Only a chosen few will be allowed to watch chicks on the beach this year and to attend to their needs.

Once again, the Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve needs dedicated individuals to look after snowy plovers and their young. On Saturday, April 5, there will be a snowy plover docent training session at Coal Oil Point at Devereux on Sands Beach from 2 to 5 p.m. At this training, anyone interested in becoming a docent can learn about the plovers and how to care for them. Docent Coordinator Jennifer Stroh said the program allows students to take part in the local revival of an endangered species.

“Being a docent is rewarding because in two years, I’ve seen the plovers reinitiate breeding in an area they had not bred in for 30 years,” Stroh said.

Stroh said there will be a presentation on the biology and history of plovers for people who come to the training on Saturday. They will also receive manuals, a snowy plover docent T-shirt and a tour of the snowy plover’s habitat. The session will emphasize the creation of a plover-friendly environment. Stroh said attendees should learn valuable lessons on the transformation of negative situations into positive ones.

“Many people involved in the docent program feel that it is empowering, especially at this time of war,” Stroh said. “People feel like they’re making an impact and get the opportunity to see results immediately.”

The job of a snowy plover docent is most importantly to protect the plovers from the two largest threats to them in this area: humans and crows. They must also teach people on the beach how to help protect the plovers. The goal of the program is to have a docent on the beach, from sunrise to sunset, to answer any questions people on the beach may have about the birds.

Pam Henson, who has been a docent since the program first began, said her experience has been a positive one.

“Once people get involved, they feel the positive energy of the group, getting something done and interaction with the public. The public thanks you for caring about the environment.”

The snowy plover population residing between southern Washington and Baja California is in decline. The bird was placed on the list of federally protected threatened species in 1993, and in December of 1999, Santa Barbara’s own Sands Beach was listed as a plover critical habitat.

The Snowy Plover Docent Program formed in 2001 under the original title “Chick Watch,” when a snowy plover chick was found at Sands Beach. Since then the program has increased to 43 active docents. Thirty-one of these volunteers are UCSB-affiliated; 64 percent are undergraduate students, 23 percent are university staff and 13 percent are graduate students.

The need for docents comes mainly during the March-to-September breeding season. During this time, the female plover lays her eggs in a nest on the beach and takes turns incubating them with the male. When the eggs hatch a month later, the female leaves them to go breed and lay more eggs while the male stays with the chicks another month until their feathers develop.

During this period, the snowy plovers are most vulnerable and need the protection of volunteer docents. The snowy plover eggs at Sands Beach are expected to hatch in three weeks.

Anyone interested in registering for Saturday’s training can call Jennifer Stroh at 880-1195, or email her at .