Amador’s Ornithology Club birdwatches at Shadow Cliffs Regional Park


Shawn Weber

Nine members of Ornithology Club explored the wildlife of Shadow Cliffs.

Mandy Wong, AVT Editor-in-Chief

With help from binoculars and each other, nine members of Ornithology Club spent this past Sunday observing and identifying local bird species at Shadow Cliffs.

“This was a fun trip at the end of the year, because we had planned more field trips during quarantine last year, but they didn’t happen,” said co-president Larissa Hom (‘22).

Upon arrival, the group headed east and noticed blue jays, black phoebes, and sparrows, along the trail. Additionally, they spotted the more uncommon double crested cormorant and Bullock’s orioles making a nest. At their destination, a waterway featuring the aptly named Bird Island, turkey vultures and other raptors circled overhead, at times only five feet away.

“It was cool just sitting there with the group, everyone’s trying to take their photos, talking to each other. It was really nice because we all just came together there, as a group, and we also found this interest in these birds getting so close,” said treasurer Talya Perelli-Minetti (‘22).

Bird Island itself was an “little island full of geese” that afternoon.

“The geese were landing on the water and you can see them fluttering their wings, and then they suddenly jet into the water. They were playing around, having so much fun. I really enjoyed watching them,” said Hom.

However, the changes in Shadow Cliffs over time dismayed those who had been there over the years,.and reminded the group of their larger mission.

Birds of a feather flock together, and ornithology club members chat about their interests as they birdwatch on a sunny afternoon. (Larissa Hom)

“What shocked me was the environmental status of Shadow Cliffs. Of course, there’s a drought going on that I’ve heard has been getting a lot worse lately. When I saw that the water level had dropped in a lot of places, and some places were completely dried up, it’s sad,” said Perelli-Minetti. 

Part of Ornithology Club’s mission is educating about maintaining environments. Throughout the year, the club worked with Tri-Valley environmental associations bringing multiple schools together, and Amador’s own Ocean Conservancy Club. Though this was seniors’ last trip before parting with the group, they were sure to leave advice for younger members to utilize in future birdwatching. Frequent birdwatcher Perelli-Minetti advised students to respect the fowl by not yelling or disturbing their environment, and co-president Megan Tandean shared her tips for spotting birds through keeping an eye out for motion and keeping an ear out for rustling sounds. 

“My favorite part of the trip was actually getting to talk with everyone else about birds and their experiences with birdwatching. Because normally I go birdwatching on my own, I spot a bird, take a few pictures, and move on. I get a very different experience compared to going out with the group. In a group setting you get to talk it out with everyone else, chat about various things like your favorite bird, favorite spot to bird watch, stuff like that,” said Tandean. “I like that community aspect.”

Follow AVHS Ornithology Club on Instagram @avhsbirds. The club is welcoming new members to join next year. Applications for an officer position are at The club meets once a month in Weber’s room.