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Queen Butterfly photograph by Craig Chaddock, Mission Trails Regional Park


Backyard Bird Watching and Behavior Change with Natalie Jane

On December 3 of 2023, 30 nature enthusiasts and bird lovers gathered at the picturesque La Jolla tide pools for a fun-filled backyard bird watching event. 

Hosted by conservationist Natalie Jane Cibel, founder of Planet People, the San Diego Audubon Society and Dark Sky San Diego County, the event promised an unforgettable and educational experience in the heart of La Jolla Cove. During the event, we had the privilege of showcasing valuable information from these two esteemed non-profit organizations about the important work being done as part of the “Lights Out, San Diego!”, which is a campaign that focuses on reducing the impact of light pollution on migratory bird species.

The event was designed around this “Lights Out, San Diego!” campaign through a community-based social marketing campaign (CBSM) approach for a project in Natalie’s master of arts program with Miami Ohio University. The goal of this particular CBSM campaign was designed to promote behavior change for local conservation initiatives and encourage place-based action. The target behavior for this CBSM program is bird watching with the desired outcome leading to advocacy and protections of birds through the “Lights Out, San Diego!”. Through this approach Natalie and several guest speakers educated birdwatchers about the importance of birdwatching and how that leads to advocating for avian protections.

The Bird Walk:

We started the program with Tammah Watts, author of "Keep Looking Up," who led a peaceful and intuitive meditation session before the bird walk. Her guidance set a reflective and serene tone for the event, and it was a fantastic way to center ourselves before embarking on the birdwatching excursion. As we embarked on the bird walk led by Natalie, Audubon lead ornithologist, Lesley Handa and conservation manager, Cristina Santa Maria, we provided our audience with several bird identification opportunities. We were also joined by Cathy Handzel with Dark Sky San Diego County who provided us with detailed information about the harmful effects of light pollution.

Armed with binoculars and field guides, we ventured along the rugged coastline, eager to catch a glimpse of the region's avian inhabitants. We were treated to the sight of numerous bird species, including the striking Black Oystercatcher and the elegant Brandt's Cormorant. In particular, the Brandt’s Cormorant was the target species for this bird walk because it is directly impacted by street light pollution above their nesting habitat. Watching these birds forage along the tide pools and coastal cliffs was a truly captivating sight, and it offered a glimpse into black oystercatcher feeding behavior and Brandt's Cormorant nest building techniques. La Jolla tide pools, with their stunning coastal vistas and diverse ecosystems, served as the perfect backdrop for our bird watching adventure. At the end of the bird walk, Cathy provided everyone with insight about the importance of reducing light pollution. This was relevant information to share as the Brandt's Cormorant is subject to light pollution from a light directly above the colony. Lesley continues to spearhead the Conservation Committees effort in protecting the Brandt's Cormorant by advocating to turn off the street lamp during breeding season. Education was an important component of this CBSM approach and all the guest speakers provided invaluable knowledge to all birdwatchers alike. Overall, it was a fun filled birdwatch event that provided an avenue for advocacy of our coastal bird species. 

Appreciating Biodiversity:

Beyond the individual species that we encountered, the bird walk underscored the rich biodiversity of the La Jolla tide pools and provided us with the environment to learn about birds. Our audience took action by learning about what we can do to better our environment and birds close to home by engaging in birdwatching behavior and advocating for the protection of the Brandt’s Cormorant for the “Lights Out, San Diego!” campaign program . The backyard bird watching event was successful in achieving the community marketing campaign goals of encouraging bird watching behavior while advocating for wildlife. Overall, the event served as a poignant reminder of the importance of preserving these natural habitats and the need to continue efforts in conservation and environmental stewardship.

The backyard bird watching event at La Jolla tide pools was a true celebration of nature's splendor. Under the guidance of Natalie and Audubon bird experts, nature enthusiasts were able to deepen our appreciation for the avian wonders that call this coastal haven home. The experience served as a testament to the power of community, conservation, and the simple joy of observing the natural world.



  • USFWS logo
  • City of San Diego

  • County of San Diego
    County of San Diego
  • State Coastal Conservancy
  • SANDAg transnet logo
    SANDAg transnet logo
  • Malk Nature Fund
  • Coastkeeper
  • UCNRS logo
  • Americorps
  • Room & Board
    Room & Board