Science for a Blue Planet

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

Drake’s Beach Sanderlings 2021 Bird-A-Thon

Written by team captain Aaron Haiman

The 2021 Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Bird-a-thon began in the early morning darkness at the entrance to Muir Woods. The group of young birders (which this year was comprised of Max Benningfield, Eddie Monson, Connor Cochrane, Mark Schulist, Joseph Zeno, Lucas Corneliussen, and Aaron Haiman and accompanied by John Monson) gathered under flights of Swainson’s Thrush calling as they passed through the night sky above us and a Northern Saw-Whet Owl calling not far away. We then picked up several more owl species in the surrounding area, and our day was off to great start! 

As usual, the strategy for our bird-a-thon was to drive to a great many different locations with as wide a diversity of habitats as possible across Marin County, jump out of cars to find as many species of birds as quickly as we could, and then pile back into the cars to zoom off to the next spot.

This strategy took us from the conifer forests around Muir Woods to the beaches of Stinson and Drake’s. From the riparian habitat of Muir Beach and Pine Gulch to the ponds of the Las Gallinas Waste Water Treatment Plant. From the rocky shores of the Point Reyes Lighthouse to the waters of Nicasio Reservoir and Stafford Lake. From the trees of Chimney Rock to the Baylands of Hamilton Field. And it led us to finding some wonderful species including Palm Warbler, Western Wood-Pewee, Black Turnstone, Parasitic Jaeger, Sooty Shearwater, Blackburnian Warbler, Pigeon Guillemot, Cassin’s Vireo, Chipping Sparrow, and so many more! After passing under huge swarms of Vaux’s Swifts swirling over our heads, our day ended as darkness settled in with a total of 153 species!

We ate a lot of cookies, laughed a lot, covered over 100 miles, and all shared a lot of great birding knowledge and stories with one another.

A huge thank you to all the donors who have supported this amazing team and to Point Blue Conservation Science for organizing this event each year! We are already looking forward to next year!