A New Team: The Bird Atlas and the Zoological Society
The Natural History Museum and the San Diego Zoo have been neighbors in many ways for years. Obviously we share the setting of Balboa Park and downtown San Diego. In a bigger way, we are neighbors in a unique wildlife community-a wildlife community that is disappearing piece by piece and day by day. These are assets we share and that we are quite certain that we can't afford to lose. The Bird Atlas being developed by the Museum can and will be a very important tool to help our community plan for the future of wildlife and the quality of life that San Diego residents currently enjoy and hope to share with their children. The Zoological Society of San Diego through its Conservation and Research funds is proud to be able to help with the development of this atlas. We are also proud that some of our employees are among the many volunteers collecting data for this effort.
Our weekend efforts to hit unadopted squares in poorly covered areas continue to contribute significantly to the project. We enjoyed ideal conditions on the Anza-Borrego weekend on 18 and 19 April: little wind, temperatures warm but not too hot. Twelve participants covered 17 squares. Some of the many interesting observations: a new site of sympatry of the California and Gambel's Quail by Phil Nelson in D25, a nest of Common Ground Dove in a grapefruit orchard by Phil Nelson and Mike Mathos in E24, a family of LeConte's Thrashers by Frank Unmack and Phil Unitt in G26, Poor-wills flushed in broad daylight by Steve Cameron and Shauna Wolf in J24 and by Bryan O'Leary and Phil Unitt in J27, and Lesser Goldfinches feeding young miles from permanent water by Ginger Rebstock and Karin Forney in L29. Some interesting migrants were a Green-tailed Towhee, a hermit Thrush of the small, pale subspecies slevini (seen at a distance of 10 feet while we picnicked at Tamarisk Grove), and a large numbers of singing Brewer's Sparrows.
It was a bit windier than ideal in places but refreshingly cool for our Boulevard/Jacumba weekend on 2 and 3 May. Nine participants helped cover 15 squares. Our more notable observations: Four Scott's Orioles in three squares, implying that this more typically desert-edge species extends in low density across the arid chaparral (with blooming Yucca whipplei, the key plant species attracting the oriole). Jack Schlotte and q found four Eared Grebes in breeding plumage at the southeast corner of Lake Morena in T22, implying the possibility of nesting by this species which nests only sporadically in San Diego County. Margaret and Bert McIntosh again had a Ladder-backed Woodpecker and a Cactus Wren in Miller Valley in S24, an unusual pocket of typically desert plants and animals on the coastal slope. In addition to a family of Great Horned Owls, Lori Hargrove and Regena Orr had Steller's Jays in the Manzanita Indian Reservation (R25), the same spot where Geoff Rogers and Tim Cass had them during the winter blockbuster, showing that this is a year-round site for the species southeast of its previously known range in oak woodland with no conifers. We ended the weekend at Jacumba, admiring the colony of Tricolored Blackbirds (around 150 birds). There was a constant stream of adults carrying food to the young, which were just beginning to clamber awkwardly around the marsh on their own.
Two more blockbuster events are on the calendar for June:
Wing Ding Things
Over 150 Bird Atlas participants and their guests swarmed into the Museum for a full menu of activities at our spring gathering on 21 March.
First came words of thanks, acknowledgments, and encouragement from the Museum's Executive Director, Dr. Mick Hager and the new director of the Museum's research division, the Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias, Dr. Exequiel Ezcurra. Project manager Phil Unitt provided an update on the project.
For an appetizer, the assemblage was treated to a spectacular slide show and talk on San Diego County breeding birds by atlas participant and photographer extraordinaire Tony Mercieca.
For the main course, folks had a chance to feed and socialize among the real and robotic reptiles in the exhibition upstairs.
For dessert, the Biodiversity Center was open for participants to meet the Museum's librarian Margi Dykens and her volunteer assistant Reed Pierce and to explore the library's extensive collection of ornithological books and journals. Dale Clark graciously demonstrated the World Wide Web site she created, which allows Bird Atlas participants to get information about and send data for the project over the Internet. Margaret McIntosh, Shauna Wolf, and Lori Hargrove hosed the specimen collection and preparation lab, where recent notable specimens and the department's research were featured. Phil Unitt demonstrated the projects data via the geographic information system on the new computer, generating maps of any species on request. Ann Klovstad coached participants on the project's forms and procedures, and she and Cheryl Mann handed out T shirts to all participants (who submitted data!). Artist Nicole Perretta was on hand with her original painting of the San Diego Cactus Wren, reproduced on the shirts.
Many thanks to all who helped make this event so successful. And special acknowledgement to the Zoological Society of San Diego, whose partnership has helped purchase the computer, pay for the T shirts and refreshments, and help meet the matching requirements of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant.
These Wing Dings give us a chance to meet and greet all of you and to let you know how much we appreciate your participation in this important project. We hope you too enjoy the gatherings and will give us feedback on them.
Our next event will take place at the Chula Vista Nature Center on 19 Septembermark your calendar now!
Mark your Calendar: 19 September 1998
We are delighted to announce that the Chula Vista Nature Center will host our next Bird Atlas Wing Ding on the afternoon of 19 September 1998. Andy Yuen of the U.S. fish and Wildlife Service will update us on the evolution and plans for the new San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, and Nancy Conney of Skyhunters will exhibit some of the birds of prey that accompany her raptor-education programs. As always, we will serve refreshments and provide an update on the progress of the atlas. And, of course, it will be the midst of fall migration for many species, so bring you binoculars for good birding on the refuge around the nature center. More details will be in the September issue of Wrenderings and invitations to be mailed separately. Thanks so much to Barbara Moore for the invitation and helping to arrange the event.
We are eager to find sites in northern San Diego County that can accommodate one of our eventsour last two events have drawn around 150 people (we now have over 300 participants!). If you have any suggestions, please pass them on.