Science for a Blue Planet

Featuring cutting-edge work, discoveries, and challenges of our scientists, our partners, and the larger conservation science community.

Bird-A-Thon Team with the Youngest Counters Detect the Most Species

Written by Aaron Haiman, Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team Leader

The 2022 Point Blue Conservation Science Rich Stallcup bird-a-thon is wrapping up. This year the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings were again delighted to participate, and again had a terrific day. The group (which this year was comprised of, from left to right in the photo to the right, Eddie Monson, Eddie’s dad John Monson, Mark Schulist, Max Benningfield, Connor Cochrane, Lucas Cornelissen, Allison Chang, me, and Allison’s dad Peter Chang) decided on October 1st for our bird-a-thon.

We gathered in the darkness of 5:00am at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Like last year, we were treated to a wonderful flight of Swainson’s Thrushes migrating and calling in the dark sky above us. We were able to hear a Northern Saw-Whet Owl and several Great Horned Owls right from the parking lot, so those three species marked the beginning of our list!

We drove up Limantour Road to see if we could find more owls, but found no new species there. That was not the case at Olema Marsh where the Virginia Rails and Sora were calling to each other like crazy before we even stepped out of our cars! I was delighted to hear these birds as Olema Marsh has been pretty dry the last few years. I am guessing that the rains that fell in September gave the Marsh, and the rails, a much-needed recharge.

From there we enjoyed the dawn chorus at Five Brooks Pond and then took off for the rest of our day! We travelled across Marin County and stopped at so many iconic locations. Bolinas Lagoon where we were treated to a swirling flock of Elegant Terns. The Outer Point where the team got to see a small pod of Humpback Whales and also found Wandering Tattler, Rock Wren, Lazuli Bunting, and a Blackburnian Warbler and Tennessee Warbler in the same binocular view! Stinson Beach where we found a MacGillivray’s Warbler and Yellow-green Vireo, the rarest bird of the day, hanging out with a few Warbling Vireos and a Cassin’s Vireo! The Las Gallinas Wastewater Treatment Plant where we finished out the day spotting an American Bittern, Ridgeway’s Rail, Common Gallinule, and an Osprey. Those last three species were all ones that we missed last year.

Ironically, while we picked up those misses, we missed a few other species like Wild Turkey (which was a surprising miss, to say the least) and ended up with 157 species which is exactly the same number that we found last year!
During the 15-ish hours of the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings bird-a-thon, we ate cookies, we ate potato chips, we talked cameras, we talked non-player-characters, we drove over 100 miles, and we had a terrific time!

A huge thank you to you for supporting this team, this event, and the work and research done by Point Blue Conservation Science to better understand and protect the natural world and the birds who we are lucky enough to share it with. And thank you as well, to Point Blue Conservation Science for organizing this event! The members of the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings are already looking forward to next year!

2022 Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Bird-a-thon Species List

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Cinnamon Teal
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
American Wigeon
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Scaup sp.
Surf Scoter
California Quail
Red Junglefowl
Pied-billed Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark’s Grebe
Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Eurasian Collard-Dove
Mourning Dove
Vaux’s Swift
Anna’s Hummingbird
Virginia Rail
Ridgeway’s Rail
American Coot
Common Gallinule
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Black Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Black Turnstone
Least Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Short-billed Dowitcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Wandering Tattler
Parasitic Jaeger
Common Murre
Heermann’s Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Western Gull
California Gull
Caspian Tern
Elegant Tern
Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Brandt’s Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Barn Owl
Great Horned Owl
Northern Saw-Whet Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Acorn Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Nuttall’s Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Western Wood-Pewee
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Say’s Phoebe
Hutton’s Vireo
Cassin’s Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Yellow-green Vireo
Steller’s Jay
California Scrub-Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Barn Swallow
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Pygmy Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Rock Wren
Pacific Wren
Marsh Wren
Bewick’s Wren
European Starling
Northern Mockingbird
Western Bluebird
Swainson’s Thrush
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
House Sparrow
Cedar Waxwing
House Finch
Purple Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Chipping Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
California Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Western Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Brewer’s Blackbird
Orange-crowned Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Tennessee Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Townsend’s Warbler
MacGillivray’s Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Western Tanager
Black-headed Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting

Total Species = 157