On March 23rd, 2018, nine student members of the OSU Bird Nerds Club departed OSU for Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California. We spent the first evening setting up camp and then enjoyed a mist-netting presentation by Mark Dettling and Point Blue interns at the Palomarin Field Station the next morning. The afternoon was filled with birding and exploring different parts of the National Seashore. The following morning, we left camp early and headed towards the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area near Sacramento. We stopped at the Benicia State Recreational Area to search for the elusive Black Rail. After a short walk around the marsh, we were rewarded with a "kic-kic-kerr, kic-kic-kerr" call announcing there was indeed a Black Rail hiding in the reeds somewhere trying very hard not to be seen.
At the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Robin Kulakow and Marge Kolar gave us a wonderful presentation about the Yolo Basin Wildlife foundation as well as the interesting management history of the area. We spent the rest of the afternoon birding with them at the wildlife area, seeing many species of birds including American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Snow Geese, and a very bold little Sora that we were able to get some great looks at. We also heard (but did not see) some Yellow-Billed Magpies.
The next morning, we packed up camp and headed to Colusa for a presentation at Davis Ranches. On the way, we stopped at several spots to bird, and finally saw the elusive Yellow-billed Magpies we were searching for! We also saw a Phainopepla basking in the sun, another one of our target species for the trip. At Davis Ranches, Khara Strum, Kristin Sesser, and Emily James gave us a great presentation about how Audubon California, Point Blue Conservation Science, and Davis Ranches (a private, operating ranch) work together to provide habitat year-round for resident and migratory birds. Afterwards, we took a tour of the Ranch to learn about all of the innovative farming practices taking place there. We were also treated to a special tour of the historic Davis house, which in addition to being beautiful was said to be haunted! Before checking into our lodging in Colusa, we did one last birding trip to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. The autotour provided great looks at many species of waterfowl, as well as the only Common Gallinule of the trip. As we continued along the route, someone mentioned how strange it seemed that we had not seen a single Black-crowned Night-Heron the whole trip. A little while later, we crossed a narrow bridge overlooking Freshwater Creek. To our amazement there were at least 150 Black-crowned Night-Herons roosting in the trees along the bank!
The next morning we packed up and headed back to OSU. Overall, the trip was a huge success and the first time Bird Nerds had taken a trip out of state. We had amazing hosts everywhere we visited and learned a lot about partnerships in avian conservation and management. We would like to thank sincerely everyone who was a part of making this trip possible: Robin Kulakow and Marge Kolar (Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area), Khara Strum (Audubon California), Kristin Sesser (Point Blue Conservation Science) and Emily James (Davis Ranches & Robbins Rice Company, inc.), Mark Dettling and Diana Humple (Point Blue Conservation Science), Allison Kidder (Point Reyes Nat'l Seashore), Teri Engbring, and our faculty advisor Sue Haig.
- Mamo Waianuhea
Oregon State University Bird Nerds