These past two weeks Elkhorn Slough raised awareness in regards to invasive species by having special events during the weekends which included invasive species walks, an open laboratory, and a couple fun arts and crafts activities for the children. After shadowing many of the volunteers who have been giving nature walks for many years, I was finally confident enough to lead an entire nature walk by myself. Throughout my shadowing, I learned that it was fine to say “I don’t know” or to leave moments of silence for the guests to talk with themselves or ask me any questions. Finally, I learned that as long as the children have fun, then the parents will have fun.
Knowing that birds are unpredictable, I decided to learn some of the history and plants of the Elkhorn Slough, which is what took the longest to learn. This way I would be able to talk about something in case the birds decided to hide or keep quiet. And like I mentioned since this was Invasive Species week. it was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate and put into practice my plant knowledge. During my first walk, I had a Russian family that included two parents and 4 small children. The oldest, being around 7 years old, was very inquisitive and kept asking about owls, hawks, and condors. Luckily, I had taken an owl class at Elkhorn Slough earlier in the year and had just finished reading Return of the Condor written by Elkhorn Slough volunteer John Moir (a must read for every Californian), so I was also to satisfy the young mind of this future biologist.
My second walk had a woman with her granddaughter who had just turned 13, and both were traveling as a birthday celebration, along with a family of three that included a PhD Plant Biologist and a young high school student from my old high school. The student was looking for an environmental project to do for his college summer class. There I was able to talk about the different beaks in shorebirds and how each species feeds in a different are of the mudflats. Avocets filter food, curlews have a downward beak, and plovers have a run and stop mechanism and peck at the tiny insects they startled.
On both of the walks, I was lucky enough that the questions all involved topics that I had deeply dwelled on in the near past. Even with my past experience shadowing educators, there were always questions that I could not fathom how they had come up with. I guess that’s the reason why even the naturalists who have been in the Slough for years continue to check out books from the Elkhorn Slough library and are always open to learning, even from an intern like me. By the end of the day I was teaching a few of the volunteer naturalists a couple of the bird calls that I have mastered throughout the internship. It was the least I could do to repay all their kindness and teaching.