owls. Under a spectacular starry sky, this was our first indication that we were going to have to work hard for our species. Generally, the Great Horned Owls around Bear Valley, but that morning was silent. We quickly decided to move on and headed to Olema Marsh where Ellen clapped the rails into chorus. Then it was off to Five Brooks Pond where we finally heard Great Horned Owls calling back and forth. After searching for songbirds despite a very mild dawn chorus we began our crisscrossing of Marin from Stinson Beach to the Outer Point to the interior of the county and the east side. Some of the birds and stops that were especially notable included: the Swainson’s Thrushes we heard at Five Brooks; a little flock of Pygmy Nuthatches and a spectacular set of chases by Parasitic Jaegers going after Brown Pelicans or Elegant Terns at Stinson Beach; while the ranches on the Outer Point were pretty empty, we did enjoy the flocks of Tricolored Blackbirds, and at our stop at the Elephant Seal Overlook we were treated to a Black Oystercatcher and a Rock Wren which are both species we usually miss;  at Las Gallinas we picked up a Palm Warbler and a Lesser Scaup! Finally we ended at the Embassy Suites Marsh for a final Ridgeway’s Rail as the sun set!


The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings birding on Drake’s Beach (Photo by Kristin Myles)

After all was said and done, and we had searched Marin County for 14 hours, we spotted a total of 131 bird species (see below) and learned and laughed a lot! It was terrific to be out in the field with such a great group, and we are already looking forward to next year.

Thank you for your support of this amazing team, of Point Blue Conservation Science, and of birds in general. Your donation will be used to help study and protect birds and the ecosystems in which they live against climate change and habitat loss. It also sends an important message that people care about the natural world. We hope you will choose to support us again in the future.

With Gratitude,

The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings


Total Species List 2016:


Red-throated Loon, Pacific Loon, Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Western Grebe, American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Double-Crested Cormorant, Brandt’s Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Great-Blue Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, California Quail, Ridgeway’s Rail, Virginia Rail, Sora, Common Gallinule, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Black Oystercatcher, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Least Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Parasitic Jaeger, Heermann’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Herring Gull, Western Gull, Glacous-winged Gull, Elegant Tern, Forester’s Tern, Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Mourning Dove, Band-tailed Pigeon, Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, Vaux’s Swift, Anna’s Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Acorn Woodpecker, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pacific Slope Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Say’s Phoebe, Barn Swallow, Steller’s Jay, California Scrub-Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Oak Titmouse, Bushtit, White-breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Rock Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Pacific Wren, Marsh Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Western Bluebird, Swainson’s Thrush, American Robin, Wrentit, Northern Mockingbird, Hutton’s Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, Palm Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Spotted Towhee, California Towhee, Savannah Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird, Tricolored Blackbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch, Mute Swan, Wild Turkey, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collard-Dove, European Starling, House Sparrow


Stripped Skunk, Coyote, Raccoon, Mule Deer, Humpback Whale, Harbor Seal, Sonoma Chipmunk, River Otter, Grey Fox


Monarch, Western Tiger-Swallowtail, Green Darner, Black Saddlebags, Vivid Dancer


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