By Cathy Bleier
On March 1, just in time for Osprey nesting season, Golden Gate Audubon Society and East Bay Regional Parks Department (EBRPD) cooperated in a cleanup of the shoreline and marsh edges near Meeker Slough and Stege Marsh in Richmond. Our immediate goal was to reduce entanglement hazards to Ospreys that can occur as they gather manmade materials for their nests.
The Richmond shoreline, which reaches from Point Isabel (by Costco), past Point Molate and on to Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, has the highest concentration of Osprey nests in San Francisco Bay (22 nests in 2021). The amount of treacherous debris at Meeker Slough and other marshes can increase dramatically after intense storms, like this year’s and last. Some of the worst offenders are plastic twines, cords and fishing line, but these raptors can also get their talons caught in bags, erosion fabric and even clothing. Results can be lethal for both adults and chicks.
Eager to help, and probably grateful for a break in the rain, over two dozen volunteers showed up for our cleanup event, including members of Golden Gate Audubon, Friends of Meeker Slough, friends of the Osprey cam Ospreys—Rosie and Richmond, and members of the EBRPD public. In total the groups collected around 12 garbage bags worth of waste, adding up to 300 pounds or 360 Gallons of trash, plus some loose pieces of plywood, painted wood, a large plastic cooler, and a plastic bucket.
We were also delighted to learn that a few hours after finishing the cleanup, Rosie the Osprey, was seen arriving at her nest at Rigger’s Loft. Rosie’s arrival inspired five of the nest cam’s live chatters to remove a tarp near the nest that had been disintegrating over the past year.
Tony Brake, a Richmond resident who has been studying Ospreys since he moved to the area in 2010, has proposed that Golden Gate Audubon hold an annual local cleanup, starting in February. Ideally this would also include Brooks Island (requiring EBRPD cooperation) as well as Point Molate and the Point San Pablo Peninsula where there are over a dozen Osprey nests (a slam dunk Osprey sighting area, by the way).
Meeker Slough and its adjacent marshes and shoreline are a cherished part of the Richmond shoreline for birds and people. It provides habitat for Ridgway’s Rails as well as Virginia Rails, Sora, wintering ducks, Black Oystercatchers, and all the other waders and shorebirds. Nearby Point Isabel dog park has also hosted Burrowing Owls. This important habitat faces severe ongoing trash problems due to adjacent urban runoff, shared and confusing jurisdictions, and the need for more attention by the City of Richmond. It is also challenged by a legacy of toxic contamination and development pressures!
Local groups like Friends of Meeker Slough and The Watershed Project have spearheaded and participated in cleanups in the past, but a more concerted, proactive and sustained effort with all stakeholders is needed for the long term. Hopefully, we can provide leadership through our East Bay Conservation and Richmond Initiative Committees and other interested members to continue work with local partners, responsible agencies, and the public to maintain and protect this vital area and its natural resources for future generations.
Cathy Bleier is the Golden Gate Audubon Richmond Committee Chair and Co-Chair of the East Bay Conservation Committee.