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San Diego Students Learn About Endangered Birds

Video by Nicholas Mcvicker

It was a sunny spring day in Imperial Beach as the elementary school class made its way carefully along a rocky berm.

Their goal: to see the rare Western snowy plover chicks in their natural habitat.

The students were from Mendoza Elementary, one of only five schools in San Diego to be part of a program created by the San Diego, Los Angeles and California Audubon Societies. The “Share Our Shores” program is part of a larger project to teach students environmental stewardship. Each school selected to participate in the project is in an environmentally diverse and sensitive coastal area.

“We're piloting this curriculum in this field trip,” San Diego Audubon Society executive director Chris Redfern said. “And then what we plan to do is roll it out to other Audubon chapters all up and down the coast of California, so we can spread this message of being able to protect the plovers.”

Western snowy plovers are a threatened bird species that nest in indentations in the sand. Their habitat makes chicks especially vulnerable to human and animal predation, Redfern said.

But plovers are not their only concern.

“San Diego County is one of the most bio diverse counties in the Lower 48 — we have more threatened and endangered species than any other county,” Redfern said. “So we have a lot of wonderful wildlife to enjoy and experience and explore and learn about, but that also means we have a lot of responsibility to steward them, and protect them, and save these spaces for them.”

Students also designed signs to deter trespassers. The signs are put up in sensitive areas in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Services Refuges and California State Parks.

“The kids have produced these beautiful signs for us, saying please help the plovers,” said Brian Collins, a Fish and Wildlife Service refuge manager. “We find that the signs the kids make are really respected by the public. Sometimes our governmental signs that say keep out, you know, sternly, don't get respected as well as the children's signs, and they're really cool.”

The path along the beach is studded with both government signs and those designed by children. The former have been peppered and dented by pellet guns; the latter remain untouched.

The “Share Our Shores” program is funded by a “Whale Tail” grant from the California Coastal Commission.

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