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 learn, too."
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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