Posts Tagged ‘Point Blue Conservation Science’

On October 3rd, 2020 I took part in a very unusual bird-a-thon.

The Point Blue Conservation Science Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon is an event I have been participating in for about 20 years, now, and have written about numerous times on this blog (see the links at the bottom of this post to read some of them). The team I bird with is named the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, and we are the longest running youth bird-a-thon team I know of. I started as a youth member of the team, and have now been the team leader for the past few years. It is a great team of very talented and passionate young birders.

The usual plan for the Sanderlings is to gather very early one morning in late September or early October in Marin County, and spend the entire day darting all over the county to find as many species of bird as we possibly can. It is always exhausting and exciting and terrific!

However, as with some many other aspects of life, 2020 is different. Instead of meeting in-person Point Blue decided on a few different ways for people to participate in the event. The Sanderlings decided to each go out and bird, and then combine each of our individual totals. This is not at all comparable to past bird-a-thon years since each team member would be in a different area and have access to different habitats with different species. But it is still a great way to go birding and raise funds for a terrific organization!

For myself, I decided to set a challenge of birding within the city limits of my home town, West Sacramento, CA. Unfortunately, the wildfires that are burning across much of state made the air quality pretty bad, so I was not able to stay out and bird for the whole day.

But, my West Sac Big (half)Day was still a fun challenge! I ended up finding 82 species! Some of my highlights included a late Barn Swallow; a single Greater White-fronted Goose; a wonderful mixed flock of Savannah Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, Western Bluebirds, and Say’s Phoebes; a really spectacular Yellow Warbler that let me get really close; a handful of Blue-winged Teal mixed in among hundreds of Cinnamon Teal; lots of Lincoln’s Sparrows throughout the day; a flock of Sandhill Cranes bugling as they flew overhead; and stumbling upon a small flock of Least Sandpipers. Some notable species that I missed included Osprey, Fox Sparrow, and many of waterfowl that I thought I would get such as Snow Goose, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, and Gadwall.

This event ended up being a lot of fun even though it was a half day because of smoke and I was alone because of COVID-19. I am definitely interested in trying the West Sac Big Day again. Maybe in a different season (I think winter would probably get me the highest species total), and definitely for a whole day.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Wear a mask.

Here are some other posts on the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings:




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Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon 2019 logoPoint Blue Conservation Science has a blog called Science for a Blue Planet that highlights the great work done by this organization. The blog post reporting on the 2019 Bird-a-thon features the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings!  It is really wonderful to get this kind of acknowledgement, and exciting that the Sanderlings might be the high species total winner this year!

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Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon 2019 logo

What a day! What a day! What a day! The Drakes’ Beach Sanderlings participated again in the Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon on October 5th. The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, which is Point Blue Conservation Science’s longest running youth bird-a-thon team, was a bird finding machine! Thanks to our amazing donors, our team raised over $2,500 this year! To each of our sponsors, thank you so much for your support!


The 2019 Drake’s Beach Sanderlings birding on Drake’s Beach (from left to right: Susie, Max L., Oscar, Max B., Eddie, Connor, Lucas, and Aaron)

As usual, our day began very early. At 5:15am, and in the 39°F chill of the pre-dawn morning, we met at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. The sky was spectacularly clear which made for beautiful star-gazing but did not bode well for finding migrants later in the day. As soon as we got out of our cars, we realized we were surrounded by Great Horned Owls, and after a bit of listening, we added Spotted Owl to our list for the day! A good start!

The team stopped by Olema Marsh which irrupted in a cacophony of Virginia Rails as soon as we clapped for them! We then sped off to Five Brooks Pond where we tried to find more owls while it was still dark. As dawn approached, we were treated to a terrific mixed flock of Bushtits, both species of Kinglet, and lots and lots of Townsends Warblers. We then drove past Bolinas Lagoon and birded Stinson Beach.

Leaving Stinson Beach we broke into the Oreos and headed for the Outer Point! It was still early, and a quick overview of the species list showed that we had already found over 100 species by the time we reached the Outer Point! This put us ahead of schedule on both time and species.

Confirming our concerns from the morning, the clear skies the night before resulted in there being no vagrant birds anywhere on the Outer Point, though there were tons of Red-breasted Nuthatches. It was somewhat frustrating to find no unusual birds at Chimney Rock or Drake’s Beach, but we did not get too attached to birding the area and left to head east. We did stop at an overlook near Chimney Rock to find Black Oystercatchers and got to watch a pod of Humpbacked Whales feeding off the coast.


Drake’s Beach Sanderlings team members Max L., Oscar, Max B., and Connor searching for Black Oystercatchers near Chimney Rock.

