Western Snowy Plover Monitoring Program

As Featured in the Western Tanager, Vol. 85 No. 4, Mar-Apr 2019

By Stacey Vigallon, Director of Environmental Education & Carol Babeli, Director Communications

Snowy Plovers | Photo by Murayama/Loeher

Snowy Plovers | Photo by Murayama/Loeher

Los Angeles Audubon Society would like to thank Susan and Daniel Gottlieb for their major gift contribution in support of the Snowy Plover Program, helping Los Angeles Audubon to continue to monitor and protect this threatened species.

Southern California beaches serve as highly-prized recreation space for local communities and tourists. Los Angeles County beaches are visited by 50 million people annually, putting continual pressure on sandy beach habitat that historically served wildlife populations. Public outreach and opportunities for the public to actively engage in plover conservation are essential components to species recovery in highly urbanized areas.

Los Angeles Audubon Society (LAAS), Ryan Ecological Consulting, and other Audubon chapters collaborate to accomplish data collection and monitoring needs of plover conservation through community science opportunities for the public. The information collected will be shared with land managers, federal and non-federal partners, and the public through reports and meetings, which will facilitate informed species management decisions as human populations grow and fluctuations in the environment occur. For the second year in a row, plovers nested on beaches in LA County. Two plover chicks fledged at Dockweiler Beach and two plover chicks fledged at Malibu Lagoon this past nesting season. No nest attempts were observed at Santa Monica this year.

Working with volunteers and Cal Parks, we installed a seasonal protective enclosure at Malibu Lagoon to protect both plovers and least terns. This seasonal enclosure was in place from the spring through the end of September. It’s taken down in the fall so that it doesn’t get dragged out to sea, as the beach between the lagoon and the ocean is quite narrow. This collaboration has been ongoing since 2008.

Volunteer Program at Santa Monica Bay

LAAS staff and Project Coordinators provide specialized training and coordinate 30-40 community volunteers who collectively devote over 200 hours annually to monitoring Western Snowy Plovers.

To learn more about Snowy Plover conservation and/or how to volunteer for this program click here: https://www.laaudubon.org/western-snowy-plover-conservation.

Shorebird education—School outreach, public walks

School program — Dockweiler Beach Ecology Walks

Each year, LAAS Biologist/Environment Education Director and Project Coordinators host 10+ beach ecology field trips focused on plovers/shorebirds for public school students. Over 400 elementary and middle school students from under-served communities participate each school year. Lessons include beach habitat (from dunes to the wrack line), the food web, and animal adaptations to living on the beach. Students learn to use binoculars, spot birds camouflaged along the beach and make drawings and written observations in field notebooks to further explore beach ecology back in their classrooms.

Public Beach — Ecology Walks

In collaboration with beach recreation facilities, LAAS hosts 3 guided beach walks annually for the general public with a focus on beach ecology, shorebirds, and to spot the Federally Threatened Western Snowy Plover during November, December and January at Dockweiler Beach. LAAS staff and college interns provide binoculars for attendees and enjoy pointing out all of the amazing bird and marine life that share the shores. Twice a year, at the Annenberg Community Beach House at Santa Monica Beach, LAAS staff, interns, collaborators from Santa Monica Bay Audubon, and Annenberg staff invite beach house members and the general public to an up-close look at beach ecology and a lesson in science illustration sketching birds and their beach habitat.