Science for a Blue Planet

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

The Fledglings Descend Upon Shollenberger and Ellis Creek

Point Blue Communications Manager Lishka Arata led the Fledglings Bird-A-Thon team for the third year in a row this September. The Fledglings team was created to welcome birders of all levels and ages to participate in our annual Bird-A-Thon fundraiser. The walk is an accessible two hours and includes birding 101 support from the walk leader. This yea’s Fledgling flock numbered twelve and took place on a beautiful Saturday morning at the wetlands outside of Point Blue’s Petaluma Headquarters–Shollenberger Marsh and Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility ponds.

The 2023 Fledglings Bird-A-Thon team beginning their count at Shollenberger Marsh outside of Point Blue’s Petaluma headquarters. Credit: Kait Schroeder.

The Fledglings started off their 2+ hour walk under an oak tree outside of Petaluma Headquarters for a meet and greet and a brief birding 101 before heading out to the marshlands. Laine was our list-keeper, Dez was our unofficial field guide support, Christina was our team nature photographer, and Nathaniel was our non-bird species spotter. We detected a good handful of birds from the parking lot and corner of Shollenberger Marsh, like Great Egret wading in shallow water, turkey vultures atop light posts, and Anna’s hummingbirds whizzing by with their grinding song. We walked a two mile loop in two hours and change and detected 43 bird species and 8 non-bird species during that time. The weather was lovely, with clouds coming and going from a blue sky, low to no wind, and temperature hanging around the mid to high 60s. We were surprised for the final stretch of our walk to find a flurry of species in the business park landscaping sycamore trees and sidewalk-adjacent lawn that included Western Bluebird, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Oak Titmouse, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Oregon Junco, and American Robin. We ended with improved birding and naturalizing skills, new connections, and a deeper appreciation for nature just outside of the door.

An Oak Titmouse perched in a sycamore tree along the sidewalk from Ellis Creek to Point Blue’s headquarters. Credit: Christina Burnham.

Favorite moments/observations/learnings from the Fledglings

“I appreciated Sheldon’s question about why the long-billed curlew’s bill was that long! It made me want to dig deeper into that adaptation. I also loved catching a good glimpse of the Northern Harrier’s owl-like face through my binoculars as it soared over the wetlands towards us.” -Lishka Arata

The Western Fence Lizard that Nathaniel Schroeder spotted during the Fledglings’ 2023 Bird-A-Thon count. Credit: Kait Schroeder.

“I appreciated Nathaniel’s dedication to helping our team try to meet the Marcia Grand Bird-A-Thon Team Challenge. While we weren’t able to add an amphibian or mammal to our list, he did spot many western fence lizards and I learned about lizards and insects from him!” -Debra Stein

“I am excited to use my new binocular knowledge on our upcoming trip to Madagascar. Also, I think I can differentiate between crows and ravens now!” -Marlene Stein

“I’m hugely thankful to Lishka for offering her time, birding expertise, and talent for patient, engaged teaching to this group! My human-related highlight was spending time connecting with colleagues, a board member, and several associated family members, all of whom were generous in sharing their birding and naturalist knowledge at whatever level and curious about learning more. My bird-related highlight was gazing through the scope upon an American Avocet. I spend a lot of time seeing Avocet line drawings on Point Blue gear, so it was a delight to observe a real one gliding around in the shallow waters on the edge of Shollenberger marsh.” -Kait Schroeder

A Song Sparrow spotted in anise along the path from Shollenberger Marsh to Ellis Creek water recycling ponds. Credit: Christina Burnham.

“I liked that I got to learn a lot more bird species that live in my area. It was also nice to go on a walk in nature. I definitely know more about birds than I did before. Thank you!” -Nathaniel Schroeder (Age 10)

“I loved seeing the Northern Harrier busily scanning the marsh for prey- I can see how it earned its name! I’m a recent east coast transplant so learning to identify western birds in the area has become my new pastime. What better way to start than on this truly beautiful morning, strolling along the wetlands with so many of my new colleagues and their families! I also enjoyed digging around in the dirt for critters with Nathaniel.” -Christina Burnham

“I learned so many new bird species and am very grateful to Lishka for being a fantastic leader and Dez for helping with ID. It was my first birding excursion and I was a little nervous, but I quickly learned how everyone was in the same state and immediately felt comfortable. It was a blast! THANK YOU, FLEDGLINGS!” -Jordan Dixon

“It was my first time participating in a Point Blue Bird-A-Thon, and I am so happy it was with the Fledglings! Thank you Lishka for teaching us so much about bird ID! It was so much fun to start out my morning with bird watching, and I look forward to participating in more Bird-A-Thons in the future.” -Dezarhel Uy

Photo album

See more Fledglings photos here.

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Species Lists

Non-birds (8 total):

  1. Western Fence Lizard
  2. Red swamp crayfish
  3. Blue-eyed darner (dragonfly)
  4. Cardinal meadowlark (dragonfly)
  5. Common pillbug
  6. Common Cryptops (Cryptops hortensis, centipede)
  7. Argentine ants
  8. Monarch butterfly

Birds (43 total):

  1. Brewer’s Blackbird
  2. Red-winged Blackbird
  3. Bushtit
  4. Oak Titmouse
  5. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  6. Double-crested Cormorant
  7. Common Raven
  8. American Crow
  9. California Scrub-Jay
  10. Gadwall
  11. Mallard
  12. Lesser Goldfinch
  13. Black Phoebe
  14. Wild Turkey
  15. Pied-billed Grebe
  16. Northern Harrier
  17. Anna’s Hummingbird
  18. Virginia Rail
  19. Sora
  20. Common Gallinule
  21. Greater Yellowlegs
  22. Killdeer
  23. Black-necked Stilt
  24. American Avocet
  25. Snowy Egret
  26. Long-billed Curlew
  27. White-crowned Sparrow
  28. Song Sparrow
  29. California Towhee
  30. Oregon Junco
  31. Northern Mockingbird
  32. Western Bluebird
  33. American Robin
  34. Turkey Vulture
  35. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  36. American Coot
  37. American White Pelican
  38. Great Egret
  39. Mute Swan
  40. Canada Goose
  41. Northern Flicker
  42. Nuttall’s Woodpecker
  43. Bewick’s Wren