2016 Docent Class at Graduation,
with the Watch’s Volunteer Coordinator Kathy Fieberling
In March, 19 new docents completed our comprehensive 7-week Docent Training Program, which culminated in a graduation ceremony and party. The new docents come from varied backgrounds and bring a diverse set of skills and experience to our docent team. They are an enthusiastic group, passionate about sharing the Watsonville wetlands, and are already scheduled for many upcoming field trips. We are very happy that they chose to volunteer on behalf of the wetlands, and extend to them all a hearty welcome!
Nesting in the Sloughs — Pied-billed Grebes
Pied-billed Grebe and chicks on floating nest in Struve Slough.
The restoration efforts of the Watsonville Wetlands Watch provide rich and protected habitat for spring’s many nesting birds. Writer, birder, and new docent Shantanu Phukan has contributed the following article about one of these species — the Pied-billed Grebe..
No matter which pond, lake, river, or slough, you can rely on this tailless, unassuming, dun-colored bird to be silently swimming and diving there. Pied-billed Grebes are found throughout the US and into Mexico on all bodies of fresh water. Diving for their food, mostly crustaceans and fish, they swim — unlike penguins — with wings folded and their lobed feet pushing hard — like flippers on a swimmer.
Since the feet are set practically on their rumps, they can only manage an ungainly waddle on land; as a result they never come ashore and only ever clamber onto their nests — floating platforms of flattened vegetation anchored to standing reeds.
At the end of last summer I learnt something new about the Grebes: I was watching a mother with its brood of four hungry chicks; the babies kept up a constant cheeping for food, shadowing her right and left. I eventually started looking for other birds, but the babies kept up their nagging and were impossible to filter out; they seemed to have got inside my head. The mother, however, seemed entirely unruffled. She started to preen, and as she did she pulled a feather from her back; instead of letting it drift away she swam to a chick, which took it eagerly and stopped nagging for just a few seconds as it gobbled it down. That was sly, I chuckled to myself — to distract the chick with a feather. What a silly baby, I thought, to be pacified by a feather.
So imagine my surprise a few months later when I learnt that Grebes actively seek to eat feathers to line their stomachs with a "sieve" of feathers; the sieve allows nutrients to pass into the body but keeps fish bones from poking organs. As much as half the contents of a Grebe’s stomach may consist of its own feathers. The sly pacifying I had witnessed was the result of my ascribing human motives to birds. And so the Pied-billed Grebe emerged for me as a much stranger and more interesting bird.
Save the Date — International Migratory Bird Day Tour
Join us for a special birding tour on Saturday, May 14th, as we celebrate one of the most magnificent wonders of the world -- global bird migrations -- on International Migratory Bird Day. We'll explore the wildlife and beauty of the Watsonville wetlands, home and important migration stop-over site for over 250 species of birds. We are offering two tours, each led by local birding experts. The tours are free.
Additionally, fun family festivities, including bird-related games and art activities, will be offered from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Wetlands of Watsonville Nature Center, 30 Harkins Slough Road, Watsonville.
To learn more about International Migratory Bird Day, click here.
Presentation: Trailing Penguins in Patagonia
Penguin parent and chick. photo: Nanci Adams.
Join birder extraordinaire and Watsonville Adult Education Birding Instructor Nanci Adams as she talks about her recent trip to Argentina, where, as a volunteer for Earthwatch Institute, she participated in a penguin research program. She will describe her December adventures with the little guys in tuxedos, a.k.a. Magellanic Penguins, in a Patagonian penguin colony. Learn why you never stand directly behind a penguin in the wild, as well as other useful tips.
Volunteers make a difference by helping to restore our wetlands
We invite you to help restore wetland habitat by planting native plants and removing exotic invasive plants as part of our monthly community work day on April 23. We will work from 9 a.m. to noon, and we always make time for birding or a short hike around the wetlands. We supply the gloves, tools, and a snack. Meet at our Fitz Wetlands Educational Resource Center (map/directions). If you have questions, please contact Mary Paul at email@example.com or 831-566-4938.
Make an Earth Day Tribute for Someone You Admire
Recently restored native grassland along Hanson Slough
Is there someone you have always admired, respected, or loved for whom you would like to show your gratitude? Did you know that you can make a gift to Watsonville Wetlands Watch in the name of this worthy person?
Earth Day, being celebrated on April 22, has been raising human consciousness about environmental issues for 46 years. This year's Earth Day slogan is: "This Earth Day, let's get really big stuff done for our planet. What are we waiting for? The time is now." Your gift of any size is important to us, and every gift is multiplied many times over by the work of our dedicated volunteers. Won't you dedicate a donation to someone you admire for Earth Day? Thank you for being a part of our growing family of Watsonville Wetlands Watch and for being a noble steward of the earth!
Watsonville Wetlands Watch advocates for wetland issues, educates elementary, middle, and high school students, restores degraded habitats, preserves what remains whole, and teaches appreciation for the unique beauty and life of the Pajaro Valley wetlands. In cooperation with numerous other agencies, we support studies of and planning for these sites.