Shorebirds went north: time for nature walks with MERITO students

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Northern migration of shorebirds along the pacific flyway is coming to an end in the Monterey County. We are on our 9th week of doing surveys and it has been a very interesting experience to watch the shorebirds come in to feed and gain energy before heading up north to their breeding grounds. I still remember the large numbers of shorebirds when I started doing the first surveys. There was times when Marble Godwits, Willets, and Sandpipers added up to more than one thousand. Now some of my sites have no shorebirds and others have less than fifty shorebirds species combined.  Before this internship I had little knowledge on the role of stopover sites and migration itself. Now after witnessing migration first hand I feel like my views towards birds overall has changed. It has leaded me to having a better understanding and appreciation for migratory birds. I am proud to say that I look forward to seeing the fall migration when these shorebirds will be heading back to their summer grounds.

On the other hand, once the migratory shorebird surveys are done for this year I will be focusing more on doing nature walks at Elkhorn Slough Reserve (ESR) with youth and possibly adults. This past week I had the opportunity to help the MERITO program with their trip to ESR. Normally staff from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary are responsible for taking the students to ESR. This year due to not having enough staff they contacted us to do the hikes. The group was composed of approximately 40 students, which were divided into two groups of equal size. Stephanie and I each took a group on an hour and half walk through south marsh loop trail. We took the students through the mudflats where normally leopard sharks and bat rays hang around, we also went though oak woodland and riparian habitats where the kids got to see acorn woodpeckers at work and an American goldfinch. Unfortunately there wasn’t many shorebirds for the students to see but overall they had a good time out in the trail. After the hike the students were taken into the plankton lab to see jellyfish, ghost shrimp, and other small marine organisms through a microscope. They also had the opportunity to explore the awesome Visitor Center that has a giant mudflat display with all the organisms that live in the mud, a bird exhibit, the plants from the slough, and much more. Overall, It was good practice and the students were not afraid to interact with me. Now I am looking forward to the next MERITO trip to the slough coming up soon that is going to have a lot more students in one day.

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