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Least Tern & Snowy Plover Project
Summary of Reports & Photos
2006 Nesting Season
 
Least Tern eggs
photo by Cyndie Kam
Least Tern incubating eggs
photo by Cyndie Kam
Least Tern chicks
photo by Cyndie Kam

  To provide some background for the project, here is Loren Hay's final report (dated 8/08/05) for the 2005 Nesting Season which was the first year of our project:
  Thanks to one and all for your contributions in conserving terns and plovers at Huntington State Beach.   A special thanks to Dave Pryor and all of the docents for your diligence and clearly important efforts in engaging the public in discussions related to these species' conservation.  As I mentioned to the Eggers yesterday, I could sense the contributions that the docents made every time I visited the area.
 
CA Least Terns
at Huntington State Beach
Western Snowy Plovers
at Huntington State Beach
Date
Adults
Fledglings
Total
6/09 
300
.
300
6/17
200+
.
200+
6/17
200+
.
200+
6/24 
275
.
275
7/08
85
45
130
7/15 
165
80
240
7/22 
140
55
195
7/29
90
70
160
8/05
37
18
55
Date
males
females
juv
indetermin.
total
7/08
1
2
.
3
6
7/22
2
2
3
.
7
7/29
3
5
4
.
12
8/05
1
2
.
5
8

.
.
.
.
.
.
. . . . Human beach traffic in the area was not necessarily high for a Friday on 8/5 but it was once again almost impossible for plovers to feed at or near the surfline because of the presence of people (photographs, video).  Upon arriving at ~1330 on 8/5, there were 8 plovers present.  Of these, I watched 2 birds for ~15 minutes attempting (unsuccessfully) to reach the water's edge (video).  Later, all 8 birds did reach the surfline only to be repeatedly moved/flushed within a few minutes of arriving.   All but one bird left the area at that time.
. . . .Unless they were inside the yellow-roped area (for the most part on cool days only), the terns were repeatedly flushed during all visits I made in late June, July, and August.  On 7/29, (for instance) one individual walking slowly along the wet sand flushed virtually all of terns three times in quick succession (video).  Another major problem that remains is the intentional flushing of any and all birds by children (and some adults;photographs, video)
. . . .I noted on arriving on 7/29 that the terns were extremely 'nervous' or 'agitated' when I arrived.  Because I am a little bit slow, it took me about an hour and half to figure out the causes for their frequent panic flights.  (Early on, for instance, I observed that sometimes gulls flushed them, sometimes not).  After far too long, I began noticing that the terns invariably were getting up each time that a relatively large bird flapping rapidly (or moving very quickly, mostly the former) came towards or near them.  The strongest responses by the terns by far  (panic flights out to sea) were reserved for rock doves, who had to flap strongly and rapidly against a stiff westerly wind if they were headed west along the shore.  I checked with one of the best birders in the nation to see if he, like I, was ever fooled into thinking that pigeons were peregrines (or other birds of prey) at a glance, particularly if they were flying strongly.   Lucky for me, he admitted to the same tendency.  Incidentally, I never saw a peregrine anywhere at or near the colony this year, but photographs have revealed there were at least two present at various times.   I suggested  to Jeep to maybe they were there even when they weren't there, so to speak.
. . . .To the EC folks, although the quantities apparently have diminished significantly, small amounts of tarballs remain on the beach  (photographs).I observed an oiled California least tern fledgling (heavy deposit on the breast) on 7/22 (only).   Katie has created a folder L: EC/Spills/Huntington Tar Balls for the pertinent photographs and documents....

Best to All,

Loren Hays
Staff Ornithologist/Senior Wildlife Biologist
Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office

Jan. 11 - Greetings from Cheryl Egger
Hi Docents!
. . . . It's about that time again--helping our Snowy Plovers have a place to nest and watching over the Least Terns! Mid-Feb is when Dave would like us to start monitoring for activity. Dave tells me that the added sand from last winter and the single strand fencing placed last August has been lost. The amount of fencing and signs we will have this year will be determined by nesting activity and the size of the beach.
. . . . With our great success with the terns last year, I hope last year's docents will all consider helping again this year. And, those on this list who were interested last year, but couldn't help--we would appreciate your help this year!
. . . . Please let me know via email if you can (help) and what your best days/times are and I'll make up a schedule. As you know from our first year, any amount of time out there helps and of course, everyone has things come up and vacations, so don't feel as though you can't help if you can't be there every week--it is a long season.
. . . . Thank you in advance, and look forward to seeing you! I will actually be able to be out there this year, instead of just being the email person!

