Feb 11, 2020
By Lisa Hug
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, a nature lover, or especially if you are birdwatcher, then you have to love Sonoma County. We are fortunate enough to be blessed with access to the natural environments of the ocean, and wetlands, redwood forests, oak woodlands and chaparral. And, many of these natural environments have been protected because local people from our community like Bill Kortum, Ted Eliot and many, many others that have “loved where they lived” enough to protect lands. Many of these public lands are available for us to enjoy through Sonoma Land Trust, Landpaths, Wildlands Conservancy, Sonoma County Regional Parks and California State Parks and many other organizations.
Because of these conservation efforts and also because we are a community that enjoys exploring and discovering the secrets of our natural world, we have a huge list of birds that have been encountered in Sonoma County over time. Organizations such as Madrone Audubon Society and Redwood Region Ornithological Society are two organizations that offer free lectures and field trips mostly about birds. As a result, according to the official Sonoma County bird list compiled by Parmeter and Wighthttp://www.sonic.net/~shwand/bird_lists/sonoma_county_aos_2018.pdf , there have been 456 species of birds recorded here. To put this into perspective, the entire state of Tennessee has only ever recorded 409 species of birdshttp://www.tnbirds.org/TBRC/TBRC_checklist.html. In addition to having an incredible diversity of natural habitats, lots of public lands, and adventurous birdwatchers, we also have mild winters. We are also along the commonly used bird migration route known as the Pacific Flyway. All of these factors contribute to the huge diversity in birdlife that we enjoy in Sonoma County.
Among the most extreme examples of the different kinds of birds in Sonoma County, is the American White Pelican. This is a very large bird with nine foot wingspan! And, on the same day that you encounter the huge White Pelican, you may also enjoy a flock of tiny bushtits, twinkling about through shrubs and small trees. These tiny birds are only four and a half inches long, and most of that is tail.
The Arctic Tern is the longest-migrating bird in the world and it passes through Sonoma County offshore. But, this contrasts with the California Towhee which is totally dedicated to its’ lifelong mate in suburban gardens. There are also birds that are so common that you might see one nearly every day without much effort. But then there are birds so rare, that you might look for birds every day in your life and never come across one. One of our commonest birds is the American Robin. It is easy to see after rainstorms in winter, picking up worms out of the receding puddles or raiding berries in local shrubs. The Great Shearwater, however, has only ever been seen twice in the county from boats between Bodega Head and Cordell Banks.
All of these birds have fascinating stories. But they must have their vital resources protected by people who care enough to do so because they “love where they live.” If enough land is preserved, the birds will thrive and continue to delight us. They will do so whether we are wilderness hiking or having coffee near a window. Loving where we live means protecting the things that make our area unique. Protecting the natural areas of a region automatically protects the uniqueness of that region. It protects against the homogenization brought about by big box stores, fast food chains and strip malls. So, it’s important to love where we live, so that we can protect its uniqueness for our own enjoyment and for future generations.
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