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Citizen Science in the Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey

Close Call on a Levee

Lea Landry


Lea Landry.
Early on a mid-winter weekday, I take a reconnaissance run to the Central Valley with my friend Cathie LaZier. Having completed the training in PRBO’s Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey, we’re driving to Colusa and Sutter counties to scout two road transects. We aim to find all the access roads and the 20 survey locations at each transect, and to preview our survey sites.

It’s a sunny day between rain storms, and the dirt roads of Transects 9 and 18 are muddy and washboard-rough. The maps and instructions clearly note where we should pull off and do our sightings. All is going well until we stop to look at something from a levee road—essentially a single-lane dirt road with no shoulder. The designated pull-out is 25 yards ahead of us, so we’re stopped on the road when, in my rear-view mirror, I see a full-sized pickup barreling down on us with no room to pass. I inch forward and arrive at the pull-out just as the truck roars past, spraying the side of the car with mud; we’re otherwise unscathed.

Lesson learned: Don’t stop on a levee road unless there is a pull-out. Benefit gained: Surveying shorebirds wintering in the Central Valley is our big chance to help in a meaningful way!