Posted under local wildlife
Archive for the 'local wildlife' Category
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Martinez and environs are a great place to spend a day or two, if you’re a nature-lover. Take your bikes (we used Amtrak from Berkeley, only $10 per person each way and you get great views of North Richmond and Point Pinole that you can’t get from the car). and enjoy a lovely ride from Martinez out to Port Costa and back, along a beautiful road with no cars. (Or hike in the adjacent hills). Return to Martinez and head out to the small but worth-a-visit Muir National Historic Site. Then do a hike in the hills from the nearby trailhead. Head back into downtown Martinez for a snack, then do some birding at the wetlands where Alhambra Creek meets the bay. Have an early dinner, finishing just before dark so you can head over to the beaver dam — they have beavers right in the middle of town! — and look for the beavers, and the muskrat, and the green heron that is always around, and the mink and otter that occasionally come through. Afterwards, head just down the street to Armando’s for some music until you start to get tired. Then head over to Benicia (if you’re car-free, I recommend the local Martinez Taxi service, which has a van that you can put two bikes into, as we proved this weekend) and stay at one of Benicia’s charming hotels or B&B’s. Get up early in the morning, bike two miles over to Benicia State Park and bird the wetlands there, then head back for breakfast. Afterwards, head on home, or bike back to Martinez on the brand-spankin’-new Benica-Martinez bike path and catch the train back to your destination. Put it all together, and you have a terrific 24-hour or 48-hour getaway.
The description above isn’t _quite_ how we did it this past weekend — for example, it was the hottest weekend of the year, so we swapped out some of the outdoor activities in favor of a massage by Joyce Cid (excellent). But trust me, you can do a great weekend of outdoor activities in and around Martinez.
It looks like curtains for the Martinez Beavers as we’ve known them (type “Beavers” in the search box to see more blog entries about these wonderful animals): the City is planning to remove their lodge in order to do creek bank stabilization (which means, in this case, putting more concrete and rocks into the east bank of the creek). It’s an all too typical story, stretching back a few decades in this case: first, property owners hem in a creek by building closer and closer to it on each side. Then, the creek floods, and the property owners and/or the city build retaining walls to contain the creek. During non-flood years, the walls give the property owners the sense of security they need to justify building even closer to the creek; eventually they’re right on top of it. Then, something happens — a high water year, or some beavers that build dams and a lodge, or just aging of the infrastructure — that threatens the retaining walls. The property owners sue the city, the city caves, and public money is spent to mitigate the problem. We’ve seen it in New Orleans and Galveston on a large scale, and we’re seeing it in Martinez on a small scale.
Personally, I can’t say one way or the other whether the beaver lodge is actually undermining the retaining wall next to the creek. I can say that I think it’s ridiculous that people were allowed to build a building four feet from the creek bank, as they did. A better solution than trying to maintain a permanent wall there would be to add some meander to the creek to take it away from that wall. Apparently that isn’t even being considered, I’m not sure why.
There’s no plan to kill the beavers, just to wreck their home so they have to move elsewhere. I hope they move somewhere else where they are more welcome; although they have had many great, great fans and helpers in Martinez, the city as a whole has treated them badly right from the start. It’s sad.
Next Saturday, August 2, there will be a festival from 3:30-6:30 PM in Martinez, California to celebrate the return of beavers to that town a couple of years ago, and their successful raising of some baby beavers. This is a really easy trip from the East Bay, only 30 minutes by car from Berkeley or you could take Amtrak and sit in style while watching the beautiful scenery (the tracks follow the bay all the way around, unlike the freeway, so you see stuff you can’t see if you drive). My wife and I have gone a couple of times, and I’ve even ridden my bike there from Berkeley (although I would not claim that it was easy). Martinez is a great little town. Once, we went to see the beavers early in the morning and then did some birdwatching at the slough farther downstream; another time, we took our bikes along and rode the really splendid bike route from Martinez to Crockett and back. Have lunch or dinner in Martinez and tell ‘em you’re there for the beavers — honestly, that is the best way to help ensure that the beavers continue to have a home, because, believe it or not, there are some people there who want to get rid of the beavers! So just by going to the festival and having a drink or some food at a local joint, it’s a bit like making a donation (as long as you mention that you came for the beavers). Can’t beat that!