Mar. 16 - Docent monitoring program will continue
. . . . The docent monitoring program at the Natural Preserve area of the Santa Ana River Mouth will continue this breeding season. Last year was the first season with monitors in this area. With Sea and Sage Audubon partnering in this program, it was extremely successful. Huntington State Beach was one of the top Least Tern breeding areas in the state with 339 nests, 554 eggs, a hatching success of 55%, and 71-90 fledglings. It was an enjoyable and rewarding experience for the docents, with chances to observe the breeding colony and watch hatchlings grow to fledglings.. . . .. . . .
. . . . Approximately 8-13 Western Snowy Plovers have been observed at Huntington State Beach this winter. In the past, the Snowy Plovers have been driven out of this area by human activity and have not nested here. Through the docent program, we can educate the public about the birds and their nesting behavior. . . .
. . . . The 2006 monitoring season should begin by mid February to watch for activity. It will be important for more coverage as the breeding season progresses. Last year it continued through Labor Day with most docents monitoring about two hrs per week. It was proven last year that every hour of monitoring helps. We need returning and new docents for the potential of Western Snowy Plovers nesting and the breeding of Least Terns at the colony.
. . . . If you would like to help this year, or would like more information, please contact David Pryor, State Parks Ecologist, at 949-497-1421. Training and mentoring programs will be conducted for new volunteers.
If you are a returning docent, and have not been contacted, please contact Cheryl Egger at 714-842-9232 or


March 30 - The birds are coming; monitoring has begun.
. . . . If you have your badge from last year, it can be used for entrance to the beach; the backpack is in the Magnolia Street parking entrance kiosk.  Last year, Loren Hays, USFWS, and David Pryor, State Park Ecologist, both stated that every single hour of monitoring made a difference. The terns were successful directly due to monitoring! There is still hope for Snowy Plovers nesting, too! Of course, the valuable and long term effect is educating the public about both birds. We can only do this by being out there! 
. . . .
When the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano, we know several other bird species will soon follow. Spring must be in the air. And the California Least Terns - we expect them to be seen during the middle of April, and have nests with eggs during the first week or so in May. We have modified some of the fencing around the Natural Preserve at Huntington State Beach, placed some new signs, the front yard almost got washed away by the Talbert Channel, and the County of Orange has had earth-moving equipment there for much of the last 4 months.
. . . .  Western Snowy Plovers have been seen with regularity all winter long. Common locations for sightings continue to be their roosting area at the foot of Brookhurst St. and along the berm at Talbert outlet and in front of the Preserve. Observations recorded show a range of 1 to 15 to a high of 132 on 12/30/05 by Laurie Gorman of the Chambers Group. New this year is a special nesting area made just for the plovers. We hope they decide to use it.    

May 15 - Watch Out For Dogs on the Beach!
I picked up an injured Ring-billed Gull in front of the preserve last Thurs.and took it to Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center where I also volunteer. Unfortunately it had severe bite wounds, possibly from a dog, and it did not make it. No way to tell where or how it happened, but just as a reminder, please be diligent about dogs on the beach. Also, if you do find any bird that appears injured or sick and will not fly away when you approach, please call Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center at 714-374-5587. Since the center is right across PCH at Newland, most of the time we can get someone over there right away to pick it up. I'll put the phone number on a card in the backpack. —Cheryl

