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Santa Monica dune restoration project a success | S.M. Daily Press

April 30, 2022

[Written and posted by Chuck Almdale, submitted by Lu Plauzoles]

The Santa Monica Sand Dune Restoration Project, subject of the two articles linked to below, just happens to be adjacent to the Western Snowy Plover (WSP) winter roosting site. The birds don’t nest at either location (with one exception, discussed below), but live there during the non-breeding season, returning from the north between early July to mid-September, and leaving around the end of April, or eight to ten months of the year. A few comments and corrections to the official published statements are in order.

Google Map below: Dune Restoration Project and Western Snowy Plover roost sites on North Santa Monica Beach near Annenberg House. Fan icon marks the dunes project, binocular icon the plover roost. Scrolling navigation enabled.

The Western Snowy Plover winter roosting site on Santa Monica Beach (SMB) just south of Annenberg Beach House was initially recognized as such in 1987 by a member of a research team from Point Reyes Bird Observatory (now Point Blue). Local birders have known about it ever since. In January, 2001, I organized the first ‘Winter Window Census’ for Los Angeles County, our local section of the WSP census of the entire Pacific coast of Calif-Ore-Wash. We found seven active WSP winter roost sites within the county. One of these seven sites was this site near Annenberg Beach House. This site was censused at that time by SMBAS member Lucien Plauzoles, who has monitored and lobbied on behalf of the site since then, a period of more than twenty years.

At some point after 2005, a seasonal protective fencing around the roost site was installed each year from approximately Labor Day until Memorial Day. Since the City received very few (if any) complaints about the fencing, it was left up year-round beginning in 2014 and has remained as such (ungroomed) since then, thus unintentionally creating a potential dune restoration site. Keep people, dogs and beach grooming equipment away from the roosting birds, and dunes and dune plants begin to appear. Who could have guessed?

The dunes restoration project was dedicated in December, 2016. Around April 17, 2017, a WSP nest was discovered by Dan Cooper at the SMB roost location, the first nesting there in at least 70 years. When a sandstorm on April 26 covered the eggs, the nest was abandoned.

Members of SMBAS monitor two other WSP winter roosting sites at Malibu Lagoon and Zuma Beach. WSPs are extremely faithful to their roosting sites, very rarely straying more than 100-200 yards from them during the roosting season and returning to them each year. This fact makes them easy to census. According to Lu Plauzoles, during the winter roosting season there are nearly always roosting WSPs at the winter roosting site near Annenberg House, but rarely are they at the dunes project site. Even a few hundred yards is too much a stretch for their site faithfulness to encompass.

Nestings in 2017 also occurred at the Malibu Lagoon and Dockweiler Beach roost site locations. Most of these nestings failed. The Malibu Lagoon nest hatched three chicks; one survived and eventually flew away.

Considering the above, It’s a bit of overstatement on the city’s part to say, as they do in their blog, that “Endangered species such as the Western Snowy Plover were seen on Santa Monica Beach for the first time in over 70 years.” A more accurate statement would be:

“The presence of Western Snowy Plovers roosting on the beach over many decades, and the natural process of dune restoration which occurred within the WSP roosting site once it was permanently surrounded with exclusion fencing, encouraged the creation of an nearby additional larger dune restoration project, which has proved a success.”

Lu Plauzoles adds that if additional work is to be done to increase the size of the dune project, it should be done during the summer when the birds aren’t there. This may inconvenience a few beachgoers, but they are not driven by instinct to be intensely site-faithful, as are the birds.

Links below to newspaper article and Santa Monica City blog announcement.

Dune: The reestablishment of native plants helps combat climate change and provides habitat for endangered animals. Courtesy photo. Santa Monica Daily Press.

Successful project to restore beach dunes looks to expand
Santa Monica Daily Press | Emily Sawicki | 27 Apr 2022 | 3 min read

The Santa Monica Sand Dune Restoration Project has officially been deemed a success; now, The Bay Foundation wants to make it a permanent fixture on the beach just north of the Annenberg Beach House, while also expanding from three to eight acres of protected beach habitat in the area. 

With the ecological nonprofit Bay Foundation’s five-year report stating the dune restoration pilot achieved its goals, it will soon be up to the California Coastal Commission to decide whether it can stay in place permanently.

“We’re pretty staggered at some of the results,” The Bay Foundation’s Chris Enyart said Tuesday. “We saw the site, year after year, continue to be covered in more and more native dune vegetation. We saw the site continue to build topography, build elevation, accumulate sand. And yeah, it’s a pretty staggering development over a short five years. And this is all passive. This is all just letting these native dune species that are specially adapted to dune habitats, just letting them do their thing.”

The Bay Foundation and its partners — the City of Santa Monica, local landowners, California Department of Parks and Recreation and the Santa Monica chapter of the Audubon Society — will soon be seeking to add an additional five acres of protected dunes, about 1,000 yards south of the current project area.

Santa Monica Brings a Second Dune Restoration Project to the Beach | Nico Predock | 25 Apr 2022

From the lead paragraph of the posting:

Over the last 5 years, The Bay Foundation has been working in conjunction with the City of Santa Monica to restore approximately three acres of coastal strand habitat on the north end of the Santa Monica Beach. By restricting beach grooming activities, seeding native plants and using fencing to build dunes, a rare coastal habitat was successfully brought back to Santa Monica. Endangered species such as the Western Snowy Plover were seen on Santa Monica Beach for the first time in over 70 years. From start to finish, the project positively engaged the public and provided comprehensive monitoring data to inform other projects across SoCal. The Bay Foundation recently released its Year 5 Report, which summarizes results from the start of the project (Dec 2015) to completion (Oct 2021).

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