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Feathered Census
Ed Mirsky | Hoska Drive

The San Dieguito Lagoon Area Monthly Bird Survey began in January 2010 as the inspiration of two local birders, Jayne Lesley and Mona Baumgartel. The final count for 2014 was conducted on Sunday, 7 December. It marked the end of five years of data collection at the lagoon. Over the five-year period the eighty-eight volunteers who participated in the survey observed a total of 223 bird species. Fourteen of those species were observed on or flying over the ocean at the mouth of the lagoon. The remaining 209 species were seen on the beach, in the lagoon, and on the San Dieguito River and adjacent upland habitats as it meanders east to Helen Woodward Way in Fairbanks Ranch, CA.

The monthly bird survey is not directly part of Southern California Edison’s (SCE) mitigation settlement for the environmental damage done by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The California Coastal Commission, which is responsible for overseeing the mitigation, contracted with UC Santa Barbara to design and implement a study to show that SCE has indeed created “successful” new wetlands. Steve Schroeter, a UC Santa Barbara biologist was hired to head the study to evaluate the restoration of the lagoon.

Steve was instrumental in getting approval for the monthly bird survey within those parts of the lagoon restricted to the public, arguing that a monthly census would provide supplemental data on bird distribution and abundance throughout the year. And it has been valuable. To paraphrase Steve Schroeter, the lagoon survey is an independent source of data that is valuable for two reasons: It has been conducted over a longer period of time and at a higher frequency than the bird data we are collecting for the mitigation monitoring; and it has provided an important cross check on our bird data, which samples in the winter, fall, and spring, only.

A list of the species seen at San Dieguito Lagoon over the five year period of the survey is found on the Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley website: (www.fsdrv.org/RVBirdCount.html).


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