By Ilana DeBare
Remember the line from Field of Dreams: Build it and they will come?
The East Bay Regional Park District built protective fencing this fall on Crown Beach in Alameda.
And the Western Snowy Plovers came!
We posted earlier this month about how Golden Gate Audubon volunteers helped win protective signage and fencing for these small, threatened shorebirds at Crown Beach. Shortly after the fencing was installed, the first plovers of the season arrived and started roosting in and near the protected area.
Not only that, the initial group of about a half-dozen plovers includes one young bird that is only four months old!
Birder Bob Sikora managed to capture photos of some of the Alameda plovers on Wednesday, including one bird with colored leg bands. It turned out to have been banded this past summer by San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory at Ravenswood Slough in Palo Alto, shortly after its birth on June 21st.
Last winter, GGAS volunteers spotted a banded adult plover at Alameda that also came from Ravenswood.
“It’s possible they could be from the same family — that this young bird’s father led it over to Alameda,” said GGAS Executive Director Cindy Margulis. “The arrival of this bird shows that a new generation has come to the beach. Now that the plovers have a protected wintering area here, they will have an easier time maturing and getting used to life in the wild.”
The protected area on Crown Beach — only about two blocks long — is a small but important step in ensuring the survival of Western Snowy Plovers. Due to decades of urban development along western beaches and sand dunes, there are only about 2,000 of these birds left on the West Coast.
Western Snowy Plovers were listed by the federal government as a threatened species in 1993. Beaches like Alameda provide winter roosting sites, where the birds feed and rest in preparation for summer breeding.
But on busy urban beaches — where they are constantly flushed from the warm sand by joggers, dogs, and other passersby — it can be difficult for plovers to get the rest they need. Thus the importance of providing fenced-off protected areas like the one in Alameda!
Many thanks to the GGAS volunteers who monitored the Snowy Plovers at Crown Beach last winter, documented their presence, and made a case to the Park District for protecting these threatened birds. Thanks to Park District staff for their speedy and conscientious response.
And thanks to Golden Gate Audubon plover volunteers in other parts of the Bay — such as the folks who monitor plovers at Ocean Beach in San Francisco and who do monthly beach clean-ups of plover habitat at Crissy Field.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recently posted an encouraging article about how Western Snowy Plover populations are starting to recover in Oregon. We’re happy to be doing our part in the Bay Area!
“National Audubon has a slogan that “You are what hope looks like to a bird,'” said Cindy Margulis. “I’d switch that around to say, ‘This juvenile plover on Crown Beach is what hope looks like to me.’ ”