BirdReturns Spring 2016 Program:

What we learned about the diversity of birds that flocked to River Garden Farms

You may be used to seeing herons and egrets in the beautiful, lush green rice fields during your highway travels through Northern California. These are typically the birds that are large enough to safely take advantage of the habitat provided by fully flooded rice fields. This past spring, River Garden Farms hoped to serve as host to even more birds and participated in the Nature Conservancy’s BirdReturns program.

Between February 1 and March 14, Rice acreage that was between seasons was “shallow flooded” for six weeks to provide much-needed habitat to migrating shorebirds while populations were most-abundant in the area. During this time (which additionally included March 15 through 30, after the flooding had concluded), the Nature Conservancy (TNC) visited the property twelve times to survey for quantity and species diversity of the birds that temporarily called River Garden Farms “Home”. Binoculars and telescopes in-hand, every bird within a 200-meter radius of several pre-determined points was meticulously counted, identified, and recorded.

The results are in! Over the course of their visits, TNC’s surveyors counted 9,432 birds, a number that includes twenty-nine different species (excluding song-birds). We were especially popular with Northern Pintails (3,192 birds counted) and Dunlins (3,068 birds counted)!

The rest of the birds spotted are listed below by species, with the count of each following in parenthesis. While this surely is not a total count of our feathered visitors, we are excited to see just how many and varied they were!

American Kestrel (13)
Northern Harrier (31)
Peregrine Falcon (1)
Red-Tailed Hawk (26)
Turkey Vulture (15)
American Coot (813)
American White Pelican (5)
Great Blue Heron (22)
Great Egret (32)
Snowy Egret (3)
White-Faced Ibis (20)

Canada Goose (5)
Greater White-Fronted Goose (972)
Green-Winged Teal (279)
Mallard (565)
Northern Pintail (3192)
Northern Shoveler (80)
Tundra Swan (10)

Black-Bellied Plover (21)
Dunlin (3068)
Greater Yellowlegs (54)
Killdeer (69)
Least Sandpiper (7)
Long-Billed Curlew (81)
Long-Billed Dowitcher (16)

Belted Kingfisher (1)
Common Raven (3)
Herring Gull (7)
Ring-Billed Gull (215)