Science for a Blue Planet

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

Drakes’ Beach Sanderlings Bird-A-Thon Team: A Bird Finding Machine!

Each year our Bird-A-Thon teams share a summary of their count day with their sponsors. It’s a way to for teams to let their supporters in on the action and excitement of the count day and of course share their prized species list. This year, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, composed almost entirely of young birders, counted 162 species, the most out of all teams as far as we know (reports are still coming in).

Here’s what their day looked like and what they shared with their supporters:

What a day! What a day! What a day! The Drakes’ Beach Sanderlings participated again in the Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon on October 5th. The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, which is Point Blue Conservation Science’s longest running youth bird-a-thon team, was a bird finding machine! Thanks to your donation, our team has raised over $2,500 this year! Thank you so much for your support!

The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team at Drake’s Beach (left to right: Susie Monson, Max Laubstein, Oscar Moss, Max Benningfield, Eddie Monson, Connor Cochrane, Lucas Corneliussen, Aaron Haiman).

As usual, our day began very early. At 5:15am, and in the 39°F chill of the pre-dawn morning, we met at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. The sky was spectacularly clear which made for beautiful star-gazing but did not bode well for finding migrants later in the day. As soon as we got out of our cars, we realized we were surrounded by Great Horned Owls, and after a bit of listening, we added Spotted Owl to our list for the day! A good start!

The team stopped by Olema Marsh which irrupted in a cacophony of Virginia Rails as soon as we clapped for them! We then sped off to Five Brooks Pond where we tried to find more owls while it was still dark. As dawn approached, we were treated to a terrific mixed flock of Bushtits, both species of Kinglet, and lots and lots of Townsend’s Warblers. We then drove past Bolinas Lagoon and birded Stinson Beach.

Leaving Stinson Beach we broke into the Oreos and headed for the Outer Point! It was still early, and a quick overview of the species list showed that we had already found over 100 species by the time we reached the Outer Point! This put us ahead of schedule on both time and species.

Drake’s Beach Sanderlings members overlooking the Pacific Ocean (from left to right: Max Laubstein, Oscar Moss, Max Benningfield, Connor Cochrane).

Confirming our concerns from the morning, the clear skies the night before resulted in there being no vagrant birds anywhere on the Outer Point, though there were tons of Red-breasted Nuthatches. It was somewhat frustrating to find no unusual birds at Chimney Rock or Drake’s Beach, but we did not get too attached to birding the area and left to head east. We did stop at an overlook near Chimney Rock to find Black Oystercatchers and got to watch a pod of Humpbacked Whales feeding off the coast.

The team then started zig-zagging across the east half of the county picking up more bird species all along the way. We certainly had some ups and downs. We made some targeted stops for particular species that mostly worked in our favor. The ponds at the Las Gallinas Water Treatment Plant were the emptiest I have ever seen them, but a quick change of course to the Hamilton Wetlands was gangbusters! As usual, we ended at our customary final stop at an east San Rafael marsh where the Ridgeway’s Rails were calling before we even got out of the car!

Drakes Beach Sanderlings birding Olema marsh.

Over the course of the day, the team moved incredibly efficiently. When a site was not producing the species we were hoping for, we quickly made decisions to abandon those stops and to go look elsewhere. The knowledge of all the team members came together to produce a cornucopia of species even though we did not find a single species that would be considered noteworthy for Marin County. The list we ended up with included 162 species as a group, and 2 more that were only seen by a single team member and so don’t quite count! The full list is on the next page. We all had an amazing day. We enjoyed every bird, ate a lot of cookies, and shared a lot of stories and knowledge. All the things that make the Sanderlings great!

I want to thank you again for supporting this team. The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings are a very special group that I am honored to lead, and passionate to see continue. With your support, you help promote bird conservation and climate science, and you also something more. You help to show the role that young people can play. Bringing in funding in an event like this reminds the world, and the birding community in particular, that dedicated young birders can and do make significant contributions to the cause of protecting our world. I hope you return next year to support us again. I can’t wait!


