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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

"The West Coast's Premier Fleet Marine Force Training Base"

California Least Tern breeding grounds get a makeover from the Marines

By Cpl. Emmanuel Necoechea | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | March 8, 2019


Most people do not know that Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Pendleton is a vital nesting ground for various types of endangered birds in California. With this responsibility, the base works with its wildlife management team to ensure training does not affect any species survivability.

Due to a recent rain storm that moved south through Del Mar Beach near an area fenced off for the California Least Tern, the birds breeding colony became flooded and shifted their terrain leaving depressions in otherwise flat land. The California Least Tern does not nest in areas where they have poor line of sight because they cannot see threats or predators. Because of funding delays to quickly repair the habitat, 7th Engineer Support Battalion (7th ESB) volunteered its services by moving sand from the foredunes to the middle of the tern colony.

“I think it is wonderful to see how [operating force units] work with us to preserve our environment,” said Katrina V. Murbock, Wildlife Biologist - Beach Program, Camp Pendleton Environmental Security Wildlife Management Section. “We can all agree there is a lot of amazing wildlife out here, but also a lot of amazing training. The fact that we were able to make [those] go hand-in-hand, speaks highly of the Marine Corps.”

Without repairing the habitat inside the fenced area, the birds would have started nesting in alternate locations necessary for assault vehicles or other valuable beach areas used for amphibious training. This relocation and additional Federal regulations protecting the endangered birds would prevent operations and training all together.

“I hope it makes a big difference,” said Murbock. “There aren’t a lot of areas left for these birds, and Camp Pendleton is one of the last areas where these birds have great populations.”
The ability to preserve such a valuable habitat also gave 7th ESB a training opportunity in operating different heavy equipment to move the sand.

“This was good for us to come out because we get to do something out of the norm,” said Sgt. Jose Orozco, engineer equipment operator, 7th ESB, 1st Marine Logistics Group. “This ends up helping us out and helps the environment out in the process.”

When 7th ESB finishes leveling out the dunes, Camp Pendleton’s Environmental Security Wildlife Management Section is going to reseed the protected area, to completely restore the habitat.

“[This operation] is awesome, and I’m so excited to be a part of it,” said Murbock, Wildlife Biologist - Beach Program, Camp Pendleton Environmental Security Wildlife Management Section. “If it weren’t for the Marines, we would not have been able to do this at all.”

Murbock said that the California Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) are small, migratory seabirds that nest along the Pacific coast of North America from San Francisco Bay to Baja California. They feed on shallow-bodied fish in freshwater, estuarine, and saltwater environments, for instance, anchovies and herrings, typically within a mile of shore.