May 31 - Update from Dave Pryor
. . . . We got some news from Randy Nagel, USFWS, on their last week's survey. As of Thursday, we have 20 nests mostly with one egg each. There are four nests in the front yard. The rest are inside the main fenced-in area. But, we see many more birds in the area, so we expect more nests soon.
. . . .  Wally Ross and I surveyed recently and saw two crows and one raven on the entire 2 mile stretch of Huntington State Beach, so outside threats are at a minimum. We are still sensitive to ground squirrels expanding their range into the Preserve. Please keep an eye out.
. . . .  Last week, we counted only two Snowy Plovers on the entire beach, but good to know they are still in the area. The section of "front yard" prepared for their particular breeding needs now has some more sturdy signing, and we hope will encourage visitors to stay out and away from the fenced area. This section tends to have plenty of weeds, especially sea rocket, although we have gone through three different times to control them.
. . . .  And, yes, the chain link fencing is looking pretty bad, but we have good news on that front. I've purchased almost all of the needed poles to be replaced, and have a contractor coming out to give us an estimate for work planned for this fall.
. . . .  Call with predator information. The daily data sheets are looking good. Keep up all of your great efforts. Thanks.

June 4 - Update on nest counts
Here's a note from Randy Nagel of USFWS. He and Cyndie Kam do the in-preserve monitoring. We will be getting this information from him each time they monitor. Randy states: "We had a total of 178 nests on 6-1-06 with no predation from the previous week (42 nests in the front yard and 136 in the main yard). Almost all of the nests from the first week now have two eggs instead of one, and I'd say over half of the new nests this week already have two eggs in them. We actually missed probably 6-10 more nests because we ran out of popsicle sticks at the very end! Also found two killdeer nests in the main yard with 4 eggs."

June 5 - Watch for Great Blue Herons!
. . . .  David had a walk through with Susan and Robert this am at the preserve: "We picked up lots of trash, chased away a Great Blue Heron and two crows. An Osprey was on patrol of Talbert channel and wetlands. The GBH most likely has a nest in palms across the highway next to the Sanitation District. For this reason, we need to watch and take notes when we see it inside the Preserve. We should have chicks by next week, and if the GBH and/or its mate continue feeding on gophers, then see CLT chicks, we could have grave problems. Please keep an eye on this species.
. . . .   We also saw a Great Egret inside the preserve about 11:45 AM today for about 10 min. I guess it got tired of being dive-bombed by the terns. It just stood there and ducked and ducked and finally flew away with hundreds of terns giving chase. Hopefully it won't be a problem. There was some trash inside the SE corner that had attracted a crow, so any trash you can get to outside the fence and pick up will help keep them away. The crows were really patrolling the beach after this last weekend, which I'm sure was busy down there as it was very trashy. FYI: The Monday 9-11 AM shift is available for the month of June while Marilyn has other obligations. Keep up the great work and predator watch--CA Least Tern chicks will be here soon


June 17 - Update from Randy and a Nest Report Table
Here's the numbers Cyndie and I found last Thursday, June 22, at Huntington SB. We saw a blue heron fly low across the main colony but the terns chased it away, it then perched on the lifeguard tower to the southwest just outside of the colony. We found two dead chicks, we are not really looking for dead chicks, but we will note how many we come across.
Date
Active Nests
Total Nests
Chicks
5/25/06
20
20
0
6/01/06
178
178
0
6/08/06
317
319
0
6/15/06
421
424
25
6/22/06
303
479
250

June 29 - Update from Cyndie
The Least Tern monitoring went well again today. There are so many chicks running around all over the preserve and many adults still sitting on eggs. We even spotted a few fledglings! We found considerably fewer new nests this week, and there are also 2 new Killdeer nests on the inside of the preserve. Again, only a few dead chicks were found. The adults seem to be finding plenty of fish for the chicks (and some of the fish are quite large!). The Great Blue Heron is still in the area, so everybody keep an eye out! Here are a few more pictures for everyone ... Thanks to all the wonderful docents who are keeping an eye on the colony (it really seems to be working!).

