Volunteers help maintain successful least tern nesting site at Alameda Point

Volunteers at the Alameda Point nesting site of the endangered California Least Tern continued their efforts this fall after a successful 2014 nesting season.

Tau Beta Pi members help out during the November 2014 work party.  Port of Oakland in background.
Tau Beta Pi members help out during the November 2014 work party. Port of Oakland in background.

The Alameda Point colony produced over 350 least tern fledglings this year, and a record number of the nests had three eggs, as opposed to the usual two. The 45 nests with three eggs may be due to in part to better than normal availability of small fish in nearby waters. The terns arrive at the airfield site in early April. By mid-August the terns have headed south to Mexico and Central America.

Least Tern adult with two chicks - June 2014.  Viewed through chainlink fence.
Least Tern adult with two chicks – June 2014. Viewed through chainlink fence.

The first recorded use of the airfield by the least terns was in the mid-1970s when the Navy began efforts to protect their nesting area from vehicle and personnel disturbance. Today, Alameda Point is one of California’s endangered species success stories.

Members of Tau Beta Pi removing weeds near the tern nesting area in November.
Members of Tau Beta Pi removing weeds near the tern nesting area in November.

When the terns are gone, volunteers organized by Golden Gate Audubon Society’s Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Reserve perform monthly housekeeping chores in and around the 9.6-acre site on the old airfield. Weeds are a perennial problem and removing them is important for maintaining a clear sightline beach-like landscape for the terns. At the end of each year, the shelters used by the tern chicks – drain tiles and wooden A-frames – are gathered up and set to the side. Oyster shells spread around the site to serve as camouflage for the young chicks being eyed by hawks and falcons are gathered up.

Volunteers also gather up the hundreds of numbered plaster markers that the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service biologist uses to mark the location of each new nest during the nesting season to aid in collecting data. During the winter, the Fish & Wildlife Service is able to smooth out the sand substrate, which is effected by wind and rain, before volunteers return in the new year to put out the shelters and shells prior to the terns return in April.

Eighteen members of the engineering honors society at UC Berkeley, Tau Beta Pi, joined regular volunteers at the monthly work party in November. Tau Beta Pi has been volunteering at the tern nesting site since 2006, sometimes twice a year, as part of their public service commitment. Ten volunteers from Oakland consulting firm Circlepoint came out to help with maintenance work at the tern site during the December work party.

Circlepoint employee removing weeds during December 2014 work party.
Circlepoint employee removing weeds during December 2014 work party.

To volunteer at the next work party on Sunday, January 11 at 9 AM, contact Joyce Larrick at jmlarrick@yahoo.com.

Photo gallery (click on any photo to activate manual slideshow)

Author: richard94501

My blog is Alameda Point Environmental Report covering environmental issues from wildlife to cleanup at the former Navy base in Alameda now called Alameda Point. Articles on my blog are frequently printed in the Alameda Sun newspaper. I also host a Twitter site and a Flickr photo site. I hope you find my stories and photos of interest. Richard Bangert Alameda, California

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