Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Citizen Science’ Category

Dear Sponsor (I hope!),

About twenty years ago, the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) founded a new bird-a-thon team named the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings. The Sanderlings was particularly noteworthy because it was the first youth Bird-a-thon team that PRBO had ever organized. It was an exciting event! I remember, because I was one of the first youth members of the Sanderlings.

In the years since, the Sanderlings (myself included) have continued a very successful tradition of taking to the field every fall to crisscross Marin County, finding as many bird species as possible in twenty-four hours, and raising money for bird research and conservation. This makes the Sanderlings the longest running youth bird-a-thon team I am aware of! It is certainly the longest running such team in California. The team has included a shifting variety of members as our youths have gotten older, moved away, and/or gone to college. Wherever they have spread to, they have carried with them a passion for birds and nature that was, in part, nurtured by the Sanderlings.

Sanderling, adult winter (John C. Avise)

The team’s namesake, a Sanderling

Until his death, the Sanderlings were led by the legendary Rich Stallcup along with former PRBO board member Ellen Blustein. After Rich passed away, I was invited to co-lead the team with Ellen, and I have been honored to do so every year since. This year Ellen has decided to step down as a team leader which marks the latest change in the history of the team. PRBO has changed as well, including a name change to Point Blue Conservation Science.

In this modern age, youth participation in conservation, both globally and locally, has never been more important. However, there is growing concern that birds will not be able to compete with digital sources for the attention of what could be the next generation of conservation leaders. Teams like the Sanderlings help to engage youths with birds and the natural world.

To support and continue to encourage youth engagement in the natural world, I would like to invite you to become a sponsor of the Sanderlings. Your support sends a powerful message that a team like the Sanderlings should continue to be taken seriously and continue to grow. This year, the Sanderlings bird-a-thon will be on September 29th, and if you do choose to become a sponsor, I will be sure to let you know how the day goes.

To become a sponsor, go to: http://pointblue.blueskysweet.com/teampage.asp?fundid=800#.W3xRM-hKi70 and click the DONATE NOW button. I hope you think we are worthy of your support. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.

Sincerely,

Aaron

Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team Leader

510-289-7239

agincourt82@hotmail.com

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

A friend of mine has been volunteering with the National Park Service to track the nesting activities of raptors in the Presidio in San Francisco, CA for the past twenty years. There are four species of bird of prey that nest in the park. They are Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, and Great Horned Owl.

Information that has been collected include where these birds nest, how many nest in the park, when stages of nesting (breeding, egg laying, incubation, etc.) occur, how many chick fledge from each nest, etc.

This project has taken a wonderful turn this year with the installation of nest cams! My friend, and others, have been working with the Park Service to get funding to purchase and install nest live-cams on some of the active nests. One of the first such cams has now been installed on a Red-tailed Hawk nest that has been built between the branches of a Blue Gum Eucalyptus Tree. The live-stream of this nest cam can be found on YouTube HERE.

RTHA Nest Cam Capture

Male Red-tailed Hawk in the Presidio, San Francisco, CA incubating the one egg that had been laid at this point. Note thin, black barring that are restricted to near the base of the tail.

The pair of Red-tailed Hawks have laid one white, and lightly speckled egg in the nest as of 3/7/2018. The male and female can be distinguished by a few characteristics. The best is by tail pattern. The male has a few, very thin black bars on its red tail. These bars are limited to the base of the tail. The female, on the other hand, has those thin black bars on the tail that extend just about all the way down to the black subterminal band near the tail tip. Beyond these tail pattern differences, the male and female have different molt patterns on the secondary flight feathers, the male is slightly smaller than the female, and the male is banded!

RTHA Nest Cam Capture F

Female Red-tailed Hawk in the Presidio, San Francisco, CA incubating the one egg that had been laid at this point. Note the thin, black barring that extend all the way to the subterminal tail band.

I have already noticed a few interesting things after only checking in on the nest for a couple of days. One is that when the the male comes to the nest to give the female a break, he sometimes brings nesting materials to add to the nest. He does this even though the nest is complete and an egg has been laid.

So far, about 60 people have been watching the nest at any given time. I am sure that this number will go up, and it will be great to push it as high as possible, since I am also sure that the Park Service will be more inclined to install more live-cams if the public response is positive and strong. So watch the Red-tailed Hawks and see what is going on at  the nest!

 

Read Full Post »

IMG_20170829_091735[1]Along with about 125 other scientists, researchers, and managers, I spent most of last Tuesday attending the Delta Invasive Species Symposium hosted on the U.C. Davis campus and organized by the Delta Stewardship Council, U.C. Davis, and the Delta Interagency Invasive Species Coordination Team.

It was a very interesting symposium that included talks, posters, and a terrific panel discussion. Topics covered a wide range of invasive species ecology, invasive species management techniques and efforts, the effects of invasive species on natural communities and human society, and how invasive species are likely to be effected by climate change.

There are a huge number of invasive species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This list includes plants like Water Hyacinth and Giant Reed, vertebrates such as Northern Watersnake and Stripped Bass, invertebrates like Asian Gypsy Moth and Spotted Lanternfly, and many many others.

