Bruce Lyon - Friday Afternoon Presentation

Topic: Reconsider the Coot: the Crazy Reproductive Antics of a Common Marsh Denizen

Friday, September 23, 2016, 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Coots are often overlooked by birders because they are so common. I have been studying the reproductive antics of American coots for the past two decades and have discovered that there is far more to this bird than meets the eye. In the talk I highlight some of our discoveries about the parental and reproductive strategies of coots, from both a natural history and scientific perspective. We all are familiar with the story of the cuckoo female that lays eggs in the nests of other species rather than raising chicks herself.  Some coot females do this sort of thing, but they lay their eggs in the nests of other coot females. Why would they do this — why lay eggs elsewhere when you have your own nest? What do the birds that receive these unwanted foster eggs do? Coots are just as bizarre when it comes to raising their own kids, and there are many puzzling features of coot parental care behavior. For example, why do coots lay far more eggs than they can normally raise and why do they beat up their kids so much? And, finally, why are baby coots born with such a ridiculously fluorescent orange plumage? I will answer these questions in my talk. In addition, because our coot research was done in a wild part of central British Columbia I will also briefly highlight a few of the special birds we encounter at our study site. BL-Headshot-o Bruce Lyon is a professor of Evolutionary Ecology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research focuses on the evolution of reproductive strategies and mating behavior of birds. His long-term research on the adaptive basis of brood parasitism in American coots has sought to understand why parasitism within species evolves and how the behavior influences other aspects of social behavior. Dr. Lyon has also investigated the evolution of ornamental plumage signals in a variety of species, including lark buntings, lazuli buntings and the evolution of ornamental offspring plumage in the newly hatched chicks of American coots. Most recently, he has conducted a decade long investigation into the winter social lives of migrant golden-crowned sparrows that spent their winters on the Arboretum of the University of California, Santa Cruz.  

Alvaro Jaramillo - Friday Evening Presentation

Topic: Birding the Blob: Effects of Weird Warm Weather and the Drought on Birds

Friday, September 23, 2016, 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm

Weird things have been happening on the ocean and on land in the recent past with respect to California's birdlife. We have been living through a drought, and we have also had some amazingly unusual warm water offshore, that has been termed "the Blob." The blob is as ominous as it sounds, and exciting all at the same time. The bird life is reacting to differences in climate, and incredibly quickly. Is this good, bad? What is it? We may be in a time of transition, and for the naturalist it can be interesting as new and different species are appearing, formerly rare birds are becoming common even. It may not last, and we may look at this as a "blip" in time. Perhaps. Weird causes worry, but it also causes the birder to wonder about how exactly things work, what discoveries are there to be made and what unexpected birds and other creatures may pop up in weird times. This will be a trip through some of the effects and oddities of our time in the blob, the excitement of watching nature adapt and also a nice little background of what makes Monterey Bay, and central California an incredibly special place to watch birds. AJ-Alvaro-on-boat-o2 Alvaro Jaramillo, owner of Alvaro’s Adventures, was born in Chile but began birding in Toronto, where he lived as a youth. He was trained in ecology and evolution with a particular interest in bird behavior. Research forays and backpacking trips introduced Alvaro to the riches of the Neotropics, where he has traveled extensively. He is the author of the Birds of Chile, an authoritative yet portable field guide to Chile’s birds. Alvaro writes the Identify Yourself column in Bird Watcher’s Digest. Alvaro recently wrote part of the sparrow chapter for the Handbook of Birds of the World, and the new ABA Field Guide Birds of California. He was recently granted the Eisenmann Medal by the Linnean Society of New York, it is awarded occasionally for excellence in ornithology and encouragement of the amateur. Alvaro lives with his family in Half Moon Bay, California.  

Yiwei Wang - Saturday Afternoon Presentation

Topic: Breeding Success of San Francisco Bay’s Western Snowy Plovers in the Wake of a Changing Environment

Saturday, September 24, 2016, 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm

The Pacific Coast population of the Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus nivosus) typically breeds on coastal sandy beaches, and are also found in the South San Francisco Bay’s dry salt panne habitat provided by former salt evaporation ponds.   The Pacific Coast population of Snowy Plovers is federally threatened as a result of poor reproductive success, due to habitat loss or alteration, human disturbance, and increasing predation pressure.  Snowy Plovers in the South Bay nest almost exclusively on salt pond habitat and since 2003, the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory has been monitoring these breeding efforts.  The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project plans to restore 15,100 acres of former salt production ponds in the South Bay to tidal marsh and managed ponds.  Though beneficial for native wildlife and combatting sea level rise, the Project’s actions would ultimately result in the loss of Snowy Plover breeding habitat (dry salt ponds).  To aid in achieving Project and species recovery goals, SFBBO and the USFWS are investigating methods of habitat enhancement using oyster shells to maximize breeding success in the wake of a changing environment. yiwei-o Yiwei Wang grew up in the South Bay and has called the Bay area her home for most of her life. She attended Cornell University and double majored in Biology and Psychology. Returning to the west coast, she worked for a variety of organizations that focused on birds and mammals, including an internship with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory and a season as a field technician in SFBBO's Snowy Plover Program. She then attended UC Santa Cruz and received her PhD in Environmental Studies. Her dissertation focused on learning how human development impacts mountain lions and their relationships with other smaller carnivores. After completing her Ph.D., she worked in northern Kenya to coordinate research efforts among four NGOs to study regional human development and wildlife movement as part of a project supported by the Nature Conservancy. Most recently she was a post-doctoral scholar in Santa Barbara, where she worked to increase and facilitate the management and sharing of ecological data. Since 2015, Yiwei has been serving as the Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory.  

Kate Marianchild - Saturday Evening Presentation

Topic: Extraordinary Ordinary Birds of California's Oak Woodlands

Saturday, September 24, 2016, 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm

Kate Marianchild doesn’t chase rare birds––she chases fascinating information about so-called ordinary birds. If you think you already know everything worth knowing about oak titmice, acorn woodpeckers, or western bluebirds, you might be in for a surprise. Do you know which birds imitate the sounds of dangerous animals? Do you know who engages in simulated sex rituals every night before bed? Who is capable of “mental time travel” and “theory of mind?” Whose winter social structure depends on oak mistletoe? Have you heard which bird eats poison oak berries and seeds for seven months of the year––the same species that collects spider webs with its tail? If you would like to know more about the marvelous survival strategies, behaviors, and social structures of various bird species found in California’s most diverse terrestrial ecosystem, you will love this talk. Kate-Marianchild-headshot-o Kate Marianchild is the author of the best-selling book Secrets of the Oak Woodlands: Plants and Animals among California's Oaks (Heyday, 2014). After moving into a yurt near Ukiah in 2001, she fell in love for the first time––with an ecosystem, that is. A budding birder, she learned to recognize most of the regulars within a few years, but names weren’t enough. She wanted to know how the birds fit into the oak woodland web of life—particularly what they needed for survival and who needed them. While investigating those questions, she uncovered mind-boggling information about other oak woodland inhabitants, from fungi and plants to reptiles and mammals. Secrets of the Oak Woodlands is captivating Californians and nature lovers far and wide, and is playing a role in the effort to pass AB2162­­––the recently introduced Oak Woodlands Protection Act. Kate still lives in the same yurt, where she loves hearing “waka, waka, waka!” all day long. To read excerpts from Secrets of the Oak Woodlands or see samples of its lavish watercolor illustrations, go to www.katemarianchild.com.
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