The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary in Northwest California is an important stop along the Pacific Flyway, one of the four main routes for bird migration through North America. Visitors are sometimes surprised to learn that this wildlife sanctuary is also the city of Arcata’s wastewater treatment facility. By combining conventional wastewater treatment to natural wetlands, the city has created habitat homes and migratory resting places for over 300 species of birds, including many shorebirds.
A Marsh With More Than One Purpose
Written by Jessie Eden
This is BirdNote.
The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary in Northwest California is an important stop along the Pacific Flyway, one of the four main routes for bird migration through North America.
[Willets and other shorebirds feeding at Arcata mudflats]
Great birding and trails through the marsh are a big draw for both locals and tourists from around the world. But community steward George Zaminsky says that many people are surprised to learn that this wildlife sanctuary is also the city of Arcata’s wastewater treatment facility.
George Zaminsky: They’re wandering around over there just looking at all this beautiful stuff, going “where’s the sewage treatment plant?
In one part of the site, a treatment facility removes solids and sludge from wastewater. After the initial cleansing steps, the water flows into wetlands where microbes, algae and plants finish the job. This is how the city of Arcata has turned its treated wastewater into a refuge for shorebirds and other wildlife.
[Flock of Cackling Geese (Aleutian) at Arcata marsh]
George Zaminsky: Coastal wetlands and marsh habitat have been filled in and built upon through much of the West coast. All of those fields used to be intertidal and marsh. It’s really nice allowing some of these fields to revert back to being habitat for the fish and the birds.
These Arcata wetlands provide homes and migratory resting places for over 300 species of birds. Even the most unlikely places can be transformed into a thriving ecosystem. For BirdNote, I’m Jessie Eden.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Content Director: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Managing Producer: Conor Gearin
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.
Field recordings by Jessie Eden.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2022 BirdNote May 2022 Narrator: Jessie Eden
ID# arcata-01-2022-05-12 arcata-01