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Paul Donahue: Pacifica Shorebird Alliance


Paul Donahue photo

Biologist and artist Paul Donahue recently presented a very special photographic exploration of the natural history of two of Pacifica's smallest shorebirds. Pacifica Shorebird Alliance sponsored this free public event.

Bird bio: Observers often confuse snowy plovers with sanderlings. The two species live along Pacifica 's ocean shore and look very similar. Paul Donahue examines the life histories and conservation challenges for these two shorebirds. Through fall, winter, and spring, the two species appear side by side along our sandy beaches. Sanderlings are the little whitish sandpipers that chase waves up and down the beach. Much less conspicuous, snowy plovers are generally up on the higher and drier sections of the beach. While snowy plovers remain in the south to nest on sandy beaches along the California coast, in late April the sanderlings begin migrating to their nesting grounds in the high Arctic tundra, thousands of miles to the north. 

Sadly, as with so many species these days, these two shorebirds are both in decline. Snowy plover numbers have fallen far enough for the species to be federally listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. As is often the case,  threats to the continued survival of these two species come from multiple sources. Despite great differences in their life histories, these two shorebirds share a common threat: human disturbance on sandy beaches they prefer. 

Speaker bio: Paul Donahue is a respected ornithologist, bird artist, and photographer who has studied shorebirds extensively for more than 40 years. His work includes shorebird conservation and research projects with the Manomet Center for Conservation Science and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Recently, members of several Bay Area Audubon groups enjoyed Paul's presentation on his dramatic experiences with birds and jaguars in the Brazilian Pantanal. Now a Pacifica resident, Paul spends considerable time observing wintering shorebirds on Pacifica State Beach at Linda Mar. 

If you want a close-up view of sanderlings and snowy plovers through Pacifica Shorebird Alliance scopes, a weekend field trip with Donahue can be arranged. The alliance is a local environmental organization whose mission is to engage and educate the public about protecting local coastal birds and their ecosystems.



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Most people confuse the two species; this is a great way to learn the difference. Thanks for doing the talk.

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