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Posts Tagged ‘Snowy Plover’

Summery Day on the South County Shore

Posted by E.G.D. on July 22, 2014

Today’s Featured Guest Writer is Robyn Waayers: 

Gary and I took a little trip yesterday to explore the beach just north of Imperial Beach and south of Silver Strand State Beach. A lot of organic material had washed ashore, including masses of California Mussels, as well as much kelp.

Mussel mass with surf grass

Mussel mass with surf grass

Some of the mussels had Leaf Barnacles attached.

California Mussel with Leaf Barnacles

California Mussel with Leaf Barnacles

This is a beach popular with clammers due to its concentration of Pismo Clams. What I presumed to be immature clam shells were here and there on the shore.

A small clam - about 30 mm in length

A small clam – about 30 mm in length


A larger specimen, but nowhere near the final adult size!

A larger specimen, but nowhere near the final adult size!

Most of the shells on this beach are heavily wave-worn, like this Chestnut Cowrie.

Chestnut Cowrie, after much rolling around in the sand and surf

Chestnut Cowrie, after much rolling around in the sand and surf

The beach was surprisingly bird-filled, with Willets, Marbled Godwits, and Forster’s Terns being present in numbers (the Forster’s Terns in large numbers as they fished in the huge anchovy schools off shore). We also saw the occasional Royal Tern in full breeding plumage. A lone Long-billed Curlew graced the beach and we saw several more in the Tijuana Estuary area later.

Long-billed Curlew, with the Silver Strand and downtown San Diego, as well as the Coronado Bridge, visible in the background

Long-billed Curlew, with the Silver Strand and downtown San Diego, as well as the Coronado Bridge, visible in the background

We saw easily over a half dozen Snowy Plovers skulking in the higher, drier portions of the beach as well. Signs discourage people or dogs from walking in their territory, but no fences exist, as we saw in Oregon last month for the protection of this species. The plovers are extremely well camouflaged, and tend to move in short bursts of activity, as opposed to just meandering around as the Willets do.

Snowy Plover standing at the edge of a tire track!

Snowy Plover standing at the edge of a tire track!

We also saw a merganser hanging around the edge of the water, and occasionally entering the shallows. A scoter (probably a Surf Scoter) was seen fishing in the shallows, as well.

Scoter in shallow water.

Scoter in shallow water.

About the author: Robyn Waayers has lived in San Diego since 1977, and teaches biology at three local community colleges. In her spare time, she is a lover of all­ things ­natural­ history, roaming the region with her camera and an eye for new things. Her website is Shoreline Ramblings, to which she has also posted this articleAll photographs are the property of Robyn Waayers.


Posted in Beach Birding, Featured Guest Writer, Pacific Coast Beaches, Seashells, Southern California Beaches | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

What is a Snowy Plover?

Posted by Jody on November 2, 2011

A Snowy Plover is a small sparrow-sized shore bird with a gray neck and back. They sport dark patches behind the eyes, on either side of the neck, and on the forehead. Year round residents of Washington, Oregon, and California coastal beaches, they crouch in small depressions in the sand to take cover from the shore winds. In their natural habitat of flat, open coastal beaches, dunes or near the mouths of streams, Snowy Plovers are extremely well camouflaged. (OK, I’ll say it. They are sooooooo adorable!!) “Plover nests usually contains three tiny eggs, which are camouflaged to look like sand and barely visible to even the most well-trained trained eye. Plovers will use almost anything they can find on the beach to make their nests, including kelp, driftwood, shells, rocks, and even human footprints.”(

Western Snowy Plover, Morro Bay, California (Photo by Mike Baird/Wikimedia Commons)

“Plovers have lived on California beaches for thousands of years. Currently it is estimated that only 1300 Western Snowy Plovers are breeding along the Pacific Coast.” (NPS/Point Reyes National Seashore) The Snowy Plover is currently listed as a federally threatened species and is therefore protected by the Endangered Species Act. This means that beach goers who disturb plovers or their breeding habitat may be cited or fined.

3 Snowy Plover Eggs on the Beach, San Diego County, California (Photo UpLoad: Magnus Manske/Wikimedia Commons)

Here are some tips from the National Park Service for sharing the seashore with the Western Snowy Plover:

Respect posted habitat areas. Stay at least 50 feet away from the birds and nests & report unprotected nests.

Walk dogs only where authorized and always on leash. (Dogs are prohibited from Snowy Plover nesting beaches during breeding season – from mid-March to mid-September)

Properly dispose of garbage to avoid attracting predators. (Crows, ravens, falcons, harriers, foxes, skunks, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons)

Leave driftwood lying on the sand.  It provides nesting and feeding habitat for Western Snowy Plovers.  Upright wood provides perches for bird predators.

Walk near the water line on the beach.

Let’s share the seashore with our fine feathered friends!  We’ll all have a great day at the beach!

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Pacific Coast Beaches | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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