[Tweeters] Fill support

Connie Sidles constancesidles at gmail.com
Tue Jul 29 14:59:47 PDT 2014

Dear, dear tweeters, I want to thank each and every one of the many birders who turned out today to walk around the Fill and demonstrate your support for this unique jewel of nature. On one of the hottest days of the year, at a time of day when birds are hard to find, you put your boots on the ground and helped.

FYI, starting at 10 a.m., Dennis Paulson and I, along with three members of Seattle Audubon's Conservation Committee, began our meeting with representatives from: UW Botanic Gardens (the UW group that administers the Fill); one of WashDOT's project managers; WashDOT's landscape designer; two WashDOT mitigation specialists; two WashDOT communications people; and a representative from the WA Dept. of Ecology.

In our presentation, we made our best case for restoring shorebird habitat around Main Pond. Together, we had compiled a lot of information that surprised even me:
• 29 shorebird species have been recorded here over the years
• a total of 259 bird species have been recorded
• Chris McInerny (a UK birder) did a study, published in WA Birds 8, of shorebird populations in 1996 (933 individual birds) and 97 (1,434 individual birds). I compared that to this year's total so far: 42 individual birds
• photos from the past show how bare of plants Main Pond was in the glory days: Dennis had one from 1981 that showed an isolated small bush here and there but was otherwise featureless; Stuart McKay sent me one from a little later than showed two willows and a couple other woody plants; now the entire pond is nearly completely surrounded by woody plants and willow, with maybe a total of about 10 feet bare on the southeast corner and even less on the southwest corner and that's it.
• if once-present species can be restored to a site, you get extra mitigation credit for that.
• shorebird migration is a phenomenon of nature unlike any other, and we used to experience it right here in the city; we can again, if we have the right habitat.

As the time drew near for us to end the meeting and go out on our walk-around, it became apparent that we were beginning to create an effect on the WashDOT people, who had not understood shorebird needs properly. I believe they became willing to entertain a new notion: that at this site, which is part of the university and whose main purpose is research and education, it might be possible to do something they have never done before, i.e, create shorebird habitat in a freshwater setting and restore a migratory pattern that was effectively lost.

I did not think it wise to lose momentum at this point and ask everyone to leave the meeting to walk around the Loop Trail. So for better or worse, we continued to emphasize shorebird habitat and the wonderful potential shorebirds have to affect students (for research and education) and the broader community for support and interest.

I want to apologize to all of you who came out. Please do not feel that your effort was wasted. On the contrary, I will now be able to point to you all and say this was a perfect demonstration of the points we were making: that people care about this site and are willing to help it. This is a *necessary* point to make to convince WashDOT and the UWBG that our community will be willing in future to help maintain a habitat that is subject to loss due to succession without proper maintenance. This has been a stumbling block of a tall order. Because of what you were willing to do, you own a piece of the solution and deserve to be proud.

We have a long way to go still. There will be more steps to take as the design phase of the project begins to solidy. I will post information about the process when I find it out. Nothing will come easy or fast. But we have given ourselves - and the birds we love - the chance now for significant change. That is a big deal. - Connie, Seattle

constancesidles at gmail.com

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