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Volunteer on Aramburu Island During a Restoration Workday
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Every year on the third Friday of May, the nation celebrates Endangered Species Day. This day is an opportunity to learn about the importance of protecting threatened and endangered species and their habitats. Here in the California Bay Area, a lucky birder has the chance to see the threatened Western Snowy Plover- a subspecies of the Snowy Plover found along the Pacific coast from Washington to Baja California. The population distinguishes itself by nesting adjacent to tidal waters of the Pacific Ocean where other Snowy Plovers nest further inland and migrate to coastal areas during winter months. This small shorebird is about 6 inches long with a short neck and moderately long, dark legs. A thin, dark bill is used to catch tiny crustaceans, mollusks, and marine worms along the shore. This plover has a pale brown back and head with a white belly, chest, neck stripe, forehead, and eyebrow line. Breeding adults have dark patches on the shoulders, behind the eyes, and above the white patch on the forehead. In sparsely vegetated areas above the high tide line, females will lay 3 eggs in a shallow depression in the sand after which they share incubation duties with males. As soon as her eggs hatch, a female leaves to renest with another male if possible. Just hours after hatching, chicks are up and out of the nest searching for food! Males will care for their chicks by leading them to feeding areas rather than bringing them food directly. Catching a glimpse of a Western Snowy Plover can be difficult, especially when human activities such as walking, jogging, off leash pets, horseback riding, and vehicle use on beaches, particularly during the nesting season (March – September), are key factors in the plover’s decline. Click here to learn more about Western Snowy Plover and what you can do to help its recovery!
March marks the beginning of spring and Bay Area birders should keep an ear and an eye out for the arrival of spring migrants. One of the first birds to arrive for the breeding season is the Wilson’s warbler. Around mid-March, this small warbler will start to flit around willow thickets and oak trees searching for insects to eat after the journey north from their wintering ground in Central America. These small warblers are entirely yellow underneath with an olive back and can be further recognized by their small, thin bill and black, beady eye. Male Wilson’s warblers sport a dark black cap while the females and immature birds lack the striking feature. Birders must act quickly to catch this active warbler as they are constantly on the move from one branch to the next perching and foraging. Females will lay between 2-7 eggs and may lay up to two broods in a season. Although many Wilson’s warblers build nests in small depressions on the ground, those in coastal California have been known to build nests off of the ground in bushes and shrubs. Wilson’s warblers do not care for feeders so in order to get a glimpse of one from your kitchen window, your best bet is to plant a variety of native plants that host the insects the Wilson’s warbler feast on. Check out Audubon’s Plants for Birds webpage to determine which native plants you should add to your garden to attract your favorite birds!