McAndrews: Protect birds to enjoy them, Audobon says

June 28, 2014 

Residents of Stanislaus County have the good fortune of seeing an impressive array of birds because they live near a wide variety of bird habitats, such as valley grasslands, freshwater marshes and oak woodlands.

The Stanislaus Audubon Society was formed in 1973 to help people “appreciate and enjoy” these wild birds, track local bird populations and promote the conservation of wild birds and their habitats. It has 557 members.

The original Audubon Society was founded in the 1880s by George Bird Grinnell, who was a student of Lucy Audubon and a reader of her husband’s work “Ornithological Biography .” So Grinnell named his society after his teacher and her husband. The Audubon Society was formed to preserve and protect birds. It also educates people about birds and their environments.

The Stanislaus Audubon Society works with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge and helps the Sierra Club in printing The Valley Habitat newsletter. It also works with other Audubon Societies in statewide activities.

The Stanislaus Audubon Society participates in Earth Day, and has educational trips for students and adults to many of the area birding sites. It also takes part in many of the surveys of local bird populations, including the annual nationwide Christmas Bird Count and the recent tricolored blackbird survey.

Along with studying bird populations, the Stanislaus Audubon Society also works to preserve the ever-shrinking habitats. Marshlands, vernal pools and the transformation of our grasslands have had an adverse impact on bird populations.

“The San Joaquin Valley once had extensive wetlands and riparian habitats, but 90 to 95 percent of those have vanished due to urban and agricultural development,” said Sal Salerno, the Stanislaus Audubon Society’s president. “That is why it is important to protect these remnant habitats for our future generations to enjoy and for future generations of wildlife to survive.”

It’s not just the loss of habitat that endangers bird populations, but also the changes in our weather. Because of “the first weeks of increasingly warm winters, a majority of migrating bird species have been moving hundreds of miles farther north to breeding grounds,” where habitats may not be as conducive to the bird populations that are new to the area.

Changes in habitats and in weather are making life difficult for bird populations and play a role in their decreasing numbers.

For those who would like to join the Stanislaus Audubon Society and learn about birds and help protect them, visit its website at www.stanislausbirds.org.

James McAndrews Jr. is a Modesto resident. Email: columns@modbee.com

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