Tag Archives: Burrowing owls

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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Berkeley bans feeding of wildlife in parks, public spaces

Squirrel. Photo: Doug Mosher
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On Oct. 1, a new law went into effect in Berkeley that prohibits the feeding of wild animals in city parks and other public spaces. Enforcement brings with it minimum fines of $100 after an initial warning period, and up to $500 for multiple infractions within a year.

The ordinance applies to the feeding of all wildlife, but was conceived in response to an outcry earlier this year when the city said it would exterminate ground squirrels at César Chávez Park. This was to address Regional Water Quality Control Board concerns that squirrel burrows might be causing toxics underneath the park to leach into the bay, and thus present a threat to the landfill cap.

New ‘No Feeding Wildlife’ signs and educational brochures have been placed at César Chávez Park. … 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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Berkeley squirrels are safe from extermination — for now

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By April Rose Sommer

Much to the relief of wildlife lovers, the Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to delay its pilot program to exterminate ground squirrels at César Chávez Park.

The city had generated broad outcry earlier this year when it announced plans to trap and kill park squirrels as a means to address Regional Water Quality Control Board concerns that squirrel burrows might cause toxics underneath the park to leach into the bay.

But on Tuesday, the Council put the extermination plan on hold and directed the City Manager to report back in two months with a plan and a response to the many questions raised by citizens, councilmembers, and environmental and animal rights organizations, including Golden Gate Audubon.

Councilman Kriss Worthington led the efforts for a reconsideration of the extermination pilot program and Councilwoman Linda Maio was careful to stress that the pilot program would not go forward until the council had revisited the issue. Councilman Max Anderson waxed poetic about how the park used to be filled with raptors, the squirrels’ natural predators, and recommended that there be an effort to draw these birds back to the park, while Councilman Gordon Wozniak complained that there are too many squirrels. … Continue reading »

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Western Burrowing Owls are back on Berkeley Marina

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The burrowing owls that make their home at César Chávez Park on the Berkeley Marina every year are back.

Patrick Hickey, who works out in the pre-dawn hours most mornings at the park, says he has noticed a pair of the birds there for at least the past month.

“They sit right on the edge of the path perhaps three feet away. They always seem to flank the edge of the protected corner area,” he said. “They are quite small. They look at me but I say nothing and I keep moving. I think they realize I don’t want to mess with them. Or they are dangerously blasé!” … Continue reading »

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Can’t get enough of them: Berkeley’s burrowing owls

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We admit we are suckers for these adorable birds, so when regular Neil Mishalov sent us these two gorgeous pics, it didn’t take long to decide to share them with you, even though it was barely two weeks ago that we published another photo of this beautiful bird.

News of these special birds is spreading. New York Magazine recently included a visit to spot the burrowing owls as an “Insider’s Tip” in its Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan to Berkeley story. (They also recommended checking out Berkeleyside’s Nosh for East Bay food news, a point we couldn’t disagree with.) … Continue reading »

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Burrowing owls come out to preen at Berkeley Marina

Burrowing owl by Greg Merritt
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The Berkeley Marina’s much loved burrowing owls were out and about this weekend. Berkeleysider Greg Merritt caught this shot of one of them on Saturday afternoon. He said it was taken at the special fenced-off area near the Tom Bates/Gilman Sports Complex.

dozen volunteer docents from Golden Gate Audubon Society who help passersby spot and learn about the small population of Western burrowing owls who spend each winter at the marina.

As Illana DeBare reported for us this time last year, Western burrowing owls have been designated a “species of special concern” by the state of California, as their population has been declining. Local residents reported seeing as many as 15 owls at the Berkeley Marina a decade ago; last year just five were documented. … Continue reading »

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Burrowing owls, and docents, return to Berkeley park

Photo: Doug Donaldson
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By Ilana DeBare

Most people go to Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina to walk dogs, fly kites or stroll kids.

Karen Smith goes to monitor owls.

Smith is one of about a dozen volunteer docents from Golden Gate Audubon Society who help passersby spot and learn about the small population of Western burrowing owls who spend each winter at the marina.

This year, five owls have been documented – two in the area set off from pedestrians by a new owl-friendly art installation and three in other parts of the marina. The small ground-dwelling birds spend much of the day sitting alertly near their burrows, astonishingly close to all those humans with dogs, kites and strollers. … Continue reading »

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