The team then started zig-zagging across the east half of the county picking up more bird species all along the way. We certainly had some ups and downs. We made some targeted stops for particular species that mostly worked in our favor. The ponds at the Las Gallinas Water Treatment Plant were the emptiest I have ever seen them, but a quick change of course to the Hamilton Wetlands was gangbusters! As usual, we ended at our customary final stop at an east San Rafael marsh where the Ridgeway’s Rails were calling before we even got out of the car!

Over the course of the day, the team moved incredibly efficiently. When a site was not producing the species we were hoping for, we quickly made decisions to abandon those stops and to go look elsewhere. The knowledge of all the team members came together to produce a cornucopia of species even though we did not find a single species that would be considered noteworthy for Marin County. The list we ended up with included 162 species as a group, and 2 more that were only seen by a single team member and so don’t quite count! The full list is on the next page. We all had an amazing day. We enjoyed every bird, ate a lot of cookies, and shared a lot of stories and knowledge. All the things that make the Sanderlings great!

I want to thank all those who supported this team. The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings is a very special group that I am honored to lead, and passionate to see continue. With the support of our sponsors, we all help promote bird conservation and climate science, and also something more. We help to show the role that young people can play. Bringing in funding in an event like this reminds the world, and the birding community in particular, that dedicated young birders can and do make significant contributions to the cause of protecting our world. I hope that all our sponsors return next year to support us again, and all those who did not sponsor us this year will consider joining the cause next year. I can’t wait!

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Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon 2019 logo

Dear Sponsor,

The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings was the first, and is the longest running, youth Bird-a-thon team that the Point Reyes Bird Observatory has ever organized. I was one of the founding youth members and am now the team leader.

Since its beginning, the Sanderlings have established a very successful tradition of crisscrossing Marin County every fall, finding as many bird species as possible in twenty-four hours, and raising money for bird research and conservation. During the 2018 bird-a-thon, the Sanderlings were particularly successful when we found more bird species than any other team that year! Over the years our team members have changed as our youths get older, move away, or enter college. Wherever they have spread, Sanderlings members carry a passion for birds and nature with them that was, in part, nurtured by our team.

We are now preparing for our 2019 bird-a-thon! To support this team, I would like to invite you to become a sponsor of the Sanderlings. Your support sends a powerful message to the birding community that a team of young people can make an important contribution to bird conservation. This year, the Sanderlings bird-a-thon will be on October 5th. When you become a sponsor, I will be sure to let you know how the day goes.

Becoming a sponsor is easy! Just go to: https://pointblue.securesweet.com/contribute_paymentspring.asp?userid=1&fundid=832 and enter your info, or follow the QR code, below. I hope you are able to support this wonderful team. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.




Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team Leader

QR Code - blog

Sanderlings 2018 Team Photo

The 2018 Drake’s Beach Sanderlings.


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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.



Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team Leader






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Parasitic JaegerDear Friend,

The Bird-a-Thon: Rogue Year has happened! And what a terrific day it was. This year the team consisted of Jonah Benningfield, Max Benningfield, Oscar Moss, Eddie Monson, and Connor Cochrane with Catherine Berner, Ellen Blustein and Aaron Haiman as organizers.    The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings was the first, and is the longest running youth bird-a-thon team supported by Point Blue Conservation Science. Over the past 15+ years, this extraordinary team has helped to foster 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 across the globe!

Starting at 5:30 am at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, we heard several owls including a Northern Saw-Whet Owl! From there we began our zigzagging across the county. We found a Swamp Sparrow and a Herring Gull along Bolinas Lagoon; Whimbrel, Parasitic Jaegers, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows at Stinson Beach; found a Blackpole Warbler, a Townsend’s Solitaire, and a Ferruginous Hawk at some of the ranches on the Outer Point, a Horned Grebe and a flock of Sanderlings on Drake’s Beach (yes the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings team watched Sanderlings on Drake’s Beach); a Wilson’s Snipe at Stafford Lake; and we ended with several very cooperative Ridgeway’s Rails calling as we got out of the car; and many, many more. All in all this year, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings birded for over 14 hours and saw 139 species of bird!

Additional species that we saw included lots of mammals such as Mule Deer, Grey Fox, Coyote, Harbor Porpoise, and Northern Elephant Seal; and insects such as Black Saddlebags, Seven-spotted Skimmer, and lots and lots of Monarchs.

