Birds of a feather will hang at Thompson Creek

The Pomona Audubon Society broke ground early Monday on its official bird sanctuary near the Thompson Creek Trail in Claremont.

The avian oasis will be completed in 2017 and will feature signage identifying the varieties of birds native to the area, a bird feeding station and a fountain. The project is a joint effort that began with a local animal lover’s kind gesture. 

“I’ve been walking the Thompson Creek Trail for 25 years,” said Claremont’s Anne Stoll. “One day I started looking around and noticing that the birds looked thirsty, because we’ve had such dry weather.”

Ms. Stoll, a retired archeologist, had a stash of empty frozen food containers from Trader Joe’s. “So I thought I’d fill them up here at the drinking fountain, and put them over here and see what happens.”

“Over here” is small area of scrub brush north of the trail, where Ms. Stoll has been feeding birds for about a year and a half. At first she was alone but, over time, other bird lovers began helping out. Before long,  she became a member of the Pomona Audubon Society and was working alongside that group’s members in making the new official feeding station happen.

“I just think there’s a tremendous potential,” said Suzanne Thompson, Pomona Audubon Society membership and outreach director, who with Ms. Stoll is spearheading the new sanctuary effort. “We have already talked to the Girl Scouts about bird identification projects here. It just has a lot of ways to pull in other members of the community and also do a little outreach about birds.”

The total cost of the project, which will come from Audubon society dues and donations, is between $1,500 and $3,000. The city donated the use of the land, which sits in a small meadow on the south side of the path near where Pomello Drive dead-ends into Thompson Creek Trail. Also instrumental in getting the project off the ground was Claremont’s Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, which has provided plants and helped with placement, and the Claremont shop Wild Birds Unlimited, which has helped with bulk bags of birdseed. 

The acorn that grew the sanctuary was a true grassroots occurrence. Ms. Stoll’s homegrown bird feeding project was expanding, with more folks showing interest. “And it grew! It was the most incredible, organic thing.”

Slowly, volunteers began coming forward. The group began organizing via email and, before long, they had a kind of a club. “And then I met Suzanne, who said ‘Hey, let’s fix this. Let’s make it bigger and better,’” Ms. Stoll recalled.

On Monday, Ms. Stoll went on a tour of her modest bird oasis. A small dry-erase board attached to a nearby chain link fence listed recent sightings: acorn woodpeckers, scrub jays, towhees, thrashers, finches, doves and sparrows have all availed themselves of the seed and water laid out by Ms. Stoll and her fellow bird lovers. Lately, predator hawks have been keeping the cycle of life in order at the feeding area, Ms. Stoll said. “So maybe it is a good thing we’re moving the feeder.”

The unlikely avian activist had no history of animal outreach, she said. “This is a first. I’m not really a birder. I love animals. I’m an animal-er. But where did this come from? I don’t know!”

It feels good to see the bird sanctuary project blossom, Ms. Stoll said, but she was quick to deflect kudos. 

“I’m involved, but it’s not me,” she said. “People say, ‘Oh, your birds are here.’ They’re not my birds. This is some natural thing that’s happening and it’s just organically growing and I’m going along for the ride. That’s really all it is.”

More information on the Pomona Audubon Society and the bird sanctuary project is available at pomonavalleyaudubon.org. 

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

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