July 7- Field Notes from Dave Pryor
. . . .  There were tons of young of the year all over the Preserve this morning, yet no chicks nor fledglings seen on the beach front. We survived the 4th!
. . . .   Wally Ross said that if we see banded fledglings in the next few days, they would most likely be from Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station. They are early and Terminal Is. (also with banded birds) birds will come later within the season.
. . . .  To get a better count of this year’s young; we would like to coordinate 6-8 observers at a time. Can anyone make it 0830 on Tuesday and/or Wednesday next week for a counting of the young? We will spend about an hour counting. Let Cheryl know. I will be there with at least 2 other employees each day.
. . . .  For the first time at the Preserve, we saw 2 great-tailed grackles. Probably not a threat as granivore/insectivores, and they got chased out. But, keep an eye out for them.
. . . .   Other colonies have recently had problems with American kestrels, and loggerhead shrikes. Be on the lookout.
. . . .   We have treated for ground squirrels in the last two weeks, but still saw some today.. . . .  
. . . .  
There were 7 snowy plovers at the South end of the beach front. No bands.
. . . .   At this time, we may begin to see second nesting attempts as birds fledge. There seems to be ample food resources. We are expecting high productivity numbers. Thanks for all the observations.

July 12 - Fledgling Count
. . . . any time we see fledglings, outside of the chain link area, we should try and count them all. If we count the time it takes to get to a fledgling stage (20-22 days incubation, 19-20 days to fledge), combine that with our peak nesting period, we can figure a need to focus on fledgling counts through the first few weeks of August, peaking the last week of July. Hope to see you down at the beach. Dave Pryor

Description of Fledgling Least Terns (Cheryl) & Some Photos (Jim Salywoda)
OK Folks--here's what it's all about!
. . . .  Below are two beautiful photos of fledgling Least Terns. They were taken from the beach in front of the preserve. Thanks to all of you (and lots of fish), there will be many fledgling terns this year from HBSB!
. . . .   This is pretty much the plumage we are looking for when we are counting fledglings. Although, some that are flying or could be considered fledglings, may have less black on the face and head and lack the dark patch at the wrist. But, they all have elongated wings (primary feathers are in) and brown/gray on their back.
. . . .   And its great to see the Snowys hanging around, too--maybe they'll find the roped off area that was made for them and be back next year.
. . . .   If these photos are posted or used, please give Jim Salywoda credit. We ran into him on Tues. AM and asked him to take some photos of fledglings. He generously gave us permission to use them for our project.

Fledgling Least Tern on the beach
photo by Jim Salywoda

Fledgling Least Tern in flight
photo by Jim Salywoda

July 27 - CA Least Tern Numbers (reports from Cyndie & Randy)
Cyndie says,
. . now there's so many fledglings that they're very difficult to count inside the preserve (as they can fly now!). We only had 3 new nests, so I think the season is winding down. The numbers look great, and everyone has done a fantastic job this year!!!)" Randy Randy says, "Things are winding down at HB, only 4 active nests left. Found one dead fledgling inside the main colony. There were 11 plovers on the beach now their designated spot."
Date
Active Nests
Total Nests to Date
Chicks
Fledglings
Inside count
Fledglings Outside count
S.P. Group
Fledgling Counts
5/25/06
20
20
0
0
0
6/01/06
178
178
0
0
0
6/08/06
317
319
0
0
0
6/15/06
421
424
25
0
0
6/22/06
303
479
250
0
0
6/29/06
216
502
216
6
0
7/06/06
141
508
220
81
0
7/11/06
3
33-38
7/13/06
55
517
109
138
24
7/18/06
40
7/20/06
22
520
73
139
45
7/27/06
4
521
34
148
50

Aug. 28: End of the Year BBQ
. . . .  All participants and people interested in the program are welcome! Also, please feel free to bring your spouse or a guest.
Hopefully you made a note on the calendar to attend the End of Season BBQ. We are still planning on having a get together on Wednesday August 30th at 5:00 PM. We plan on meeting at the Huntington State Beach Lifeguard Headquarters next to the Magnolia Street entrance to the park.
. . . .  
There will be some awards for this year's significant contributions to the effort, as well as a chance for everyone to meet together, and talk about some of our favorite species. One special attraction will be the presentation of all of the outstanding photographs taken this season. We have only distributed a few to date. Hope all can make this appreciation session.
. . . .   We're set up for a potluck with A-L to bring salad and M-Z desert. If you would take care of your own utensils, drinks and stuff to grill, we've got the location and grill. —Dave

Oct. .30: Report on Breeding Least Terns in California
 

 

 

 

 

 


Sea & Sage Audubon Society
PO Box 5447 • Irvine, CA 92616 • 949-261-7963

http://www.seaandsageaudubon.org