Shorebird ID Training Moss Landing, CA

As I fought back the dizziness, the lightheadedness, and the pain in my right eye during my shorebird identification training — Hugo, my predecessor, calmly said “Yeah there’s not a lot of birds today.” In that instant all the confidence that I had obtained from my daily 12 hours weeklong training in San Diego completely vanished after hearing that sincere, yet cruel sentence. At the moment, I had counted approximately 250 birds. Which included a combination of marbled godwits, western sandpipers, least sandpipers, a few yellow legs, a few black-bellied plovers, and many willets. However, I soon recovered a bit of my confidence after correcting Hugo who had stated that semipalmated plovers had two black collars. I respectfully corrected him and reminded him that it was the killdeer that has two black collars down in its neck. After surveying the area with shorebirds we took a break and decided to do a couple seabird identifications. After destroying and rebuilding my confidence with the seabird identification we called it a day. Willet and whimbrel

*Whimbrel and Willet keeping each other company

Though it was four hours of training it felt very short. The monitoring site is in Jetty Road, Mosslanding, which is literally 10 minutes away from my home and it reminded me of how very little I know of the surrounding areas and places I was surrounded by for the 15 years I lived here. I have traveled all throughout the United States and the Americas but I know very little of Monterey Bay. I suppose it is time to explore.

Otter Moss Landing*Can’t be in Monterey Bay and not take a picture of an otter.

A Horror Story: The Dangerous World of Black Oystercatchers

Black oystercatchers live in a cruel and dangerous world. Within 30 minutes of monitoring I saw a black oystercatcher couple scare off a young black oystercatcher, have an aerial battle with a crow, and have their nesting area disturbed by two young men. But who can blame us? Beautiful places like this tend to awaken the adventurous spirit within all of us. Let’s remember though, that we can recreate without disturbing the wildlife that live in these beautiful places.

Black Oystercatcher home


*Who wouldn’t want to adventure through the water into the center rocks, right?

Rick Hanks, who works with the California Coastal National Monument, monitors the black oystercatcher couple that live in the center rocky area surrounded by water. While this location provides protection from terrestrial animals, a few years back during low tide, Rick saw a pair of  canine tracks that led to the nesting area and then led back to the trees. Rick searched for the fledglings, but they were nowhere to be found. And of course black oystercatchers are vulnerable from an aerial ambush. In another nesting disaster a hawk silently and patiently stood on one of the polls that are across the beach.

Hawk HideoutThere the hawk waited until the fledglings were large enough. Worthy for it to consume. Only a foot and entrails were found.

Finally, we humans often pose a threat to not only black oystercatchers but other animals. While we don’t do it on purpose the added stress we cause to an animal is extra energy wasted that could be fatal in the outside world.

Sensitive Wildlife Area

So next time you see a sign like this just enjoy the view from a distance.


Human and Landscape History of Elkhorn Slough

This past Saturday the Elkhorn Slough held its final lectures for all the volunteer naturalists. The first lecture called “First Peoples” by Mark Hylkema focused on the human presence in the Elkhorn Slough and the surrounding areas. Mark Hylkema was a riveting and passionate lecturer who made his research as an archeologist come alive. The main points I got from his lecture is that the people in the area lived in a highly complex society that had different social classes, currency, own language, hunting skills, trade, political ties, and managed their environment in order to survive. Finally, I learned that Native Americans are not relics of the past but are numerous and live among us, therefore, it is necessary to be conscientious of what we say as naturalists.

Elkhorn Slough Day 3

The second lecture was “Land Through Time” with Andrea Woolfolk, which focused on the historical journals and historical land of Elkhorn Slough and the coast of California. Andrea Woolfolk took us through an imaginary journey using the journals of a priest who was part of a group searching for Monterey Bay on behalf of the Spanish empire in order to build a port. Throughout the trip the journals described the landscape, plants, and animals common to the area. At the end of the day Andrea Woolfolk took us to Elkhorn Slough’s historical trail which was absolutely beautiful.

Andrea Woolfolk Lecture

Interpretation 101 and Natural Systems at Elkhorn Slough

This past Saturday February 14, 2015 the Elkhorn Slough had a lecture regarding “Communication Approaches Connecting with People,” with Monterey Bay Aquarium Interpreter Jim Covel and a “Natural Systems and an Introduction to the Animal Word” lecture by the Reserve Manager Dave Feliz.

Day 2 Training Elkhorn Slough

Even though I am a scientist by education I have always had an interest in communication and thought that the lecture by Jim Covel was essential as I learn how to become a naturalist and communicate with various audiences. The main message I got from Jim was that emotions are remembered a lot easier than simple facts; therefore, it is necessary to connect information with an emotion for it to be memorable to any audience. At the end of the lecture Jim took us out to the trail and gave us a demonstration on how interact with the audience and not only give information about the Slough but to turn in into a story.

Buckeye Jim Covel

*Jim Covel telling a story about the Buckeye tree behind him.

The second lecture by Dave Feliz gave me a preview of what I will confront in the near future, which are birds. Dave quickly went over the different mammals, reptiles, and amphibians we will encounter at the Slough and went a little deeper regarding birds. The two most important points I got from his lecture are to never utter the words “seagull” or “blue jay” at the Slough. At the end of the lecture Dave took us out to the trial to observe birds. We saw a couple of Willets and a few Greater Yellowlegs among many others.

View2Elkhorn Slough Trail View


*Views of one of the trails at Elkhorn Slough.