Baby Birds to Take First Flights in Golden Gate Park
10th Season of Nesting for SF Great Blue Herons
Local Students Educate Public About Stow Lake Birds
SAN FRANCISCO (May 8, 2002) - Great blue herons, one of the species the
Audubon Society was founded to protect, have returned to raise their chicks
at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park for the tenth year in a row. And for
the third year, high school and college interns from the California Academy
of Sciences' Careers in Science program will be on-hand to offer members
of the public help with spotting scopes and information about the birds
as part of the Heron Explainers Project. HEP is a public education program
sponsored by the Academy and the Golden Gate Audubon Society. The project
is part of the Stow Lake Environmental Education Project.
Curious to know when the chicks will take their first flight? Want to
know what is going on when the birds turn to one another with necks arched
and their bills down? Interns and Nancy DeStefanis, HEP Executive Director,
will be stationed at Stow Lake on select weekend days in May and June
ready to answer these and other questions for the public. (Answers: first
flights will probably take place during late May or early June; an arched
neck is a threat display.)
"It's a great program because we're outside of a museum, surrounded
by nature, and we talk to people who aren't necessarily there to learn
about science," said Francisco Alfaro, an Academy of Sciences intern
involved in HEP and a student at San Francisco City College. "Once
people see a crowd around us, asking about the birds, they come over to
Interns will be at Stow Lake from 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM on Sunday, May 12,
19, 26 and Saturday, June 1, 8 and 15. Signs will direct visitors to the
observation site, which is a few hundred yards from the boathouse.
"The program is both a public education program and a serious scientific
and conservation endeavor," said Meg Burke, Director of Education
at the Academy. "The interns monitor the nests and collect data for
the S.F. Bay Bird Observatory Colonial Waterbird Monitoring Project."
Great blue herons, with their long legs and necks, wade in lake edges,
marshes and tidal flats capturing fish, frogs, small crustaceans and other
prey. They are the largest North American wading bird and can grow up
to four feet tall, with a six foot wing span.
"Today the heron population is stable in North America, but just
over one hundred years ago the population was devastated by the demand
for bird plumes on ladies' hats," said Nancy DeStefanis, executive
director of HEP and the Stow Lake Education Environmental Project. "The
National Audubon Society was founded to protect herons, egrets and other
birds from plume hunters."
The local birds typically arrive at Stow Lake in late January or early
February, from around the Bay Area. While in San Francisco, mothers lay
two to five greenish-blue eggs in late February or March, which hatch
four weeks later. After the chicks fledge in early July, the herons leave
the nest to go their separate ways. In 1993, the first breeding pair was
recorded in Golden Gate Park.
To date, 44 chicks have fledged at the Stow Lake site.
For more information, contact Heron Explainers Project Executive Director,
Nancy DeStefanis at (415) 876-5220.
Education and Research at The California Academy of Sciences
The Academy is an international center for scientific education and research
and is at the forefront of efforts to understand and protect the diversity
of life on earth. A staff of over 50 professional educators and Ph.D.-level
scientists (supported by more than 100 Research and Field Associates and
over 300 Fellows) work in the fields of anthropology, botany, entomology,
geology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate zoology, mammalogy and
ornithology. Each year the Academy offers hundreds of classes, lectures,
workshops and performances.
Golden Gate Audubon Society
The GGAS is a chapter of the National Audubon Society and sponsors educational
programs and field trips in and around Northern California. The GGAS is
a Bay Area leader in promoting conservation and habitat restoration. For
more information phone (510) 843-2222.
[The California Academy of Sciences, Steinhart
Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium and the Academy's logo are registered trademarks
of the California Academy of Sciences.]
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