Tag Archives: Elaine Miller Bond

Monarch butterflies and great ways we can help them

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

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Photographer Elaine Miller Bond puts wildlife center stage

Elaine Miller Bond shooting in Tilden Regional Park. A launch event for her new book, Running Wild, happens tonight, Monday Oct. 3, at Books Inc in North Berkeley. Photo: Kathleen Costanza
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“You never know when it’s going to take off,” says Elaine Miller Bond, pointing her camera up at a red-tailed hawk perched on a power-line in Berkeley’s Tilden Regional Park. “It could be 30 seconds, could be 45 minutes, could be never.”

At that exact moment, the hawk spreads its wings and swoops towards the ground before ascending, as Miller Bond pans her camera and clicks dozens of photos in rapid succession.

As a wildlife photographer, Miller Bond has spent over a decade peering at animals­ through her lens — from hummingbirds to black bears —waiting to capture the perfect moment. Many of her stunning images and accompanying essays have been published exclusively by Berkeleyside. Now, Heyday Books, the nonprofit publisher based in Berkeley, is publishing her first children’s board book, Running Wild, which features her wildlife photography alongside verbs that explore how animals move.

At her book launch party on Monday, Oct. 3, at Books Inc. in North Berkeley, Miller Bond will describe the behind-the-scenes making of the book, and answer questions about her creative process. … Continue reading »

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At Pinnacles National Park, the condors fly free

Immature California condor. Notice the white patches beginning to appear across the bird’s shoulders. In adult condors, the white patches look more distinct. Elaine Miller Bond
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Pinnacles National Park is one of the national parks closest to Berkeley. It’s about two and a half hours away. Elaine Miller Bond, who often showcases her wildlife photography on Berkeleyside, visited the park recently to shoot photos of condors, a critically endangered species. She also had a lengthy conversation with Richard Neidhardt, who volunteers with the Condor Recovery Program.

By Elaine Miller Bond and Richard Neidhardt

Their wings can span 9.5 feet. Their bodies can weigh more than 20 pounds (compare that to the red-tailed hawk, at about 2 pounds). California condors are glorious, but they’re also critically endangered. Just over 30 years ago, only 22 wild condors remained.

In a high-stakes effort to save the species, these 22 birds were captured and placed into captive breeding programs. The birds proved resilient. And today, there are more than 400 California condors, over half of which are soaring the wild skies—thanks to such programs as the Condor Recovery Program at Pinnacles National Park.

Richard Neidhardt, known in condor circles as “VIP Richard,” serves as a longtime volunteer with the program. In our conversation, we learn more about his favorite bird and what it takes to keep the condor flying free.

EMB: What does the Condor Recovery Program do?

RN: The primary function of the Program is to manage the wild flock, approximately 80 birds in our area. We trap them twice a year and give them health checks. We service their tags and transmitters. … 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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First time observed: Hundreds of monarch butterflies cluster in Berkeley’s Aquatic Park


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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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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Darlings, not Draculas: Meet the bats of Berkeley

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Once you know what to look for, you might catch glimpses of California’s native bats, even around cities like Berkeley. I see bats near Tilden Park, flittering off into the dusk like tiny airborne scraps of leather. Others notice their pointy silhouettes in the light of the moon, sunset-painted sky, pond reflections, streetlights.

Field biologist Emilie Strauss holds fond memories of watching colonies of bats, fifteen years ago, when they flew out of exit holes in structures in and around UC Berkeley. One of their homes, fittingly, was the Life Sciences Building. … Continue reading »

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In a Berkeley park, a bluebird displays unusual behavior

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Last year, Rusty Scalf, teacher and trip leader for the Audubon Society, introduced me to a family of western bluebirds living and nesting in Berkeley’s San Pablo Park. This year, Scalf called me back. Apparently, a “mad man” had flown onto the bluebird scene.

“He’s like a Rambo,” Scalf said. “A worm bandit… a total behavioral outlier.”  “He,” the bluebird shown above, was a fledgling, a few weeks old, which undertook intensive hunting forays across the park. He even “mugged” a house sparrow and competed with his parents, beak-to-beak, for insects and worms — food he delivered to his younger brother and two sisters in the nest.

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Lynxes of the bird world: Cooper’s hawks nest in Berkeley

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They’re secretive, stealthy and quick. Allen Fish, director of the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, calls them “feisty.” Cooper’s hawks, he says, are “the lynxes of the bird world” that pounce on pigeons and swoop between buildings. And, though Cooper’s hawks are hard to find, we know, at first fleeting glance, that we’ve seen something wild and unusual.

Until about 15 years ago, these woodland hawks made rare appearances in cities like Berkeley, and nesting here was practically unheard of. This spring, however, Fish estimates that Cooper’s hawks are constructing between five and 15 nests across the developed areas of Berkeley and Albany (excluding the hills) — evidence of their great swooping strides towards overcoming their bad reputation as “chicken hawks.” … Continue reading »

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The mystery and thrill: Shorebirds enjoy winter in Berkeley

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A wide variety of shorebirds winter in the San Francisco Bay waters, and in Berkeley in particular. A few, like the whimbrel (a type of curlew), migrate from as far away as the Arctic. Elaine Miller Bond, whose work on local wildlife we have been delighted to publish before, recently spent time photographing shorebirds at the Berkeley and Emeryville tidal zones and mudflats in the company of  Rusty Scalf, a teacher and trip leader for the Audubon Society.

According to Scalf, these shorebirds have “high odometer readings.” Yet, for foraging, they rely heavily on the fragile, narrow, often muddy habitat between dry land and water — a zone that is increasingly imperiled by global climate change.

Here, we publish a selection of Miller Bond’s gorgeous photos with extended captions written by her describing the birds and their habits. … Continue reading »

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