Tag Archives: Berkeley wildlife

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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10 Berkeley animal stories you didn’t want to miss in 2015

March 31. Chicks approximately 18 days old. Photo: Elaine Miller Bond
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Berkeleyside reports many animal stories every year, and 2015 was no exception. Sometimes they are strange, such as the day in January when two boars’ heads popped up around town, or the night in June when a squirrel caused a massive power outage. Sometimes they are sad, like the time a couple hung up the body of a deer to make a point about off-leash dogs.

But, more often than not, they are heart-lifting and beautiful. This applies to all the wonderful stories created for us by wildlife photographer Elaine Miller Bond. In 2015, Miller Bond told us about the release of a golden eagle, a hummingbirds’ nest, jumping fish, and glorious clusters of monarch butterflies (a post that was shared more than 21,000 times on Facebook).

And the three-part tale, plus epilogue, by Leslie Smith, about the rescue of a neglected dog, dubbed the “barber’s dog,” was surely one of the most captivating stories of the year.

Below, we bring you 10 of our most widely read 2015 animal-related stories, presented in chronological order. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley teams help make Oakland Christmas Bird Count the biggest in the world

A Brown Pelican spotted during Golden Gate Audubon's annual Christmas Bird Count. Photo: Alan Krakauer
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Emilie Strauss peered across Lake Anza and divided up the watery territory by species. “David is counting coots, Mark is doing mallards, who wants to do Pied-billed Grebes?” she called out.

It was just after dawn on Sunday, Dec. 20, and the rosy sky over the lake heralded a welcome break in the rain for the 75th annual Oakland Christmas Bird Count.

Sponsored by Golden Gate Audubon Society, the Oakland CBC covers a 15-square-mile circle that includes Berkeley and the Tilden Park area where Strauss and her team were counting. … Continue reading »

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That’s right America, in Berkeley deer use crosswalks!

A still from Daniel McPartlan's video showing deer using a crosswalk on Grizzly Peak.
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Daniel McPartlan has visual proof that Berkeley deer are law-abiding deer, who follow the rules of the road.

While driving along Grizzly Peak Boulevard on his scooter after dark on Dec. 17, McPartlan witnessed not one, but three deer use a crosswalk to get from one side of the road to the other. He posted the footage that his on-board video camera shot of the incident to Twitter the following day, with the comment, “That’s right America, Berkeley deer use crosswalks.” (We liked that so much we stole it for our headline.) Watch the video, below. … 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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Goats swarm across road, stop traffic in Berkeley Hills

Goats still
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A herd of grass-munching goats swarmed across Cyclotron Road in the Berkeley Hills last week on the way to another plant-clearing mission below Blackberry Gate.

The goats are part of Berkeley Lab’s vegetation management plan to trim abundant grasslands and reduce fire hazards.

Read more about animals in Berkeley.

Berkeley Lab posted a video of the goats on the move to its Facebook page on June 12. The video was shot by Lab employee David Stein (while he was apparently listening to KQED radio!). It proved so popular that it has been viewed more than 2 million times on Facebook since then, helped no doubt by the fact that Berkeleyside reposted it to its Facebook page, and it was then picked up by other media, including NBC, CNN and the Huffington Post. (Watch the video below the fold.) … Continue reading »

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Goats take over Berkeley hills, but what is their intent?

Goats on Centennial Drive 6-2-15 Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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Reader Eric Cotts recently shared the photo above with us. It was taken on June 1, and shows a large number of goats on a hill near the Berkeley Lab. It inspired us to send our photo intern Melati Citrawireja to capture more images of the animals everyone seems to adore (see them below the fold).

While goats are commonly used to clear brush and grass in the East Bay (Berkeleyside has written about this use of goats for fire prevention), Cotts was not convinced the cloven-hoofed herd was there for such a benign reason. “I would not be so sanguine about the intent of these agile Bovidae,” he wrote us. … 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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Community

Dead birds, 2 animal legs, wash up on Berkeley beach

This headless chicken and other animals and animal parts washed up Thursday on a Berkeley beach. Photo: Susi Jensen
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A woman on a walk along the beach in Berkeley with her dog on Thursday came across two decapitated chickens, two skinned mammal legs with cloven hooves, and several dead shorebirds.

Susi Jensen, a Berkeley writer, said it isn’t unusual to see a dead carcass on the beach. But she described the number and kind of animal parts she saw Thursday morning as “unexpected.”

“The shoreline is imperfect, but we enjoy it for what it is,” she said. “This time it was a little grosser than normal.”

Jensen was walking her golden retriever, Luna, on the beach along the San Francisco Bay Trail. The trail runs along West Frontage Road between University and Ashby avenues in Berkeley and continues into Emeryville.  … 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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At 2014 Christmas Bird Count — no rain, much fun

Varied Thrush at Albany Hill / Photo by Alan Krakauer
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The Bay Area’s welcome rainstorms let up for 24 hours on Sunday Dec. 14… just long enough for more than 200 birders to have a fabulous Oakland Christmas Bird Count.

Both novice and experienced birders fanned out over a 15-mile-wide circle including Oakland, Berkeley, Albany and neighboring cities, as part of Audubon’s 115th annual Christmas Bird Count.

Advance registration came to 287 people, a new record for the Oakland count, which was organized by the Golden Gate Audubon Society. Last year the Oakland count was the fourth largest in North America, and this year’s count is likely to be in the top five again. … 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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