Notes from the Field | Give your time this holiday season

Give back to the Bay this holiday season.
Give back to the Bay this holiday season.

The holiday season is upon us! The winter chill is finally settling in and hopefully it will bring some much-needed rain and snow. Now is the time we give thanks for our family, friends, and community – and many local residents want to give back. We all live around the bay, but how often do we get a chance give back to it?

Here’s a list of some volunteer opportunities I know throughout the Bay Area. By donating a little of your time, you can make a big difference in both the health of our local environment and build a stronger community in the spirit of the season.

Environmental Volunteers
Since 1972, this nonprofit has provided training to volunteers about the importance of Bay Area ecosystems. Why not learn more about your natural environment while helping to bring the bay to local classrooms, or by taking kids on educational nature walks in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties?

Audubon Canyon Ranch
Headquartered in a beautiful canyon next to the Bolinas Lagoon, this organization offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, including participating in bird surveys, planting native plants, and even docent training.

Marine Mammal Center
You love marine mammals, look no further. You can get up close and personal by rescuing stranded animals and providing them care, or support educational and administrative programs in Sausalito. They offer special programs for youth (ages 15-18).

Golden Gate Audubon Society
If birds are what you’re interested in, the popular Golden Gate Audubon Society has restoration projects throughout the bay area focusing on restoring habitat for resident and migrating birds. As a special holiday bonus join the thousands of citizen scientists taking part in the National Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas bird count!

Friends of Sausal Creek
This community association is a great example of people can come together to help better this riparian area and recreation zone in their own backyard. Come volunteer with Friends of Sausal Creek and get inspired to organize a group to help protect and restore a resource in your own neighborhood!

Literacy For Environmental Justice
Serving San Francisco’s Bayview Hunter’s Point neighborhood, this group works with local youth to create a more healthy and sustainable community helping clean polluted areas and providing healthy food access to low income residents. You can volunteer at their native plant nursery and community garden in Candlestick Point or for a restoration project near Yosemite Slough.

Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley
Learn about the wildlife living right in your own backyard, from hawks and deer to even coyotes and bobcats. This organization takes in ill and injured wildlife from all around the South Bay and provides an opportunity for the public to help in many different ways, like caring from sick animals at their rehabilitation center in San Jose or writing for their newsletter.

Point Blue Conservation Science
Formerly known as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, this well respected organization supports research and community involvement in learning how local ecosystems will be impacted by climate change. Most volunteer opportunities are in the North Bay, and include shorebird surveys, education programs, working in their lab, or even contribute just by having fun on their iNaturalist app.

Of course, Save The Bay’s own Restoration Team has entered planting season, so be sure to come on down to the shoreline and help us plant the over 40,000 seedlings our volunteers worked so hard to propagate.

We are blessed in the Bay Area to have a strong legacy of environmental stewardship represented by countless organizations and groups working to make our home a better place to live in.

So give back and learn something new this holiday season!

The organizations I listed above are just a few examples and I encourage everyone to search out your local groups that are organizing their communities to protect and restore our bay.

Do you know any other organizations? Post them in the comments below.

 

SLIDESHOW: Birds of the Redwood City Salt Ponds

We have written in the past about Cargill’s attempt to mislead the public and government agencies about the ecological value of the Redwood City salt ponds. While Cargill and its development partner, DMB Pacific, have withdrawn their original plan to build as many as 12,000 houses on the site, the companies consistently say they intend to submit another plan to fill the below-sea-level, restorable salt ponds with housing. As Cargill is busy lobbying federal agencies to exempt the ponds from the Clean Water Act and other important environmental regulations that protect the Bay, now seems like a good time to remind ourselves of the beauty and diversity of bird life found on these salt ponds.

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The San Francisco Bay salt ponds support hundreds of thousands of migratory shorebirds who rely on the Bay as a key stop on their route along the Pacific Flyway. The San Francisco Bay, in fact, is a recognized site of hemispheric importance for migratory shorebirds, and the Bay’s salt ponds provide important habitat for dozens of species, including several that are threatened or endangered.

Studies from Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly Point Reyes Bird Observatory), a leader in studying shorebirds along the Pacific Flyway, document that the Redwood City salt ponds are home to at least 24,800 shorebirds annually, including the federally threatened Western Snowy Plover, a species whose surviving Pacific coast population now numbers just 1,500-2,000 birds. In addition, Point Blue describes the Redwood City ponds as having “among the highest [bird] counts from the West side of the Bay between the Bay and Dumbarton bridges” making up more than a quarter of the total shorebird population of the region.

The Environmental Protection Agency has called the Redwood City salt ponds a “critically important aquatic resource that warrants special protection,” as has the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. Even Cargill’s own environmental consultants have observed over 70 different species at the Redwood City salt ponds, and have documented the federally-threatened Western Snowy Plover breeding on site.

Save The Bay has shared photos of the large numbers of birds that live on the Redwood City salt ponds in the past, but to really appreciate the beauty and fascinating behavior of these birds, you have to see them up close and personal.

Cargill has restricted access to the site, so we have turned to Bob Cossins and other talented local photographers for a good look at a few of the species that have been observed on the Redwood City salt ponds. Take a look at the slideshow and learn a little bit more about the shorebirds that are at risk of losing their home if Cargill is successful in their plans to pave over these 1,400 acres of San Francisco Bay. Help us protect the Redwood City salt ponds from development – sign our petition telling Cargill “Don’t Pave My Bay” and spread the word with your friends and neighbors!

 

(Special thanks to former Save The Bay policy volunteer Leland Malkus for his substantial support in the publication of this article and slideshow. All bird descriptions are courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)