Tag Archives: Berkeley nature

Rare burrowing owl found dead in West Berkeley park

This dead owl was found Sunday in a Berkeley park. Photo: Urban Bird Foundation
Print Friendly

A rare burrowing owl was found dead recently at Berkeley’s Cesar Chavez Park, raising some concern in the community.

Local resident Heidi Sachs saw the dead bird on a bench during her run at the Berkeley Marina on Sunday and shared the news with Berkeleyside.

“Really sad for me to think about,” she said, adding, “a passer-by mentioned a puncture wound on the owl’s head.”

On Friday, Earth Island Institute’s nonprofit Urban Bird Foundation released a statement about the discovery of the dead owl. The group said it received a report about the carcass Thursday night.

According to the Urban Bird Foundation, the bird was placed on a bench and puncture wounds could be seen on its body. But the group said it did not recover the carcass itself to verify those reports.

Carolyn Jones, a spokeswoman for the East Bay Regional Park District, said it is hard to know exactly where the bird was killed, but noted it could have died on EBRPD property, at Cesar Chavez Park, or nearby. Its cause of death, however, remains a mystery.

“The owl could have been killed by a feral cat, another raptor (hawks will go after burrowing owls, for example), or another predator,” Jones said by email. “Feral cats are a problem at several East Bay parks.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monarch butterflies and great ways we can help them

Monarch feeding on a nonnative plant, red valerian (Centranthus ruber). Photo: Elaine Miller Bond
Print Friendly

Last November, Berkeleyside published an article about a spectacular natural phenomenon seen in Berkeley for the first time: hundreds of monarch butterflies were clustering in the trees of Aquatic Park.

This fall, thoughtful reader and independent gardener Toni Cox wrote to Berkeleyside, requesting that we create a new article about monarchs.

In particular, Cox noted that these beloved, once ubiquitous butterflies are “struggling” — that a decision on whether monarchs will receive protection under the Endangered Species Act will occur by 2019.

Read about Elaine Miller Bond and see her other nature stories on Berkeleyside.

More about the petition for federal protection for monarchs is available from the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the organizations that filed it.

Here in California, numbers of overwintering monarch butterflies have seen an approximate decline of 74% since the late 1990s, according to Emma Pelton, Conservation Biologist for the Xerces Society and its Endangered Species Program. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,

Video: Fallen tree on College; apparent cause is wind

A fallen tree on Alcatraz and College. Photo: John Holland
Print Friendly

Local resident John Holland captured dramatic photographs and video of a 50-foot tree that fell down Monday at College and Alcatraz avenues in Berkeley, apparently due to wind.

The tree fell shortly before 3:30 p.m., on the west side of the street just above 3170 College.

Holland went live on Periscope to document the situation. Watch the video below.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko confirmed, at about 4:35 p.m., no one had been hurt by the fallen tree, and the Berkeley Police Department was on the scene. Traffic was moving through the area, and city forestry staffers were investigating the cause of the damage, he said.

He said shortly before 5 p.m. that wind appeared to have been the culprit.

Holland said the tree appeared completely hollow inside. One car appeared to have been damaged by fallen limbs, he said. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,

How I became a docent for burrowing owls. What a hoot!

Burrowing owl in Cesar Chavez Park in Feb. 2016. Photo: Miya Lucas
Print Friendly

By Rubi Abrams

Newly retired from a fulfilling career as a community college librarian last year, I was ready to plunge into as many birding activities as I could schedule. Birding-related travel, classes, meetups, speaker series, feeder watch, bird counts – the more the better, and most sponsored by Golden Gate Audubon Society. But I was also eager to use my professional skills. I was itching to be a citizen scientist, to have a “conservation conversation” in my community.

Read more (and see photos) on burrowing owls.

Remembering the delightful young adult novel Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, I was inspired to get involved with the GGAS Burrowing Owl docent project. In the novel two young boys embark on a campaign to save the burrowing owl colony in their Florida town from real-estate developers. Although not threatened by local developers, our local burrowing owl populations have declined steeply, and they are currently a federally listed Species of Management Concern and Species of Special Concern in California due to habitat disruption. Though protected, there is still plenty to do in educating the public about these delightful creatures. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

After 50 years, a rare desert plant blooms in Tilden Park

The giant nolina beginning to flower at Tilden Park's Botanic Garden. Photo: Bart O’Brien/EBRPD
Print Friendly

After 50 years of quietly minding its own business at the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park, a rare desert plant by the name of “giant nolina” has started flowering — probably for the first time ever.

The giant nolina, also known as giant beargrass, is a California native plant found only in the Kingston Mountains of the eastern Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, according to the Botanic Garden.

There are in fact two nolina plants at the garden, and they were collected by the garden’s founding director, James Roof, and a garden staff member, Walter Knight, from the area near Beck Springs in the Kingston Mountains back in 1966.

Unlike many plants with giant blooms, the giant nolina does not die after flowering – it just keeps on growing. … Continue reading »

Tagged , ,

First time observed: Hundreds of monarch butterflies cluster in Berkeley’s Aquatic Park

[INSERT PHOTO: 3582

CAPTION: Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in an ash tree in Aquatic Park. Photo: Elaine Miller Bond [LINK: www.elainemillerbond.com]]
Print Friendly

In late October, Berkeleyside received a tip that thousands of tiny fish were jumping in the waters of Aquatic Park.

