Students Visit Snowy Plover Wintering Grounds

Snowy PloverOn two mornings in early December, over 140 fourth-grade students from South Oceanside Elementary School visited South Cardiff State Beach as part of Audubon’s “Share Our Shores” program. For 2 hours, the nine-year-old scientists rotated among seven stations designed to familiarize them with the western snowy plover and its fragile habitat. The theme of the day was how the students and their families could enjoy the shore while protecting this threatened species.

The children’s program began in November with presentations in the classrooms. BVAS Nature Guides shared information about the plover, its nesting behavior, and the ways in which the bird is threatened and can be better protected. Each child built a sample of the plover’s minimal nest, a simple divot in the sand called a ‘scrape.’ The kids then designed posters to be placed later at nesting and roosting sites on Southern California beaches.

At South Cardiff State Beach, a team of nature guides and a state park interpreter addressed such topics as species identification, erosion, food chains, habitat protection, and adaptation. In teams of ten, the children, parents, and teachers learned to use binoculars to identify both the endangered snowy plovers and the more common shore birds, and were able to view 50 to 100 snowy plovers that were roosting on the sand. All the adults helping out agreed, based on the children’s enthusiasm and respect of nature, the future of our coast and wildlife seems a bit brighter.

Last spring, San Diego Audubon partnered with BVAS in bringing the “Share Our Shores” snowy plover education program to the North County. That initial program was such a success, BVAS Nature Guides decided to make it available to more students by offering both a winter and a spring session. Next spring, third-graders from Louise Foussat Elementary will participate by visiting a nesting site at one of the North County lagoons.

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