Audubon Society Gearing Up for Weekend of Restoring Least Tern Nesting Areas on Fiesta Island

by on March 30, 2017 · 0 comments

in American Empire, Environment, Ocean Beach

The San Diego Audubon Society is gearing up for a weekend of organizing volunteers to help restore the natural habitat on Fiesta Island.

On both Saturday, April 1st and Sunday, April 2nd, teams of volunteers will work to restore the nesting habitat of the endangered California Least Tern and to protect Nuttall’s Lotus, an endangered sand dune plant on Fiesta Island.

Here’s the break-down:

Saturday, April 1st – North Fiesta Island

From 9:30 am -12:30 pm, San Diego Audubon will remove invasive plants and restore nesting habitat on North Fiesta Island. Volunteers are asked to meet on the north side of Fiesta Island in Mission Bay.

How to get there: once on Fiesta Island take a slight right to stay on Fiesta Island Rd. At the fork, go right. Do not follow signs to the San Diego Youth Aquatic Center, just continue down the road. After about a quarter mile, park on the right hand side, off the road. If you start to curve left and wrap around the island, you’ve gone too far. You’ll be looking for a chain link fence with a gate in it and signs that say ‘California least tern nesting area’. The Audubon truck should also be visible.

Nuttall’s Lotus

Sunday, April 2nd – Stony Point on Fiesta Island

On Sunday from 9:30 am -12:30 pm, San Diego Audubon will work from Stony Point to remove invasive plants and restore nesting habitats.

The meeting location will be on the west side of Fiesta Island in Mission Bay. Park along the fence with the entrance gate to the dog park. Enter through the dog park and continue walking west with the water and sand berm on your righthand side. Continue west through a second fence until reaching San Diego Audubon CA Least Tern Nesting Site signs.

Stony Point, Fiesta Island – Latitude: 32° 46′ 13.2″ (32.7703°) north, Longitude: 117° 13′ 47.1″ (117.2298°) west

What to Wear and Bring and Who to Contact

For both events, volunteers are advised to wear long pants, sturdy shoes, and sun/rain protection. Tools and water will be provided. Bring a reusable water bottle for refills.

For questions, RSVPs, or directions, contact Megan Flaherty, our 2015 – 2016 Conservation Project Coordinator, at, or at 858-273-7800 x 106.

What is the deal?

From SDAS website:

 Every spring, California Least Terns migrate to San Diego to nest along our coast. Before the nesting season starts in mid-April, San Diego Audubon Society and volunteers will head to the coastal dune habitat of Mission Bay to get their hands dirty clearing away invasive plants, mending fences, and setting up protective structures where Least Terns need to nest.

A healthy coastal dune habitat protects our coastal communities from sea level rise, reduces coastal erosion and supports plants that help shrink carbon emissions. Least Terns play a vital role in that habitat and while the endangered seabird has rebounded since the 1970s, they still remain fragile and invasive plants often crowd out their nests.

To ensure a safe space where Least Terns can raise their young, San Diego Audubon and volunteers spend every weekend from January through April — totaling around 2000 hours — prepping for the return of the Least Terns.

San Diego Audubon leads a number of habitat restoration efforts around Mission Bay that support endangered species, such as ReWild Mission Bay — an effort to restore wetlands at the mouth of Rose Creek.This work is made possible through a three-year, SANDAG-funded project to restore coastal dune habitat in Mission Bay.

From San Diego Audubon Society

California Least Terns (Sterna antillarum browni)

The California Least Tern is an endangered migratory shorebird that nests on the beach in San Diego (and all along the California coast) from April through September. The CA Least Tern needs mostly open, flat, sandy areas for nesting (although they do like a bit of cover from our native plants) and they depend on estuaries, lagoons, and nearshore open water for hunting small fish. Terns nest in colonies, which helps the small birds work together to defend nests and chicks from predators such as American Crows, gulls, raptors, cats, and snakes. San Diego County supports 60% of the breeding population of this bird at 12 sites including the Tijuana Estuary, the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, Mission Bay, and our coastal lagoons.

Fun Fact: California Least Terns defend their nesting colony against predators by flying up into the air, calling loudly, and pooping on their target!

SDAS partners with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), City of San Diego, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) to manage and restore Least Tern nesting habitat at four main locations in Mission Bay: Mariner’s Point, North Fiesta Island, Stony Point, and FAA Island. This work involves citizen science and restoration projects. CA Least Tern conservation efforts can be broken down into three main volunteer programs: community restoration events (aka work parties), Conservation Team Leaders, and Ternwatchers (our volunteer predator monitoring effort).

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