San Francisco Bay is also home to eelgrass beds, two-thirds of them in the shallow waters off the North Richmond Shoreline. And eelgrass is only one important component of the seven miles of shoreline between Point San Pablo and Point Pinole, which includes 500 acres of tidal marsh and 800 acres of mudflats that provide habitat for thousands of birds.
On a cool, cloudy morning in August, over 20 people gathered to learn how to accurately count all those birds. The year-long census is part of the newly formed North Richmond Shoreline Academy, which aims to help local residents get to know their wild neighbors and understand the value of this unusual stretch of waterfront. “As interest in the shoreline grows, we wanted to form a group to help with future conservation planning and restoration,” says Rich Walkling of the Natural Heritage Institute, one of the project partners. Other partners include the Community Health Initiative, Golden Gate Audubon, Parchester Village Neighborhood Council, Urban Creeks Council, and West County Toxics Coalition. To encourage local residents to participate in the census, the academy held four training sessions and a bird identification class over the summer. All census team members will be paid, thanks to a grant from the joint state-federal agency CALFED.
The census group met at the West County Landfill loop trail, where, in two hours, they counted 33 mallards, five American white pelicans, 16 double-crested cormorants, 19 American avocets, and nearly 700 California and western gulls. On a spit across the water, about 200 willets crowded together. An osprey flew overhead with a fish in its talons.
You can still sign up for the bird census and monitoring of oyster restoratioin at Point Pinole. For information, go to Shoreline Academy. If you do head out to the field, wish a happy birthday to the volunteers from Golden Gate Audubon, which is celebrating 90 years of protecting Bay Area birds and other wildlife.