Less than three weeks later, we received another “scoop” about the park that throngs of monarch butterflies were clustering in the trees.

I’d seen groups of monarchs in well-known gathering places, called “roosts” or “bivouacs,” in Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz. But I’d never heard of such a spectacle in Berkeley.

So I rushed the next morning to Aquatic Park, to the trees just east of the 14th hole of the disc-golf course, the site where the butterflies had purportedly been spotted. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Making a splash: Fish jumping in Berkeley’s Aquatic Park

Not a flying fish: This is a topsmelt, a common fish in our coastal estuaries. Photo: Elaine Miller Bond
Print Friendly

Dark clouds gathered last Tuesday morning, and many of us hoped for a storm. Yet, the not-so-still waters at Berkeley’s Aquatic Park didn’t roil from raindrops; they bubbled from thousands of small jumping fish.

According to Dr. Peter Moyle, Distinguished Professor Emeritus with the Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology at UC Davis, these little silver fish were juvenile topsmelt (Atheriopsis affinis). Full-size topsmelt can be as long as 14.5 inches. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,

Sweetness and light: Diary from a hummingbird’s nest

April 3: Hummingbird chicks begging for food. Photo: Elaine Miller Bond
Print Friendly

Have you ever had one of those days in which everything sparkles?

For me, that day was March 1. It was my first day out on my own, following a painful injury. It was the day I picked up and freed a pigeon, trapped in the dark corner of a café where I like to write. It was also the day when my friend showed me something I will never forget: a hummingbird’s nest.

I drove home, retrieved my camera, then returned an hour later to take photos of the nest. In fact, I returned more than a dozen times in March and April. Below are my favorite photos from the experience. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

An end for giant North Berkeley eucalyptus

A large eucalyptus tree at King Pool is coming down this week. Photo: Mary Flaherty
Print Friendly

City workers began taking down a huge eucalyptus tree at King Pool in North Berkeley on Wednesday morning after it was found to be decaying at its core.

According to local resident and Berkeleyside freelance reporter Mary Flaherty, the crew was working to remove large branches from the tree and grind them up. A worker told Flaherty the work began at 8 a.m. Wednesday and would likely last for two days.

Berkeleyside reported in February on the planned removal. The tree was found to have wood fungus and decay, said city staff, and its location next to the pool and a playground thus created a dangerous situation. 

The tree was estimated to reach 140 feet, with four massive trunks.

Thursday, Robert Collier shared this photograph of the work up to that point. City spokesman Matthai Chakko said the tree will be cut down to a depth of 16 inches below ground.

Scroll to the bottom of this post for the latest photographs.  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Photos: With some rain comes a rainbow over Berkeley

Rainbow at the Marina by Claudia Rice
Print Friendly

The sun peeked through the clouds early this morning creating a dramatic rainbow that appeared to plunge into the bay, perhaps leaving its treasure there?

At least four readers thought it was precious enough to photograph, and they shared their images with us before 8 a.m. (After this post was published, several more readers sent us their rainbow photos and we have added them to the collection.) … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,
Non-profits

Bay Nature: Restitches our connection to natural world

DL@Pelicans&MtTam_Dec2013
Print Friendly

No matter how grand the “internet of things” becomes, all the digital wizardry in the world will never rival the unsurpassable majesty of nature.

Applied to the Bay Area, this global truth spears the soul four times a year as it arrives in the unassuming vehicle of the quarterly magazine Bay Nature.

Marking the 15th anniversary of a publication dedicated to the natural world of the San Francisco Bay Area, the magazine, whose offices are in Berkeley, has flowered into 53 consecutive editions, an informational website, “Bay Nature on the Air” videos, and free naturalist-led hikes.

At the helm of the independent nonprofit organization, Bay Nature Institute, sits publisher and editor David Loeb. Or rather, Loeb hikes, animal-watches, kayaks, cycles and otherwise explores water, land and sea while searching for the next story, the next gorgeous photograph. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,

Photos: Berkeley’s magnolia trees in winter bloom

Photo: Antoine Wojdyla
Print Friendly

Antoine Wojdyla is a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley Lab and lives near the Fourth Street shopping district. He rides his bike to work and, recently, has taken a few detours to document the dozens of gorgeous magnolia trees that are in winter bloom in the city.

Being organized, he also compiled the locations of the trees into what he calls a “magnolia blotter,” and shared them with Berkeleyside (below).

“It makes a good counterpoint to the crime blotter,” he writes. … Continue reading »

Tagged ,

One of Berkeley’s largest trees to be cut down

The giant eucalyptus tree near King Pool that needs to be cut down. Photo: Nancy Rubin
Print Friendly

A giant eucalyptus tree that presides over the swimming pool at King Middle School needs to be felled due to safety concerns, according to City of Berkeley tree experts.

The tree, which sports not one, but four massive trunks, and soars to an estimated 140 feet, is much loved by regulars at the pool, and news that it will be removed has come as a blow to many.

“There’s no outrage in this story, just sadness and admiration for a truly majestic tree that has reached its end,” said local resident Robert Collier. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,