Dealing with the effects of these invasive species, and attempting to control their populations, costs millions of dollar every year.

Given these high costs, prevention is without doubt the best technique when dealing with invasive species. The costs of measures that are undertaken to prevent an invasive species from entering an area, the Delta for example, are certainly going to be less than the costs of controlling that species once it becomes established. Many efforts are being undertaken in the Delta to keep new invaders from entering. This is especially important because many invasive species are currently found near the Delta, that could become huge problems in they show enter the Delta system. Nutria are an example of this. The Nutria is a large rodent native to South America. A population was established in the southern Sierra in the hope of crating a source for furs, but the furs of Nutria did not catch on in the market place, and the effort was abandoned. The Nutria that had been released were hunted and almost completely exterminated in the 1960s, but small numbers have started showing up along the Merced and  San Joaquin Rivers. If those populations are allowed to grow and spread, they will cause massive damage to the Delta ecosystem because of the feeding habits of Nutria which can leave extensive tracts of wetlands denuded of vegetation.

The next best technique is early detection and rapid responses. If an invasive species is expanding its geographic range, having lots of observations of where it is occurring is immensely useful. Knowing exactly where, when, and how many individuals are out there can mean that, with a swift response, it may be possible to control their numbers. This is where the value of citizen science networks is particularly dramatic. There is no way that professional biologists will be able to cover a whole area at small enough detail and high enough frequency to realistically be able to watch for any and all invasive species. But with online databases and citizen scientists out in the field, there may be enough eyes to pick up on new invasive arrivals. Projects like eBird, Calflora, and others allow individuals to add their observations together to form an enormous and very thorough observation net.

One reason that tracking and responding to invasive species is so important is the effects that they have on native species. Competition with invasive species is the second most common reason for species to be placed on the Endangered Species List (behind habitat destruction), and invasive species interactions are a contributing factor for listing 1/3 of all listed species!

And it is only going to get worse. Global climate change is opening up large areas that used to be unlikely places for invasive species to get a foothold. Alaska is just such a place. Historically, places like Alaska had harsh enough environments that, generally speaking, only species that had evolved with those conditions did well. With the warming climate, these harsh conditions that have protected such areas are becoming less harsh. Elodea is an aquatic plant that is often considered an invasive due its rapid growth rates and its tendency to exclude other species from an area. Historically, it was not found in Alaska at all, but in the past few years has started to appear in parts of the state.

All in all, I learned a lot at the symposium. There are definitely a lot of threats and dangers posed by invasive species in the Delta and many more from invasive species that are not currently present should they enter the Delta ecosystem. But there is also so much that can and is being done by dedicated professionals in the field, and also by communities and citizen scientists who care about the natural ecosystems in which we all live.

Read Full Post »

Parasitic Jaeger

Parasitic Jeager. One of the early names that the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings tried out was The Jeagers.

Dear Friend,

For more than 15 years, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings have participated in the Point Blue Conservation Science Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon. During that time, dozens of young birders have had the opportunity to learn about birds, bird conservation, and ecosystem stewardship.

The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings was the first youth bird-a-thon team supported by Point Blue Conservation Science. Over the years, this extraordinary team has helped to foster a deep seated passion for wildlife and conservation in young people. These young people have then carried that passion and knowledge into the world with them as they have spread into a wide range of endeavors.

Last year, in 2016, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings birded for over 14 hours, covered over 100 miles zig-zagging across Marin County, saw a total of 131 species of bird, and raised over $3,000!

This year is going to be the same in some ways, and very different in others. Some of the similarities are that the Sanderlings are going out again, this year on the 23rd of September, to crisscross Marin County. We will be visiting all our favorite spots, and probably a few new ones, to find as many species of bird as we possibly can. One of the biggest differences is going to be that this is not an official Point Blue bird-a-thon! Due to staffing issues, among other things, Point Blue Conservation Science will not be able to support and run the Bird-a-thon. This is only a temporary situation, and Point Blue is fully planning on reinvigorating the bird-a-thon in 2018. However, it means that those of us who are still committed to the bird-a-thon cause are going rogue this year. It also means that we really need your help! With no support from Point Blue, we are on our own conducting outreach, and generating enthusiasm and dollars, for bird research and conservation!

Sanderlings Team 1

The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings birding Drake’s Beach during the 2016 bird-a-thon.

With the help of sponsors like you, we have helped to raise tens of thousands of dollars for environmental stewardship and conservation of the ecosystems on which we all depend. Your support of the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings encourages young people to go out and engage with birds and the natural world, and work for a better future.

So join us and donate a fixed amount (like $15.00) or an amount per species (like $0.25/species). Your support provides opportunities for young and old to engage in environmental stewardship, experience the rewards of connecting with their environment, and make a real difference in their communities and the world.

And donating is easy! Just mail a check, made out to Point Blue Conservation Science, to me at: 203 Touchstone Pl, West Sacramento, CA 95691

We very much appreciate your support for the Sanderlings Bird-a-thon: The Rogue Year. If you have any questions about The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, the Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon, or our any other aspect of this event please e-mail or call me at aaron.haiman@deltaconservancy.ca.gov or 510-289-7239.