Drake’s Beach Sanderlings 2019 Bird-a-thon Species List


  1. Greater White-fronted Goose
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Mute Swan
  4. Muscovy Duck (Domestic)
  5. Cinnamon Teal
  6. Northern Shoveler
  7. Gadwall
  8. American Wigeon
  9. Mallard
  10. Northern Pintail
  11. Green-winged Teal
  12. Greater Scaup
  13. Surf Scoter
  14. Bufflehead
  15. Common Merganser
  16. Ruddy Duck
  17. California Quail
  18. Wild Turkey
  19. Indian Peafowl (Domestic)
  20. Red Junglefowl (Domestic)
  21. Pied-billed Grebe
  22. Horned Grebe
  23. Red-necked Grebe
  24. Eared Grebe
  25. Western Grebe
  26. Clark’s Grebe
  27. Rock Pigeon
  28. Band-tailed Pigeon
  29. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  30. Mourning Dove
  31. Vaux’s Swift
  32. Anna’s Hummingbird
  33. Ridgeway’s Rail
  34. Virginia Rail
  35. Sora
  36. Common Gallinule
  37. American Coot
  38. Black Rail
  39. Black-necked Stilt
  40. American Avocet
  41. Black Oystercatcher
  42. Black-bellied Plover
  43. Semipalmated Plover
  44. Killdeer
  45. Whimbrel
  46. Long-billed Curlew
  47. Marbled Godwit
  48. Black Turnstone
  49. Sanderling
  50. Dunlin
  51. Least Sandpiper
  52. Western Sandpiper
  53. Long-billed Dowitcher
  54. Red-necked Phalarope
  55. Spotted Sandpiper
  56. Greater Yellowlegs
  57. Willet
  58. Lesser Yellowlegs
  59. Parasitic Jaeger
  60. Common Murre
  61. Heermann’s Gull
  62. Ring-billed Gull
  63. Western Gull
  64. California Gull
  65. Herring Gull
  66. Forester’s Tern
  67. Elegant Tern
  68. Red-throated Loon
  69. Pacific Loon
  70. Common Loon
  71. Brandt’s Cormorant
  72. Pelagic Cormorant
  73. Double-Crested Cormorant
  74. American White Pelican
  75. Brown Pelican
  76. Great-blue Heron
  77. Great Egret
  78. Snowy Egret
  79. Green Heron
  80. Black-crowned Night-Heron
  81. Turkey Vulture
  82. Osprey
  83. White-tailed Kite
  84. Golden Eagle
  85. Northern Harrier
  86. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  87. Cooper’s Hawk
  88. Red-shouldered Hawk
  89. Red-tailed Hawk
  90. Ferruginous Hawk
  91. Barn Owl
  92. Great Horned Owl
  93. Spotted Owl
  94. Belted Kingfisher
  95. Red-breasted Sapsucker
  96. Acorn Woodpecker
  97. Downy Woodpecker
  98. Nuttall’s Woodpecker
  99. Hairy Woodpecker
  100. Pileated Woodpecker
  101. Northern Flicker
  102. American Kestrel
  103. Peregrine Falcon
  104. Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  105. Black Phoebe
  106. Say’s Phoebe
  107. Hutton’s Vireo
  108. Warbling Vireo
  109. Steller’s Jay
  110. California Scrub Jay
  111. American Crow
  112. Common Raven
  113. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  114. Oak Titmouse
  115. Horned Lark
  116. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  117. Violet-green Swallow
  118. Bushtit
  119. Wrentit
  120. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  121. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  122. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  123. White-breasted Nuthatch*
  124. Pygmy Nuthatch
  125. Brown Creeper
  126. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  127. House Wren
  128. Pacific Wren
  129. Marsh Wren
  130. Bewick’s Wren
  131. European Starling
  132. Northern Mockingbird
  133. Western Bluebird
  134. Varied Thrush
  135. Swainson’s Thrush
  136. Hermit Thrush
  137. American Robin
  138. House Sparrow
  139. American Pipit
  140. House Finch
  141. Pine Siskin
  142. Lesser Goldfinch
  143. American Goldfinch
  144. Fox Sparrow
  145. Dark-eyed Junco
  146. White-crowned Sparrow
  147. Golden-crowned Sparrow
  148. Savannah Sparrow
  149. Song Sparrow
  150. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  151. California Towhee
  152. Spotted Towhee
  153. Western Meadowlark
  154. Red-winged Blackbird
  155. Tricolored Blackbird
  156. Brown-headed Cowbird
  157. Brewer’s Blackbird
  158. Orange-crowned Warbler
  159. Common Yellowthroat
  160. Yellow Warbler
  161. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  162. Townsend’s Warbler
  163. Wilson’s Warbler*
  164. Western Tanager



  1. Mule Deer
  2. Raccoon
  3. California Groundsquirrel
  4. Northern Elephant Seal
  5. Harbor Seal
  6. Harbor Porpoise
  7. Humpbacked Whale


Species marked with a * were only seen or heard by one team member.