Shoulder Season Habitat
By Luke Matthews
As this season comes to a close, the large numbers of waterfowl that have spent their winters in the Sacramento Valley are starting to migrate north or staging in preparation of the upcoming journey to their breeding grounds. At the same time, water is being drawn down on many of the private wetlands, refuges, wetlands, and winter flooded rice fields throughout the region. By the time that spring arrives and the migratory waterfowl have left, there will be very little flooded habitat remaining. Despite that fact, there are still many species that rely on these flooded habitats in early spring, such as migrating shorebirds, local waterfowl, and other resident waterbirds.
With this in mind, the California Ricelands Waterbird Foundation started a habitat enhancement program Bid4Birds which focuses on creating spring shoulder season habitat. Shoulder season habitat for waterbirds in the Sacramento Valley applies to flooded habitat in late fall or spring. This is a particularly critical time as flooded habitat is otherwise scare on the landscape. Now in its first season Bid4Birds has contracted with a number of conservation minded rice producers to create approximately 2,000 acres of shoulder season habitat this spring.
While monitoring these fields, I have observed large numbers of shorebirds using the flooded habitat as well as ducks, geese, ibis, herons, egrets, and eagles. The Foundation plans to continue running this program into the future, enrolling more producers, and creating more of this critical waterbird habitat on ricelands in the Sacramento Valley.
Luke Matthews is the Wildlife Programs Manager for the California Rice Commission