What do you get when you combine 8 interns, great weather, and 6 days of non-stop birding? You get our America’s Great Outdoors internship training!
To kick off the first full day the interns and EFTA staff attended a presentation done by Khara Strum, Waterbird Ecologist for Point Reyes Bird Observatory. Khara taught our interns shorebird identification and counting methods to survey large flocks. In the afternoon we used what we had learned in the classroom to identify shorebirds on Asilomar State Beach while interns got aquatinted with their new binoculars and field guides. To wrap up the day we had Jim Chu (US Forest Service), Rick Hanks (California Bureau of Land Management), Susan Bonfield (EFTA director), and Jon Decoste (EFTA biology and research assistant) speak to our interns about careers in natural resource and how they got to where they are now. Very informative!
We spent the next afternoon focused on learning about Black Oystercatchers with Rick Hanks. While looking for the famous Oystercatchers, interns got to practice conducting shorebird surveys. We got an exciting variety of animals while conducting these surveys; we spotted wild Sea Otters, Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, Great and Snowy Egrets, Brandt’s Cormorant, Pelicans, and a wide variation of other sea and shorebirds! After our field work, our interns had a discussion on diversity and the environment and had two of our own interns, Angelica and Hugo, present about their job site and how to do community outreach.
All week we had been looking forward to visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium and were so excited to finally go on Friday! One of my favorite parts of the aquarium was visiting the aviary where we got to see some of the shorebirds we have been learning about up close. Afterwards, we were treated to frozen yogurt at Myo and visited the salt marshes of the beautiful Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge where we practiced using our field guides to identify new bird species. Lesly and I then presented the group with environmental education activities, such as the fill the bill, that they could use to teach others about shorebirds.
For our final two days of training, we spent the mornings at Elkhorn Slough, Hugo and Stephanie’s site, practicing our bird identification. These two days really helped us top off our bird identification skills as we were with Don Roberson, author of Birds of Montery, and his wife Rita Carratello one day and Rick Fournier from Monterey Birding Adventures the next. Luckily, we still had time to meet Jose Gonzalez, author of the Green Chicano blog. It was great to be able to meet another Latino who is interested in engaging Latinos in the the outdoors and in conservation issues.
On our final night we put our skills to the test when we played a lively round of Bird Jeopardy! It was great to see how much we had learned in the past week, as I am not sure we would have been able to answer some of the questions before the training.
Overall, the training was a great success and I believe the interns gained a lot of knowledge that they will take back with them to their sites. We had a jam packed week full of shorebird identification, learning educational tools, community outreach, site visits, and important discussions with many different guests. Make sure to check back on the blog to see what exciting things our interns are up to at their sites!