Birds need your help now!
Outbreaks of salmonella have been reported in bird populations across many Western states this winter (I've even seen reports in Eastern states such as Virginia) causing large mortality events. The outbreak is primarily impacting seed-eating birds such as pine siskins. Outbreaks like these occur every few years, and the impacts can be exacerbated by birds congregating in large numbers at feeders. When an infected bird comes into contact with the feeder or the seeds, it can quickly spread to any other birds that may visit that feeder.
Experts are recommending all bird feeders and baths be taken down/removed for at least a month (until late spring) and thoroughly cleaned before they are placed back outside. This will minimize spread of the disease by allowing the birds to disperse in the environment and continue on their migration. "The very best way we can help stop the spread of Salmonellosis Outbreak and reduce avian mortality is to remove bird baths and feeders, allowing wild birds to distribute and feed more naturally on native vegetation across the landscape." - The Bird Rescue Center of Sonoma County
Information, advice, & cleaning tips from The Bird Rescue Center of Sonoma County
Information from California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Western Monarch Butterflies
Insect populations are suffering greatly from the impacts of climate change, habitat loss and degradation, the spread of invasive species, and the widespread use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. Monarch butterflies are no exception, and researchers have become increasingly alarmed at the rapid declines they've observed in recent years, as their numbers have dropped 99.9% since the 1980s. In 2020-2021, the number of observed monarchs in California declined 100-fold from the counts of 2016-2017, even though over 3 times as many sites were surveyed.
By better understanding the behaviors and movement patterns of insect populations, scientists can identify the most effective ways to protect them. That is why researchers are calling on community scientists throughout the West to join the Western Monarch Mystery Challenge from February 14 - April 22, by helping to map their movements as they disperse from overwintering sites.
You can participate by capturing a photo of a monarch outside of an overwintering site and reporting it on iNaturalist.org, Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper, or by emailing your photo to MonarchMystery@wsu.edu. Anyone who reports a sighting will be entered to win a $50 REI gift card, with prizes being given out once a week until the end of the challenge.
Learn more about this project here
5 things you can do to help Monarchs
View the Western Monarch Counts from 2016-2021
It's harbor seal pupping season (March & April)! Things are about to get very cute around here as we start to see more of these tiny gnocchi floating out in the water or snoozin' on the beach!
Adult female harbor seals will stay with their pup for several weeks to nurse it to a healthy weight, and all that parental care sure does make a gal hungry! Mom will often leave her pup on the beach alone while she goes out to forage food. This is NORMAL! If you see a baby harbor seal on the beach, the best thing you can do is give it plenty of SPACE. Mom will not come back if there is a scary, hairless, two-legged creature hovering over her baby. However, if you do believe that the pup is orphaned, stranded, or injured you can call The Marine Mammal Center
((415) 289-7325) to send a crew out for assessment to see if the animal requires some extra help!
Western snowy plovers
Western snowy plovers are tiny birbs that have mastered both the art of camouflage and of cuteness!
Snowy plovers nest from March to April on sandy beaches along the shoreline of the Monterey Bay. During that time, you can help protect these little floofs by giving them and their nests plenty of space on the beach, avoiding areas that are closed or roped off, keeping dogs on a leash (or off the beach where not allowed), avoiding flying kites or drones or throwing frisbees near plover habitat, and not collecting driftwood and kelp off the beach during nesting season.
How do scientists learn about these birds?
With fashionable bracelets of course! Biologists tag birds with small, colored bands. They use different color combinations or letter/number codes to distinguish individuals. When observing populations out in the field, they can record which individuals they're seeing, and better understand their movements and behaviors. Anyone can report an observation of a banded Western snowy plover to help researchers gather more data about them! If you see one, send a photo and basic data to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the date, site, (be as specific as possible), time of observation, number of plovers seen, number of birds checked for bands, color combination of bands on each leg, and your name and contact information.
I spotted this little cutie on a beach in Monterey. When I reported my observation, I received an email back letting me know that this bird had been banded as a breeding female nearly 5 years prior! So cool 🤓
Learn more about how you can protect plovers here.
Learn more about reporting banded plovers here.