Sincerely,

Aaron N.K. Haiman

Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team Co-Leader

Read Full Post »

 

Celebrate the 27th Annual Creek Week 2017

We Are Creeks

The 27th Annual Creek Week splashes off on April 21st with county-wide educational activities, creek tours, and an April 29th cleanup day and volunteer celebration.

The Sacramento Area Creeks Council invites you to participate in cleaning area creeks in conjunction with Creek Week 2017. The fun begins April 21st when Creek Week “splashes off” for a week of county-wide educational activities, creek tours, nature walks, and more! The “Big Day” is on April 29th when volunteers remove tons of trash and invasive plants, as well as conduct water monitoring along area creeks. Then they celebrate their accomplishments later that day at Carmichael Park.

It may seem like a small act of community service, but these local activities have large-scale environmental impacts. Habitat restoration and litter removal improves wildlife habitat and helps filter pollutants before they reach the river.

Also important to note, keeping trash out of streets and waterways helps prevent flooding during rain storms by allowing storm water to flow through unobstructed storm drains and creeks.

Be part of an area-wide volunteer effort to improve and enhance our urban waterways. Trash and invasive plant removal and water quality testing all help support a healthy creek system.

The annual Creek Week event, now in its 27th year, raises awareness about sources of water pollution, and gives participants of all ages and abilities an opportunity to have a great time and feel great about protecting our environment.

Visit http://www.creekweek.net to learn more about how to volunteer and for activity locations and times. Creek clean up locations include:

  • Citrus Heights
  • Carmichael & Arden-Arcade
  • Rio Linda
  • Natomas, North Sacramento, & North Highlands
  • South Sacramento County
  • Rancho Cordova
  • Antelope
  • Folsom
  • The Delta
  • Orangevale

Volunteers must register by Friday, April 28th at http://www.creekweek.net or call one of the numbers indicated on the web site. All volunteers must complete and sign a waiver form.

The Sacramento Area Creeks Council preserves, protects, restores and maintains the natural streams in our urban communities through education, advocacy, financial support and technical expertise. Our goal is to educate the general public on the aesthetic, recreational, educational, and ecological value of our urban creeks.

Connect on Facebook at #creekweek.sac

 

Read Full Post »

Information is important. With information each of us as individuals, and our society as a whole, can learn about the world. With information, we can all make decisions that make sense. With information, we can all discuss ideas.

Without information none of that is possible. Without information, we are, at best, at the mercy of our current, limited knowledge, and our base instincts. Without information we are, at worst, at the mercy of the limited knowledge and instincts of someone else.

This is why the gag order, and insistence that all reports and data be pre-screened before release to the public, issued by the President to the EPA are so concerning to me, and I think should be so concerning everyone else. This is exactly the kind of action that limits access to, and spread of, information. It will only hamper all of our abilities to operate as rational, critically thinking individuals. It is the kind of action that is put in place to control what we, as citizens, know and when we know it. This is censorship and it has no place in science or a free society.

#thisisnotnormal

pansy-white-blue

Read Full Post »

PBCS logoOn Saturday, I had the pleasure and privilege of being the MC for the awards celebration at the Point Blue Conservation Science 2016 Bird-a-thon dinner. It was a terrific evening that the staff of Point Blue had put a lot of work into to make run so smoothly.

This was a celebration of the 39th annual Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon (learn more about it here) which is a fund raiser where teams of birders go out into the county of their choice and bird for a 24 hours period each fall. These teams collect sponsors who donate money to Point Blue in fixed sums or on a per-species basis. It is a great event that gets people out to enjoy the natural world, see a lot of different species of bird (and other wildlife), and raises money for bird research and conservation of birds and of the whole ecosystems in which they, and we, live.

stallcup-juliet-grable

Rich Stallcup doing what he loved (photo by Juliet Grable)

The Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon (named for the late great Rich Stallcup who played a huge roll in founding the Point Reyes Bird Observatory that later became Point Blue Conservation Science and also in inspiring several generations of birders and naturalists) has raised over $3 million over its 39 year history making it the longest running event of its kind in the USA!

The 2016 Bird-a-thon, collectively, saw 266 species of birds, raised more than $82 thousand, and included dozens of teams comprised of several hundred individual counters.

At the awards dinner, we recognized individuals and teams who raised the most money, who competed for the most species seen per county, who competed as green teams (meaning that no fossil fuels were used during the actual count). We also recognized the contributions of the youth teams, of which there were three this year, and one of which I co-led.

In addition to the awards, Wendell Gilgert, the director of the Point Blue Rangeland Watershed Initiative, gave a presentation on the importance of rangelands in protecting biodiversity, reducing greenhouse gas levels, and storing water. It was a fantastic presentation that I think exposed even the most experienced birders in the audience to some new information and a novel way of looking at biodiversity to read the health of a landscape.

It truly was a lovely evening in the company of a bunch of passionate bird nuts, and I am very much looking forward to the 2017 bird-a-thon! I hope you will join us!

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »