Thursday, October 7, 2010

Greetings FFSS Citizen Scientists-

As you know, last week was the last week of fallow field surveys at Yolo Wildlife Area and Cosumnes River Preserve and our surveys have now concluded. We truly appreciate all of the hard work you have put into making this project a reality.

Here are a few fun facts about this season; we’ll follow up with a complete update once all the data is entered.
1) Total number of shorebirds seen CRP: 8941 Yolo: 11323
2) Total number of shorebird species seen CRP: 14 Yolo: 12
3) Most abundant shorebird CRP: Dowitcher species (5564)
Yolo: Least Sandpiper (4605)
4) Acres surveyed CRP: 81 Yolo: 125
5) High count CRP: 800 Dowitchers Yolo: 760 Dowitchers
If there are specific things you would like summarized in the update, please send me an email and I will do my best to accommodate.

Remember to sign up for your one-year complimentary membership to PRBO Conservation Science by filling out the membership application in your training packet or visit To join Audubon CA visit

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Stay Involved! If you enjoyed surveying shorebirds in fallow fields, why not think about surveying shorebirds for the Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey (PFSS)? The PFSS is a coordinated multi-partner monitoring program designed to guide the management and conservation of wintering shorebirds in the Pacific Flyway. This is the first year of a long term project and we are looking for dedicated volunteers who are willing to survey a route in the Sacramento Valley annually. For more information visit the PFSS website at or if you already know you are interested, take our online interest survey

Thanks again!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Last Week of Surveys

This week marks the end of surveys on our fallow fields at the Yolo Wildlife Area and Cosumnes River Preserve. It seems that the fields held out just long enough to get in this week’s surveys. Thanks for hanging in there and continuing to conduct surveys even as the water levels dropped and the vegetation increased. Your data still informs how shorebirds use these fields! We’ll be in touch shortly with more information about what to do with your datasheets, a summary of observations and how you can stay involved. Thanks again for all of your hard work and dedication!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Yolo mostly grasslands now

Yolo field 61 is now all but entirely drained of water. Grasses have filled in the northwest third of the field. In the southeast, there remain large sections of exposed soil, but the ground was mostly dry and apparently not attractive to shorebirds as I failed to come up with even a single target species. Savannah Sparrows and Horned Larks were the only birds making regular use of the field.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Site Conditions

A couple of updates on site conditions:

As you might have noticed, we are growing lots of weeds in the field at Cosumnes. Many of the survey areas are choked with vegetation except for fields B-6 and T-2. It appeared as though the water was off in T-2 and B-6 last week, however, and we are working with Holden, the wetlands manager at Cosumnes, and the rice grower to get the water turned back on. For now, please continue surveys in all of the fields at Cosumnes. The data still contribute to our knowledge of how shorebirds use fallow rice fields.

There are some problems with mosquito abatement and half of Field 61 was drained last week. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are still being detected and the entire field will be drained. I am waiting to hear from Dave Feliz, the Yolo Wildlife Area manager, to see if there will be another field for surveying. Look for more information later this week. Please continue surveys of Field 61 at Yolo until further notice. As the field drains we will be documenting how shorebirds respond to the change in water levels.

Thanks for your patience as we sort through these issues.

Have fun surveying!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The new Yolo field

I did my first survey of field 61 in the Yolo bypass today. As reported, the roads here offer more difficult access than had been true at field 68. Everything appeared recently mowed and I had no problems getting in by the wetland route (turning left at the hunting check-in point), but it did require a bit of guess work to find the best path.

There was fairly limited activity in the fields. Half of my points turned up no species. Most of the fields are well flooded, some as deep as seven inches. A flock of several hundred peeps occupied a ridge of moist clods in point 497Y, but no other spot showed many birds. A fair number of ducks and gulls flew in and out of the middle of the field but they mercifully stayed beyond the 200m stake, sparing me from counting them. Highlights were the four red-necked phalaropes in site 363Y and watching the peregrine that is regularly hunting this area.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Shorebird Survey - 2Sep10

Nancy and I did the shorebird survey at CRP today and the results were largely unimpressive. The dowitchers were present in substantial numbers in only one pond and the only unusual sightings were a Semipalmated Plover and a mink (yes, I do know that a mink is not a shorebird but I thought it worth mentioning anyway). In several of the ponds we spotted large numbers of a recently identified shorebird - Diddly squatumus (no common name yet adopted by the AOU but I'm going to suggest "Jack" - as in "we saw Jack in that pond"). As for the vegetation - it is at or near 100% in many of the ponds making flood/damp/dry estimates something or a problem.

I'm off for a week in San Diego so on our next survey date Nancy will be flying solo.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Video of Peeps at Yolo

For those of you who can't get enough here is some video of peeps foraging at Yolo:

FFSS Update 09/01

Greetings Surveyors!

Just wanted to make you aware of a couple of items:

Yolo Roads:
There’s been some concern over the condition of the roads used to access Field 61 at Yolo. There are two ways to access Field 61, the field road that immediately surrounds the field, or a winding road through a restored wetland (that is currently dry) just to the south. The road immediately surrounding the field is very narrow, covered in vegetation and has not been regularly maintained. There are a couple of very narrow areas but it is still useable with caution. The winding road through the wetland is also in rough shape but wider. This road parallels the immediate field road but turns south at the west end of the field and there is a large area of vegetation between the road and the field. Both roads will be mowed and hopefully disked to smooth out the surface. Paths will be mowed through the vegetation from the wetland road to the south end of Field 61.

After Labor Day, we will no longer be surveying Field 68 at Yolo. We don’t have the capacity to continue surveying both fields. Thanks to those of you who helped continue surveys of Field 68 this long!

Data Entry:
The data is looking great! Thanks for revising your data when asked to do so, it really makes a difference!

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Have a great week!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dearth of dowitchers, plethora of plovers (well, killdeer...)

Nancy and I monitored shorebirds at CRP this morning and found very few dowitchers in any of the ponds - the largest sighting was an overflight. We did, however, find many Killdeer and ducks. The new ponds are starting to get choked with emergent vegetation - and emergent duck feathers! It was a breezy day but we had fun and found two interesting species - a Caspian Tern roosting nonchalantly in one of the ponds and two Pectoral Sandpipers foraging amidst a large group of Least Sandpipers.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

FFSS Update 08/22/10

Greetings Surveyors,

I was in the field last week and things are looking really good out there! Lots of peeps at Yolo and a good number of dowitchers at Cosumnes.

A few project announcements:

Project Blog
Remember, we’ve set up a blog for you to post your sightings and photographs from your surveys: We’d love it if you participated in this new tool. I’ll be posting the project update on the blog shortly.

Data Entry/CADC
If any of you were having trouble entering data for the new fields in CADC, the problem has been solved (hopefully). The new survey area numbers were not showing up in the drop-down list in CADC but are now available.

Road Conditions
We’ve been alerted to some less than ideal road conditions along the survey routes at both sites. At Yolo, the roads bordering Field 61 on the East, West and South are not in good condition and are covered in vegetation. We suggest that you walk to the southern end of the field to conduct your surveys. If this is not possible please use extreme caution when driving and parking along these roads; a low clearance vehicle could easily start a fire. Again, we suggest that you walk to the southern end of Field 61. At Cosumnes, the road along the south end of Field B-6 is also rough and vegetated and very wet and mushy in spots. It is also recommended that you park at the west end of the road (being careful to make sure you are not parked on top of dry vegetation) and walk the road to conduct your surveys.

Third Field at Yolo?
If you are interested on continuing to survey at the Yolo, there is a third field that will be flooded. Please contact Alex or I for more information.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Shorebird Survey - 20Aug2010

Yesterday was the first time I surveyed the “round 2” areas at CRP and it was interesting. There was far less emergent vegetation than in the round 1 ponds and some of the new ponds are hardly flooded at all. This led to a surprising observation – it is much harder to count dowitchers in a moist field than in a flooded one since the dowitchers and the dirt clods are about the same size! I won’t bore you all with the counts but the only semi-unusual species was a cattle egret.

I will add a note of caution to those of you who will be monitoring the CRP ponds – the levee that runs along the south side of the B-6 paddies (026, 019, and 006) is very rough and, at one spot, very soft and damp. I would highly recommend that you park at the west end of that levee road and walk to the three observation points to do your survey. To do otherwise invites getting stuck.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Welcome Shorebird Survey Volunteers!

Hi Shorebird Volunteers, 

Thanks so much for dedicating your time to count the birds and further PRBO and partners' conservation efforts!

We know that being in the field brings unique experiences that don't fit on the data sheet and we know how fun and important it is to share those special bird encounters, survey bloopers, etc. with others.  So we've created this space for you to do just that.

You can post pictures... like this!

Black Turnstone, Photo by David Gardner
And your videos too!

Have fun, be safe, and bird on!