More about the beavers is at the “worth a dam” blog (which doesn’t prominently mention the festival because the information has been pushed down the page by recent entries, but these are the people organizing the festival). There’s also an article on the Bay Nature website. Bay Nature is a Bay-Area-specific nature magazine (as you might, just might, have been able to guess from the title) that is really, really good — my wife and I have been getting it since it came out and it is really terrific. But I never before realized that they do stories on their website that they don’t have room for in the magazine, so even if you get the magazine you need to check out their website too. I’ve added it to the blogroll.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am sometimes able to tell what people are searching for when they find this blog. Recently a few people have been looking for information or opinions about eucalyptus trees in California, so I thought I’d provide a bit more about the issue, which I have previously touched on in the general context of saving native ecosystems and planting native plants. It’s not that I think one kind of plant is better than another as a general principle — eucalyptus trees are great in Australia and I can lick any man who says otherwise — but rather that invasive non-native plants drive out the native ones, messing up the ecosystem and costing biodiversity. Eucalyptus is a great example, as discussed in an article written by Ted Williams (no, not the .400 hitter) for Audubon a few years ago. There’s not much understory that can survive under eucalyptus trees, since their bark contains toxins — really cool from an evolutionary standpoint, but very bad from a biodiversity standpoint. Usually, all you find under California eucalyptus trees is Algerian Ivy and Himalayan Blackberry. In Australia lots of birds and animals (like koala) have evolved to cope with, or thrive on, eucalyptus, but we ain’t got no koala around here. Birds can nest in eucalyptus, and there are even a very few around here that can feed on them, but on the whole these trees are a disaster in California. Get rid of the eucalyptus, plant live oaks or bay trees instead, and have an understory of sticky monkeyflower or coffeeberry or toyons or any of dozens of other species that can’t survive under a eucalyptus. You’ll see a much more interesting world.
I’d never before heard of “The Oakbook”, an online newspaper, but I think I’ll check it out regularly now that I’ve discovered it. Today they have an article about salmon in the Bay Area, including a plug for this weekend’s salmon festival at Jack London Square (starts at noon both days). Their article includes this dismal paragraph.
As recently as the mid-1990’s, 4,000 salmon trawlers from Bay Area ports would slip under the Golden Gate to chase Chinook or King Salmon. Now only 400 boats claim to be viable commercial fishing boats — and this season, none of them will be able to earn money from salmon. On May 1, the Pacific Fishery Management Councilclosed the West Coast salmon fishing season because the fishery is near collapse. Ninety percent of the salmon that are found off the coast of California and Oregon came from the Sacramento River system. The river, which used to support a run of nearly a million fish, only supported 68,000 fish this year.
Turn out, listen to the music, have some food, and show that you care about salmon. It does matter: one of the huge problems is water diversions for both agriculture and personal use, and much of that water is wasted because EBMUD and others won’t take even small steps to conserve or to make people conserve — they think their customers won’t support it. If they see that we want conservation measures, they’ll be more willing to implement them.
Saturday, June 7, 2008, the Martinez “Worth A Dam” group is doing a willow-planting party. Even if there were no beavers there, this would be a great thing: willows are great riparian vegetation, they shade the water so it’s good for fish, they provide perches for little birdies, etc. In this case the planting is even better because (1) the beavers need willows! and (2) good turnouts at events like this will help convince the Martinez mayor and others that they should allow the beavers to stay. If you haven’t been out to Martinez, this would be a great time to go. Show up super early and you might get a chance to see the beavers before they go into their lodge for the day; then go to the good local breakfast joint a few blocks away to fortify yourself, and then go out and stick some willow stakes into the ground (that’s pretty much all it takes). For info, go to www.martinezbeavers.org.
Posted under local wildlife
[Photo by Gustavo Porras of a young trout in Berkeley’s Codornices Creek]
If you check the archives, you’ll see several posts about the collapse of the Bay Area salmon population, and other dire news about fish. So it’s nice to have something to celebrate for a change:
Fremont, CA - Hundreds of young trout hatched this week in Stonybrook Creek in the Alameda Creek watershed, possibly the offspring of a historic pair of steelhead trout. A steelhead pair dubbed “Bonnie and Clyde” were given a helping hand upstream in late February past barriers in lower Alameda Creek and radio tagged to monitor their movements. They swam together up Niles Canyon to Stonybrook Creek, where they were exhibiting spawning behavior in early March. On Monday hundreds of trout fry were observed in the creek reach where the steelhead pair likely spawned and are still holding.
“If the young trout are confirmed to be offspring of steelhead rather than resident rainbow trout, this will mark the first natural reproduction of steelhead trout in the Alameda Creek watershed since the mid-1960s,” said Jeff Miller, Director of the Alameda Creek Alliance. “Restoration projects underway could allow steelhead and salmon to swim freely to spawning areas in Alameda Creek within a few years.”
Since 1997 the Alameda Creek Alliance has documented ocean-run steelhead in lower Alameda Creek each winter. Construction of a fish ladder is planned at the BART weir and an adjacent rubber dam by 2010, so steelhead can migrate on their own past the barrier. Since steelhead were listed as a federally threatened species in 1997, the Alameda Creek Alliance has been advocating for restoration projects to allow fish to reach spawning habitat in and above the Sunol Valley and Sunol Regional Park. Fifteen local, state, and federal agencies are cooperating on Alameda Creek fish passage projects, including dam removals and construction of fish ladders and fish screens. These projects will make up to 20 miles of Alameda Creek and its tributaries accessible to ocean-run fish for the first time in over 50 years.