Solstice at the Sanctuary: The Bay's Longest Days

Explore the sights, smells, and sounds of summer at Richardson Bay.

During the winter, about a dozen species of waterfowl trek from the frigid North in search of balmy California weather (not that Tiburon in December is anywhere close to warm — it's just not subzero, and the birds happily settle for that). They get to enjoy 900 acres of Sanctuary during these months, undisturbed by boat traffic or human intrusion; they are free to feed, rest, and dally in the waters of the Bay.

In the summer, Richardson Bay does a 180. Over one hundred summer campers, ages 4-7, crowd the Center over these three months of warmer weather (if the morning fog cooperates). For 8 weeks, the Center is a hub of recreation and learning where campers get to enjoy all that this unique environment has to offer. Here, the summertime is the perfect, equal opposite of winter — the campers revel in the upland habitat of the Center when the birds aren't here, and when we retreat during the rainy winter, the birds populate the Bay. This year marks our 66th season of camp and has been a staple of the community since the Center's creation in 1957. 

In addition to campers, summertime also means the arrival of Pacific gopher snakes, Western fence and alligator lizards, and the occasional skink. Barn and Tree Swallows emerge in the afternoons to hawk insects over the grass fields at the Center, and the last of the baby Western Bluebirds and Song Sparrows have fledged. Although our resident hummingbirds are still around, new pollinators are cropping up in and around our native plant gardens: monarch, Western tiger, and even the elusive California pipevine swallowtail butterflies can be seen flitting around. Last year, monarch butterflies had a population boom at the Center; our woodland habitat is also home to a Dutchman's-pipe, an endemic perennial plant that pipevines rely on to lay their eggs. Dutchman's-pipe is to pipevine swallowtails as milkweed is to monarchs — pipevine larvae feed exclusively on the foliage of the plant and sequester toxins from it to become poisonous themselves. 

This year, our summer campers are learning about marine ecosystems, pollinators, sharks, Bay mud, and winged animals, and you can too! We have a variety of upcoming events and volunteer opportunities you can sign up for this summer. RSVP to a guided native plant or bird walk, or sign up to volunteer in our monarch garden or on Aramburu Island. If peace and quiet is what you need the Center has that, too — our beaches are wonderful for exploring at low tide, when you can see an abundance of shorebirds and rock crabs. 

Despite the many seasonal changes, conserving the environment and animals of Richardson Bay is a permanent fixture of our Center. Consider supporting our efforts this summer, and be sure to drop in to see Richardson Bay in all its vibrance. 

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