Tag Archives: Berkeley nature

Going green: Frog conservation finds new HQ in Berkeley

Frog. Elaine Miller Bond4387.720pix
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For a long time, I’ve wanted to write an article on frogs for Berkeleyside. In fact, my first “kiss” came from a frog in Tilden Park. It jumped to my lips as I drank water from a fountain on a scorching-hot day at summer camp.

But that was the 1970s. Frogs were more common then. Loud throaty choruses of Pacific treefrogs kept me awake (in a good way) on spring nights, and tiny tadpoles wiggled through the algae-laden waters of a ditch along my street in Kensington. … Continue reading »

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Climate change spells trouble for Berkeley birds

Burrowing owl.
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Some of Berkeley’s most common and beloved birds could face extinction within the next 70 years due to climate change, according to an authoritative new study by National Audubon Society.

The study – released on Tuesday after seven years of research – predicts the effects of climate change on 588 species of North American birds.

It concludes that nationally, 314 species are at risk – nearly half of the continent’s bird species. Of those, 126 species could see severe population declines by 2050, and another 188 species face the same fate by 2080 if climate change continues on its current path.

For Berkeley and the Bay Area, the list of birds in climate trouble includes some species like Snowy Plovers and Least Terns that are already on state or federal lists of endangered/threatened species. … Continue reading »

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All aflutter: Berkeley insect lovers celebrate 40th year counting butterflies

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A hummingbird whirrs by, as a squirrel flicks its tail, flirting. A robin fluffs its feathers after bathing in the stream. Leopard lilies, columbines, even the cacti are in full summery bloom. But today, at the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park, we’re here for the butterflies.

Alan Kaplan, an entomologist, educator, and retired Tilden Park ranger, meets me at the garden’s gate, where, already, I have spotted maybe five different types of butterfly, from a teensy so-called “blue” to a glamorous pipevine swallowtail.

Still, there are rules for counting butterflies in nature. So Kaplan gives me the rundown of the day’s event — the Fourth of July Butterfly Count (currently run by the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) — held for its fortieth continuous year in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Friends in high places: Peregrine falcons soar above us

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Not long ago, Berkeleyside reader Patrick Hickey kindly sent in a photo of a beautiful bird of prey, perched on a tall building near his home in downtown Berkeley. I had my own suspicions (and sense of elation) over what kind of bird it might be. Then Rusty Scalf, teacher and trip leader for the Golden Gate Audubon Society, confirmed it: the bird was a peregrine falcon — the fastest animal on Earth. In California, not long ago, it was also one of the most endangered. … Continue reading »

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Nature

Update: Unhappy ending for crow rescued in Berkeley

Crows in flight. Before they took to the air, they were calling to one another and hanging out in pairs in bare trees. Location: Fairfax. Photo: Elaine Miller Bond
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A city animal control officer rescued an injured crow Thursday afternoon after it got tangled in a piece of string and stuck in a tree 40 feet off the ground in West Berkeley.

Workers in an office building called the city Thursday at roughly 2:10 p.m. after noticing the bird struggling but unable to take flight, said John Kindle, an animal control officer for the city.

The Berkeley Fire Department responded to the scene, at 700 Heinz St., along with Kindle, to assess the situation.

When Kindle arrived, he used binoculars to take a closer look. He saw the crow high up in the tree with what appeared to be string tied to a branch and wrapped around one of its claws. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley woman terrorized by giant rat, or what exactly?

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It may have been April Fool’s day, but there was nothing funny about the fright Berkeley resident April Gilbert got when she spotted what she thought was a giant white rat right outside her window on Monday.

“I initially thought it was a gigantic — as in 15 to 20 lbs — white rat,” said Gilbert who lives on Russell Street. “It came up very close to my office window and sat looking at me for several minutes before waddling off along my fence. I felt a bit traumatized by the experience, especially on my namesake day, but managed to take some photos of it with my phone.” … Continue reading »

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Exploding Berkeley redwood felled after lightning strike

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A clean-up operation was underway today after a giant redwood tree in North-West Berkeley exploded after being struck by lightning during a storm on Monday, sending large chunks of wood flying all over the neighborhood. Nearby homes and cars sustained damage, and some witnesses said wood debris landed as far as two blocks away from the site of the tree at 1430 Holly Street (at Buena Avenue).

