Tag Archives: Berkeley nature

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

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

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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
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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 »

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

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

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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
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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 »

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Sweetness and light: Diary from a hummingbird’s nest

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

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An end for giant North Berkeley eucalyptus

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

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Photos: With some rain comes a rainbow over Berkeley

Rainbow at the Marina by Claudia Rice
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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 »

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Bay Nature: Restitches our connection to natural world

DL@Pelicans&MtTam_Dec2013
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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 »

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Photos: Berkeley’s magnolia trees in winter bloom

Photo: Antoine Wojdyla
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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 »

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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
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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 »

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Flying high again: Golden eagle returns to East Bay skies

Photo: Elaine Miller Bond
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Last September, while working on an article for Berkeleyside, I took a short trip to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek. My mission there was purely amphibious: to photograph western toads that the museum keeps on display.

The toads were cute, for sure.

But soon, my experience turned from amphibious to serendipitous.

For I was the lucky photographer who happened to be at the museum when a golden eagle was brought through its doors. … Continue reading »

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Why Acorn Woodpeckers are appearing in Berkeley

Acorn Woodpecker / Photo by Larry and Dena Hollowood, www.flickr.com/photos/larry_dena/
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By Bruce Mast

They are the clowns of the oak savannah — Acorn Woodpeckers — with their harlequin faces, gregarious habits, and off-kilter laughing calls that inspired Woody Woodpecker.

Here in the Bay Area, Acorn Woodpecker colonies are fairly common in the East Bay hills and the western slopes of Mount Diablo, particularly where there are concentrations of valley oaks. South of Livermore, they can be locally abundant in the Diablo range. They are rare in Tilden and Redwood Regional Parks, however, and practically unheard of west of the Hayward Fault.

So what’s up with the recent spate of Acorn Woodpecker sightings in urban San Francisco and the East Bay lowlands? … Continue reading »

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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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