First Shorebird Survey: Not as easy as I thought!

An interesting part of my week was doing the shorebird survey at two of the four survey locations, Jetty road and Parson’s Overlook located near the mouth of the slough and inland at Elkhorn Slough NERR. I was very excited to get out in the field and start surveying shorebirds. After starting the survey I realize that it was harder than what it seemed. One of the factors that contributed to my hardships out in the field was the distance between birds located far away from my observation point. It was really hard to identify it, binoculars did not help much and the spotting scope did not narrow it down much either, forcing you to try to identify a species by your knowledge of size, shape, and visible features if possible. Another hardship out in the field was counting small birds when in large flocks and making sure that you don’t count the same flock as you move along your site. It was an awesome experience being out there bird watching and practicing my identifying skills.

To prepare for my first interaction with high school students from the RISE program, I have been preparing a presentation along with an activity that will help the students understand how shorebirds migrate to their breeding and wintering grounds. As part of this years theme, RISE plan to have their students learn more about plants and their relationship with birds. After meeting with them we came to the conclusion that it would be beneficial to not only learn about common birds but also about local shorebirds that migrate through the Pacific Flyway, since Monterey has a lot of migratory shorebirds that pass though here and can be found in many areas.

I also had the opportunity to attend a teachers training workshop at Elkhorn Slough NERR that informs teachers about the resources that the reserve has for them to use as well as potential activities that they can do with their students. It was very informative and it gave me ideas to do later on in the future with kids or parents. One of the cool activities that I had the opportunity to experience was dissecting owl pellets. Owl pellets are similar to a cat hairball, but with owl’s it includes bones, fur, and other things that the owl can’t digest when it eats another animal. Once an owl’s proventriculus or special cavity where it keeps all the indigestible parts is full, it regurgitates it out. In my owl pellet I found a complete skull and some pieces of the vertebrae of some kind of rodent. Some people might find handling owl pellets really unpleasant but I found it very interesting and engaging, and kids might find it fun as well.

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