Fortunately nobody was injured during the dramatic incident, although during the same storm lightning struck 31-year-old Emily Davis as she was crossing Adeline Street about two miles south of the site of the tree. … Continue reading »

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Counting crows: Why are there so many in Berkeley?

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“Why are there so many darn crows in Berkeley these days?”

We get that question a lot at Berkeleyside, and Golden Gate Audubon gets it too.

It’s not just Berkeley. Crows are on the increase throughout the Bay Area, as are their larger and deeper-voiced cousins, ravens.

Back in the 1980s, Golden Gate Audubon members typically found between 30 and 90 American Crows each year in our Oakland Christmas Bird Count, which includes Berkeley. We typically found fewer than ten Common Ravens.

Since 2010, however, the count has turned up over 1,100 crows and 170 to 300 ravens each year. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley neighbors mourn loss of their ‘gathering’ tree

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A fresh hole in the middle of the street. Sadness. Disappointment. Anger. Such is the story of a small street in far north Berkeley.

On Thursday Feb. 20, city workers removed an injured Coast Live Oak from Menlo Place in the city’s Thousand Oaks district, between Colusa Avenue and the Alameda. The tree, at least five decades old, and probably more, grew from the center of the street near the intersection with Santa Rosa Avenue, with traffic navigating around it.

Or trying to.

After a truck hit the tree in December, severing a major limb, city officials deemed it too sick and weak for salvation, and a public hazard. This, in spite of an impassioned campaign by neighbors to save the oak. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to kill squirrels, gophers to protect bay

A ground squirrel at Cesar Chavez Park. Photo: Bill Williams/Creative Commons
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In Berkeley, squirrels are in the cross fire.

In an attempt to make sure no toxins leak out of the old landfill under Cesar Chavez Park and leach into San Francisco Bay, Berkeley is hiring a pest control company to trap and kill hundreds of squirrels and gophers that make their home there.

It seems that when the squirrels and gophers do what comes naturally—digging holes or tunneling in the ground—they are getting perilously close to the clay cap that covers the landfill. If the rodents penetrate that barrier, dangerous toxins like gasoline, lead, iron, herbicides and pesticides, could leach into the bay. So the city needs to reduce the animal population to lessen the risk, according to city spokesman Matthai Chakko. … Continue reading »

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Photos: The rain in Berkeley, as seen by Berkeleysiders

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It rained on and off — but mostly on — all weekend and, according to the forecast, that is all we are likely to get, at least for a little while.

The precipitation prompted Berkeleysiders who braved the weather to shoot some great images and video.

Thank you for sharing them with us.
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First local sighting brings flocks of birders to Berkeley

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This weekend, hundreds of bird enthusiasts flocked to a quiet southside Berkeley neighborhood to catch a glimpse of a beautiful North American breeding bird that has never before been sighted in Alameda County.

The colorful Painted Redstart was still in the Elmwood neighborhood this morning, flitting between three large trees located on three adjacent streets.

Richmond-based graphic designer Lory Poulson, who came to the neighborhood with her partner Susan Gluck to investigate, said they heard the warbler before they saw it.

“It has a distinctive call that sounds like ‘too weet’ with the emphasis on the ‘weet,'” she said using her binoculars to scan a large birch tree on Lewiston Street where the pair had seen the Redstart just before 10 a.m.

The story started Wednesday last week when Katie Bertsche, a scientific illustrator who lives on Prince Street, spotted a flash of bright red in a poplar tree while sitting on her deck. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley cloud film offers chance for a soothing time-out

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Berkeley resident Bill Smock has made a short film about clouds. Specifically the clouds above us in Berkeley. Smock is quick to provide a caveat for prospective viewers, however: “The video is very slow and contemplative. It gets the lowest rating from viewers on the Cloud Appreciation Society website,” he said.

The film runs for ten minutes and includes a soundtrack crafted by Smock that is a melody of everyday Berkeley sounds, from freelance trash recyclers to passing cars broadcasting rap.

Caveat duly acknowledged, if you need some decompression time — a few minutes out of your busy schedule, perhaps, to breathe and to take stock — swirling, beautiful clouds may be just what the doctor ordered.

Except for a couple of shots taken from Tilden Park and Cesar Chavez Park, all of the clouds in the film were sighted from Smock’s house and yard on Carleton Street in West Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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