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roud esidents nvesting in a iverse stuary

We invite Vandenberg Air Force Base populace and nearby community members to join La Purisima Audubon Society and PRBO Conservation Science as we survey shorebirds at the Lower Santa Ynez River. Volunteers with every level of bird watching experience are welcomed. Ideally, each survey team will have a minimum of four volunteers:

  • an experienced birder
  • a beginning birder
  • two people new to birding (we'll have optic gear & equipment for you!)

We welcome more than four volunteers (citizen scientists) per survey so your friends can sign up, too.

We encourage your participation in any of our surveys. Signing up for one survey per season will allow you to observe how shorebirds respond to the changing seasons. You, as a citizen scientist, will increase your awareness of shorebirds and learn more about the Santa Ynez estuary from the experienced citizen scientists leading each survey.

The first two observation points are only short strolls from the Ocean Park parking lot and are accessible to disabled volunteers. Restrooms are nearby. Then we'll drive a short distance onto Vandenberg Air Force Base to access the other observation points. Once on Vandenberg, the observation points require about a thirty minute hike through marshy terrain.

DATES: See the LPAS calendar or PRIDE survey dates, times, and urgent notices CLICK HERE. Surveys are twice a month from August to May, to include fall migration, overwintering, and spring migration. Please note that all surveys are on Saturdays except in December 2008, when both surveys are on Sunday.

To progress our google calendar to the month you desire to view, please click the right arrow in the upper left corner to forward the calendar through the months, and you'll notice that each PRIDE survey time varies so as to coincide with low tides. For further details, click the PRIDE date to open a box offering more information and the opportunity to add that date to your own google calendar.

Three surveys per year will be especially fun because they include opportunities to discuss shorebird ecology relative to Fall migration, Winter residency and Spring migration in more depth than usual. Please check our calendar for these soon to be posted special dates.

: Participants, preteen and older, eager to learn about birding protocol are welcome!

: From three to four hours, with 20 minutes at each observation point. Walking times between observation points may vary slightly. Start times differ on each survey.

: Alternate sunny and foggy conditions. Dress in warm layers; neutral colors are best.

: Long pants--tick repellant will be available. Waterproof hiking boots are ideal. Rain boots are OK if you don't need ankle support; sneakers work if you don't mind wet feet. Bring water and a snack. A hat and sunblock are recommended.

: We'll focus on the most common species in order to ease the training of volunteers. At a minimum, all volunteers will note the number of birds within broad categories: small shorebirds such as Sanderlings, sandpipers, and Dunlins; medium shorebirds such as Willets, dowitchers and yellowlegs; and larger shorebirds such as Long-billed Curlews, Whimbrels, and Marbled Godwits. Large pictures of target birds will be available to guide you, and you'll find it easier to identify them by looking at their silhouettes than you might guess! When experienced birders are available for surveys, we will collect data on individual species in addition to the broad categories.

Please e-mail Tamarah at using SUBJECT: PRIDE, to reserve team member slots for you and your family or friends. Indicate whether the members are experienced, novices or students.
For those not using a google calendar, PRIDE shorebird survey dates are:


August PRIDE shorebird survey protocol TRAINING
September 13 at 1:13 & 27 at 1:25
October 11 at 12:20 & 25 at 12:40
November 08 at 10:22 & 22 at 10:50
December 07 at 10:01 & 14 at 12:30 both are SUNDAYS


January 10 at 1:00 & 24 at 1:00
February 07 at 12:42 & 21 at 12:29
March 07 at 11:36 & 21 at 12:14
April 04 at 11:17 & 18 at 10:30
May 02 at 9:40 & 16 at 8:24

RESTORATION PROJECT BACKGROUND: The Santa Ynez River is the most prominent river in Santa Barbara County, southern California. Unlike many river systems in southern California, the coastal portion of the Santa Ynez River is not channeled with concrete and so can flood a relatively healthy tidal estuary.

However, construction of a salt water barrier and tank bridge within the estuary during the mid 30's to early 40's altered the natural flow of the river, resulting in a deeper channel and reduced mud-flat habitat for foraging and roosting shorebirds. The bridge washed out in 1969, but the remaining berms on either side of the river continue to accumulate sediments that change the profile and ecology of the estuary.

In 2008, LPAS and Audubon California, in cooperation with Vandenberg Air Force Base, are planning to study the feasibility of a restoration project that may include removing the remnants of the bridge and barrier to help restore natural flow to the lower river. We seek to improve foraging habitats so that more species and numbers of shorebirds will stopover in the estuary. Improved foraging habitats could result from an increase in the abundance of invertebrates and increased access to these organisms through the creation of broad mud-flats.

Any restoration carries the need to assess its effectiveness by studying the ecosystem both before and after the project. One of the goals of PRIDE is to establish a baseline of shorebird distribution, abundance and species diversity within the estuary and lower Santa Ynez River. Another goal of PRIDE, through citizen science, is to encourage beach enthusiasts to observe and enjoy the estuary year round. In doing so, they become vested in one of southern California's few remaining coastal estuaries, the remarkable shorebird habitat that is the Lower Santa Ynez River Important Bird Area.


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