San Diego Audubon’s “Ternwatcher” program has gotten extra attention from local media last week. The program, which is part of the overall least tern management program that San Diego Audubon maintains, helps monitor predator interactions at the Mission Bay least tern sites. KPBS, the local Public Television Station, did a story on the ternwatchers, the volunteers involved, and the citizen science aspect of it.
San Diego Audubon helps manage several least tern nesting sites around Mission Bay including Mariner’s Point, Stony Point, and the small FAA Island in the middle of the bay. During the winter months, when the terns are away, they recruit volunteers to remove high brush and non-native vegetation, such as fillery, which prevent the terns from nesting or having a good success rate. The terns need to have good visibility to see predators coming. Many of those invasive and destructive plants took hold after the bay was originally dredged, disturbing the natural sand and dirt. Removing those plants help other threatened and endangered native plants to thrive.
Rebecca Schwartz, Conservation Program Manager for San Diego Audubon began to recruit volunteers for the Ternwatcher program after the terns began to arrive and nest. 41 people were recruited to watch and record predator interactions around Mission Bay almost every day. At last count, over 100 terns have nested in the Mariner’s Point nesting area alone. Other areas can support at least that many nests. Last year, over 100 chicks successfully fledged from Mission Bay sites. Least terns also nest in other areas of the county, such as the South Bay.
After the terns leave, work and cleanup will begin at the closed-up least tern nesting sites. People will be needed to stem the growth of non-native plants, clean up the area, and repair chick fencing. Check with the San Diego Audubon website for more information on volunteering for these events.