Since Point Blue Conservation Science was not able to organize the bird-a-thon this year, we went out on our own: The Rogue Year! Without support from Point Blue we have had no assistance getting the word out about our event, so we need all the help we can get. And you can still donate to the Sanderlings! By donating a fixed amount (such as $15.00) or an amount per species (such as $0.25/species), you encourage young people to go out and engage with birds, the natural world, and to work for a better future.

Donating is easy! Just mail a check, made out to Point Blue Conservation Science, to me at: 203 Touchstone Pl, West Sacramento, CA 95691 I will collect the donations and send them to Point Blue.

We very much appreciate your support for the Sanderlings Bird-a-thon: 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.


Aaron N.K. Haiman

Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team Co-Leader

Sanderlings Team 2017

The 2017 Drake’s Beach Sanderlings

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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.


Aaron N.K. Haiman

Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team Co-Leader

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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.


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!


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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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It was late summer of 2000 when I received a phone call from Ellen Blustein. I knew Ellen from birding on the hawkwatching team she led for the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, from helping on her South San Rafael Christmas Bird Count, and other shared bird walks over the years. The reason for this particular phone call was that earlier that year, Leica Sports Optik made a contribution to, then, PRBO to sponsor the creation of a youth bird-a-thon team. Rich Stallcup and Ellen had agreed to organize and lead the team that fall. Going off our birding history together, Ellen wanted to know if I might be interested in being one of the youths. Of course I was delighted to be invited and said yes right away. Ellen also asked if my brother, Joshua Haiman, and two close friends, Christopher Berner and Frazer Meacham, who were also serious young birders, would join the team as well. All agreed, and the youth bird-a-thon team had its founding members.

In late September of 2000, the six of us met, with my mom, Ann Kositsky, along as the responsible adult for the teens, and piled into a rented van for the first Leica/PRBO Youth Bird-a-thon. We had an amazing day with beautiful weather, terrific companions, a disturbing amount of food (remember that there were four teenage boys in that van), and a total of 157 species seen. Some of the highlights that I still remember included hearing Spotted and Saw-whet Owls at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, finding a Black Rail in the marshes of Pine Gulch, seeing my first Pomarine Jaeger off Stinson Beach, and finding a Chestnut-sided Warbler and a Yellow-headed Blackbird while stopping at the Outer Point. That first youth bird-a-thon was such a great success that almost every year since, in late September or early October, the youth team has continued to meet. The only year we did not take to the field was 2012 when Rich’s health was declining.

Sanderling, adult winter (John C. Avise)

A Sanderling in basic plumage (Photo by John C. Avise)

Over the last 15+ years, we have gone through a few name changes as sponsors have come and gone and PRBO became PRBO Conservation Science and now Point Blue Conservation Science. A few years in, we settled on ‘The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings’ for our official team name and it has really stuck. Our membership has also changed as new, passionate young birders have joined our team and our older members have dispersed to colleges, other bird-a-thon teams, and other pursuits. We have had over 30 youth members and all are still passionate about the natural world. Many have gone on to pursue careers in biology in one form or another. Our total species counts for our bird-a-thon have ranged from 132 to 170 species including lifers for all our members.

One of the features that I have been struck by, as our members and former members have moved out into the world, is the diverse paths that this set of young people are taking. From psychology to computer programing, the people who have participated in the youth bird-a-thon are spreading across the globe. But all share a love and passion for birds, nature, and wildness. This is the passion that the youth bird-a-thon aims at fostering, and they are carrying this passion out into the world with them. As one of the founding youth members of the Youth Bird-a-thon team in 2000, and having been a participant almost every year since, I have witnessed this amazing process first hand. Every year it has been a special honor to participate. Being able to spend a day birding at the side of birders such as Ellen Bluestein and Rich Stallcup guaranteed that I would gain knowledge; and wisdom as well. With wonderful birds to see, special parts of Marin County to explore, and terrific team members to share and learn with, the PBCS Youth Bird-a-thon is one of the highlights of my year. I am very excited to now be co-leading the team and experiencing the bird-a-thon in a whole new way.


Wrentit (2015 Bird-a-thon logo)

Year after year, the youth members, from the age of 5 years old and up, have shown that ‘adulthood’ is not a required component for serious birding, and also that kids can play an important and significant role in birding culture and conservation as a whole. Hard work, energy, and enthusiasm have earned these kids the respect of their peers, and each stands as a reminder of what young people can accomplish when given the opportunity. By making a donation in support of the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, or any other youth team, you are supporting the next generation of birders and conservationists; you are supporting the future of birding. So, this year, I hope you decide to do just that.

To donate and support the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, follow this link, and click on the ‘Donate’ button on the right side of the page.

See you in the field!

Aaron N.K. Haiman



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