Riverton Sandy Bar – Summer Weed Pull 2021

History has proven that rain nor cold weather ever stopped the IBA from hosting the Riverton Sandy Bar Weed Pull! Luckily (as it were) this August we were in for a rainy, but not cold forecast. With some back and forth between Amanda and Joanne (the Riverton Sandy Bar IBA Caretaker) we decided to go ahead with the event.

And so, on Friday August 20th, we had a group of dauntless volunteers head to the Riverton Sandy Bar to pull weeds. Thank you to Joanne, Lynnea, Jon and Bonnie for joining Amanda, Ariel, and I for an active day on the beach!

By removing the weeds from the sand bar, we create the ideal nesting habitat for shorebirds, specifically Piping Plovers. The last time Plovers were confirmed at the Sandy bar was in the year 2000. This is likely due to the encroachment of white-sweet clover and other vegetation taking over the sand bar, as they like open beach. Our mission was to pull as many of them as we could to help make the habitat attractive to them again, should they chose to come back.

Starting location of the Weed pull with Joanne, Lynnea, Amanda, Bonnie, Ariel and Jon getting set up. Photo by Vicky Tang.

We started early in the morning at 8:30 AM with a fresh cup of coffee and some muffins upon arrival. It was lightly raining as expected, but we continued to walk towards the sand bar, eager to get started. We all grabbed a bag and went on our way through the weeds.

The rain stopped by the time we got to the bar and it did not pick up again until noon. We were fortunate to get the heft of the work done by then.

We first concentrated on pulling the sweet clover, as it does the most damage to the open, sandy beaches needed for shorebird habitat. Once we cleared the clover from our main weed pull area we yellow primrose out too to get a vegetation free area for the birds. By 1:00 PM, we had made a big difference in the scenery.

Before and after photos of the sand bar. Photos by Vicky Tang.

Everyone worked together, having good conversations, and making new connections throughout. We all agreed that this was a much-needed get-together after a lonely year from the pandemic. Sunshine or not, it was a fun time!

After we had no more bags to fill (and we were all tired out), Joanne, Amanda and I took a walk down the bar to get some birding done. By this time, it was raining harder with the wind blowing into our faces. The shower was worth it though, as we reached the end of the bar, we saw a threatened Buff-breasted Sandpiper! Other birds we saw included, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Sanderlings, Least Sandpipers, Baird’s Sandpiper, Franklin’s Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Common Terns, Bonaparte’s Gulls, and Pelicans, among others.

A Buff-breasted Sandpiper at the end of the sand bar was our reward for braving the wind and rain at the end of the weed pull. Photo by Joanne Smith.

We also had a few other interesting flora and fauna sightings. If you are a birder you may have heard of a “leaf bird” – those tricky leaves that hang on to branches or fall just right to look like a bird or a “rock bird” – those tricky things! We came across what we thought was a sad sight, a swan that had passed away and washed up on the shore… happily after taking a look through binoculars it was just an interesting configuration of debris and garbage that had washed up on the sandbar – a “garbage bird” perhaps!

All in all, it was a great weed pull with seven people. Thank you to all the volunteers that came out! We made a great difference in the habitat where we concentrated our weed pulling efforts, but there is still more to do. We hope to have better weather next time and continue this guessing game with mother nature at our next weed pull in September! Stayed tuned for more information about the next weed pull this fall from Amanda, coming up soon.

Here is the completed list of birds we observed that day:

Canada Goose31
Common Goldeneye8
Baird’s Sandpiper4
Least Sandpiper19
Buff-breasted Sandpiper1
Semipalmated Sandpiper31
Greater Yellowlegs1
Bonaparte’s Gull1
Franklin’s Gull1
Ring-billed Gull8
Herring Gull1
Common Tern16
American White Pelican7
Great Blue Heron1
Northern Harrier2
Bald Eagle1
American Crow1
Common Raven2
Tree Swallow3
Barn Swallow2
Cedar Waxwing2
Song Sparrow1
Swamp Sparrow2
Common Yellowthroat7
Yellow Warbler6
Total # of Species: 28Total # of individuals: 168

~ Vicky