Background Image
Photo by Tom Grey

Veterans Field Trips

Audubon Field Trips for Vets

Barbara Millin, William Pelletier—SCVAS Volunteers 


Enjoying the view of Charleston Slough

Beginning in March 2019, SCVAS began collaborating with the Palo Alto and Menlo Park Veterans Hospitals to provide birding field trip experiences for their patients. As of July 1, 2019, three such outings have been completed. Two outings were for veterans from the spinal injury and multi-trauma wards. (See July Avocet)


On Friday, June 14, Bill Pelletier and Barbara Millin led a field trip for elderly veterans residing at the Community Living Center located on the grounds of the Menlo Park VA Hospital. The field trip took place at Charleston Slough, a popular birding location that is notable for its accessibility. A dozen veterans arrived, many in wheelchairs. SCVAS provided binoculars for all participants. In addition, when Bill heard the group would be accompanied by a music therapist with a flute, he felt it only fitting he bring a trumpet as well. Would birds respond to the sounds of the Music Man?
We walked the loop of the Casey Forebay out to the viewing platform and back around towards Shoreline Lake. The route afforded great views of SNOWY EGRETS hunting the edge of the water, BLACK-NECKED STILTS paired up for breeding, AMERICAN AVOCETS skimming for food, 125 FORSTER’S TERNS plunging for fish and carrying them back to nests on Shoreline Lake’s island to feed to their young beside nesting BLACK SKIMMERS, and CANADA GEESE surrounded by goslings, and several dozen more species that call Charleston Slough home at this time of year. The group was very interested in learning about bird behavior and migration in particular, and when it came time to return to the bus these veterans, ages ranging from 80 to 99, expressed disappointment that the outing was ending.
As the bus was being boarded, Bill, a Navy man himself and fully aware it was Flag Day, produced his trumpet and played a rousing version of the Star Spangled Banner. Every veteran turned in his direction, hand over heart, and sang as tears rolled down their cheeks.
With more outings in the planning stages for these groups, a program has been initiated to introduce the joys of birding to veterans attending the substance abuse clinic at the PA-VAHS. Their first field trip is expected to occur in August or early September.
If you have an interest in volunteering as either a docent or additional interested party in these veterans’ field trips, contact Barbara Millin at