South San Diego Bay Refuge
On 17 June 1999, the South San Diego Bay Unit of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge was officially dedicated. This event marked the culmination of a monumental effort on the part of the public to protect the last remaining natural resources in San Diego Bay. The refuge boundary was established by the Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year over approximately 4000 acres of land and water in South San Diego Bay. This action, however, did not create the refuge. The refuge became a reality when the Port of San Diego purchased land and lease rights from the Western Salt Company to lease to the Fish and Wildlife Service in exchange for the Service's giving up its rights to the 10-acre Least Tern nesting site at the Naval Training Center. The ultimate result was that 2200 acres of salt ponds and open water were put into permanent protection to be managed as a National Wildlife Refuge.
The salt ponds of South Bay are unique, and their management will need careful planning and scientific study. Though artificial, the salt ponds provide irreplaceable habitat for many species. They are highly valuable for tern (6 species), skimmer, and shorebird nesting. Thousands of migrating shorebirds also forage in the ponds. There are some areas within the new refuge, particularly near the mouth of the Otay River, that are ideal for restoration as salt marsh. The management of open water for migratory waterfowl is also critical. South Bay is used heavily in winter by water birds such as Surf Scoters, scaup, Brown Pelicans, and Brant.
The next step is a plan to determine management and access to this newest member of the national wildlife refuge system. A very active group of volunteers and organizations is working to complete the refuge and adopt a protective conservation plan. If you want to get involved, please contact me at the Environmental Health Coalition (619-235-0281) or email LauraH@environmentalhealth.org.
Breeding Season Reminder
A couple of participants have had questions over this point so I thought I would broadcast the answer to our entire e-mail distribution list. The breeding season does not end on 30 June but lasts as long as birds are still breeding. Even though the singing and thus conspicuousness of some species decreases as we get into July, many of these species are still tending nests and fledglings. Please don't throw in the towel until at least the third week of July, especially if you have aquatic habitat, riparian habitat, or higher elevations in your square. For species that typically nest late, like the Western Kingbird, Western Wood Pewee, and Blue Grosbeak, July is prime time for confirming breeding. For species with complex distributions, in which migrants leapfrog over the local breeding population, like the Western Flycatcher and Orange-crowned Warbler, midsummer observations may be critical to revealing what the birds are really doing. And when that local breeding population is very small, as for the Warbling Vireo, Wilson's Warbler, Swainson's Thrush, and Willow Flycatcher midsummer observations are essential. Bill Haas told me yesterday that the 4th of July weekend is when the Willow Flycatchers nesting in the colony on the San Luis Rey typically begin fledging.
So please hang in there a little longer. It's the time of year when some of our most significant discoveries can be made. Thanks very much for your enthusiasm and support.
Bird Atlas E-Mail List-Server Coming on Line
Thanks to the initiative of Joni Ciarletta and Mona Baumgartel, the idea of a list-server for the bird atlas is now a reality. It is intended to ease and increase communication among bird atlas participants about the project and birds in general. It is run through UCSD, so the subscribers' addresses cannot be circulated to any commercial concern. To subscribe, please send the message "add [your e-mail address] sdco-bird-atlas-l" to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that the last character is a lower-case "L." Please feel free to use this means to ask any question or mention any observation that your fellow participants might benefit from. As always, you're still welcome to send messages to Phil Unitt and Ann Klovstad specifically at email@example.com. See you in cyberspace!
Please Join Us for Our Fall WingDing Sunday 12 September
Grab your binoculars! We're gathering our flock again, this time for an outdoor event on the beautiful campus of Point Loma Nazarene University! All San Diego County Bird Atlas participants are invited for a day of (we hope) great birding during fall migration. Point Loma is San Diego County's premier site for vagrants during fall migration. Early in the fall, substantial numbers of regular migrants may occur too. On Saturday and early Sunday morning some of us will be searching for concentrations of birds to stake them out. Though many of you know Point Loma intimately, some may not, so we've enclosed a map to birding spots with the invitations. Please come early to bird Point Loma--we hope the birds themselves will be the primary entertainment at this event.
We'll assemble at 1 PM at McCullough Park overlooking the Pacific Ocean for a picnic lunch and socializing. Phil will update us on the atlas' progress, and we will recognize and award our participants who have reached the breeding threshold goal for their squares. If you haven't yet sent your 1999 data, do so now to ensure that we can recognize all of this year's threshold clearers.
Please call 619-232-3821 ext. 235 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by 8 September to let us know if you will be joining us and how many guests you will be bringing so that we can plan accordingly. Hope to see you there!
The annual fête to recognize volunteers throughout the museum follows on the evening of 22 September at the House of Hospitality in Balboa Park. All bird atlas participants contributing over the past year are invited to this event.
Redhead chick sketch by Nicole Perretta