Editor’s Note – Originally published in the Delta Protections Commission’s DELTA VOICE, Winter 2021 newsletter. Edited for Soundings Magazine and used with permission.
As we look into the Delta sky, we marvel at the speed and extraordinary maneuverability of the cranes, geese, and small birds that dot the air. And we stare, astonished at the synchrony of their movements. As they all rapidly change direction together, rarely even a single individual is out of phase with the others.
Stockton resident Donna Marciano, who co-leads her local Christmas Bird Count, says when she sees this event, called murmuration, she is amazed at the “coordination of individuals to move with such grace, dancing in the air.” No matter how often we have seen it, we tend to ask ourselves “How?” The synchronous flight of birds is often a gateway to bird watching (and counting) as a lifelong hobby.
To support this hobby, local Audubon chapters have been established in many areas and are brimming with fellow bird lovers. Their meetings and conferences can bring in hundreds of people who swap stories about near misses, latest discoveries, new books, and the best viewing locations. Donna also recommends checking the online classes offered through the web or community colleges. Or you can check on Facebook for local birder groups.
The Delta’s birdlife is famous due to the diverse habitats and its location along the Pacific Flyway. Public lands like the Cosumnes River Preserve, Brannan Island State Recreation Area, Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, and Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area offer rich birding opportunities. Sandhill cranes are among the most charismatic of the Delta’s birds, and the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve offers Sandhill crane tours during fall and winter months. Visitors and locals alike can learn about this region’s birding locations at Visit CA Delta, a cooperative effort of the Delta Protection Commission and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy. Here anyone can plan a perfect day of birding, dining, and exploring in the Delta.
If you love bird watching, you are in good company and part of a rising trend. Bird watching supports many local and national retailers. In 2016, nation wide, trip-related and equipment related expenditures associated with birding generated nearly $95 billion in total industry output, 782,000 jobs, and $16 billion in local, state, and federal tax revenue according the federal sources.
So grab a pair of binoculars and head out into the Delta. There are many opportunities to satisfy both beginning and serious birders. Plus, you may meet some new friends – after all, “birds of a feather…”
Natasha Nelson graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Wildlife Science. Her thesis focused on community dynamics in mammals. She learned bird watching while taking college classes. She has taken on several positions in California with 17 years of state service. For instance, her work has spanned on-the-ground surveys for sensitive species, to planning mitigation for peaker power plants, planning ecosystem restoration near Colusa, and currently she is supervising staff and performing various managerial tasks at the Delta Protection Commission. Her work helps the Commission support the people who live, work, and play in the Delta.