Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /usr/home/web/users/a0020234/html/birdblog/wp-includes/cache.php on line 99

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /usr/home/web/users/a0020234/html/birdblog/wp-includes/query.php on line 21

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /usr/home/web/users/a0020234/html/birdblog/wp-includes/theme.php on line 576
Bay Area Bird Blog » 2008» March

Archive for March, 2008

March
31st 2008
NY Times article: Did your shopping list kill a songbird?

Posted under birds (general) & science

You see a lot of criticism about “politically correct” shopping — people love to sneer at the idea that buying the wrong kind of shoes or paper or food makes a difference.  But it does, or at least it can.  The New York Times has a current op-ed (free registration required) called “Did your shopping list kill a songbird” that illustrates this point.  It says:

Since the 1980s, pesticide use has increased fivefold in Latin America as countries have expanded their production of nontraditional crops to fuel the demand for fresh produce during winter in North America and Europe. Rice farmers in the region use monocrotophos, methamidophos and carbofuran, all agricultural chemicals that are rated Class I toxins by the World Health Organization, are highly toxic to birds, and are either restricted or banned in the United States. In countries like Guatemala, Honduras and Ecuador, researchers have found that farmers spray their crops heavily and repeatedly with a chemical cocktail of dangerous pesticides. 

 The piece goes on to discuss the (proven) bad effects the chemicals have on birds.  It also mentions a really sad New Yorker article from a year or two ago, that is also worth a read if you can find it.  

No Comments »

March
30th 2008
“Lights Out”, “Earth Hour”: whatever you call it, it was pretty good!

Posted under birds (general) & government

Whoever is organizing the Earth Hour / Lights Out events I previously discussed needs to work on their message a bit.  The posts and emails I first received emphasized the benefits of the reduction in light pollution on migrating birds; this effort was (the emails said) intended to get people to think about not lighting up the night sky so much.  I later saw another post that said that migrating birds tend to fly into the windows of lighted high-rises, so it’s important to turn off those lights.  All well and good, but the press coverage I’ve seen in the newspapers (online and physical) has all discussed only the energy and global warming implications: see, if we all turned off unnecessary lights, we could save this much energy, etc.  I’ve got no problem with either message, of course, but perhaps the organizers should either settle on one message or do a better job of promoting the whole suite of benefits of not leaving so many lights on all the damn time. 

But whatever you call the event, or however it’s pitched, it actually worked pretty well in the Bay Area…for one night. The lights on the Bay Bridge towers were turned off, about 1/3 or 1/2 of the billboards along I-80 through San Francisco were off, several of the SF office towers were mostly dark (which is unusual for some reason), most of the street lights along I-80 in Berkeley were off, and so on. Honestly, truly, I don’t know why it’s not like that every night. OK, well, I do understand why the billboards aren’t dark (what’s the point of a billboard nobody can see?), but as for the rest, let’s just do it like that all the time! Or at least, we could be way more selective about lighting. For instance, fine, the bridge towers look nice and dramatic when lit up, and that’s important for tourism…maybe that makes sense from 8 pm to 1am. So why not just turn them on for five hours a night, instead of twice that long? (There is a proposal before the SF Board of Supervisors that would make it illegal for commercial buildings to use “unnecessary” lights at night…I’d need to find out more, but I like the general idea. More on this in a future blog entry).

No Comments »

March
28th 2008
Reminder: Lights Out tomorrow night (every night!) to help migrating birds!

Posted under local birds & volunteer

We’re in the middle of the spring migration right now, with millions of birds making their way north to feed and breed.  Light pollution really messes with these guys, screwing up their navigation.  Even worse, they can be attracted to lighted high-rise windows and fly into them at full speed, so it’s especially important to turn off lights in office buildings and tall apartment buildings.  For more info, see my previous blog entry.  And although there is a campaign organized around March 29, it would sure be great to go all the way from mid-March through mid-April.  Try to keep outside light as low as possible.  Why not make it the whole year?

No Comments »

March
28th 2008
Off-topic: What to do in Berkeley

Posted under day trips

This is off-topic for this blog (so sue me).  The New York Times has an article in their travel section (free registration required, I think) about traveling to Berkeley and what to do when you’re here — where to shop, what to eat, and so on.  I haven’t eaten at either of the places the recommend for food (O Chame in Berkeley, and El Huarache Azteca in Oakland), and if I were writing a brief travel article about Berkeley I would have emphasized some different things, but it’s still a pretty good article, and one of the rare favorable articles about Berkeley in the national press. (That’s fine, we like it that way, our housing prices are too high as it is).  Anyway, if you’re planning a day trip, or longer, to Berkeley, you might check out the article.  There’s plenty of good birding at: Aquatic Park; the Eastshore State Park; the “Albany Bulb” just north of the horse race track along the Bay; on the UC Campus; and in Tilden Park.  

No Comments »

March
27th 2008
Bay Area’s best hikes and bikes and wildlife

Posted under day trips

I disagree with the Chronicle’s Tom Stienstra on some things (such as his attitude that wildlands are wasted if they’re not open to the public), but he certainly knows his way around California in general and the Bay Area in particular. Here are Tom’s suggestions (not necessarily mine, but all are good) for hiking and biking in the Bay Area:Hikes 

  1. Skyline-to-the-Sea, headquarters to Berry Creek Canyon, Big Basin Redwoods State Park
  2. Coast Trail, Point Reyes National Seashore
  3. Montara Mountain Trail, San Pedro Valley County Park
  4. Trail Camp Loop, Castle Rock State Park
  5. Steep Ravine Trail, Mount Tamalpais State Park

Bike rides (all of these are very short and very easy, so don’t expect a real workout):

  1. Bay Ridge Trail, Crystal Springs Watershed
  2. Skyline-to-the Sea, Rancho del Oso up Waddell Creek
  3. Wilder Ridge Loop, Wilder Ranch State Park
  4.  Golden Gate Promenade to Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
  5. Tennessee Valley to ocean, Marin Headlands

Wildlife:

  1.  Pierce Ranch, Point Reyes National Seashore
  2. Grizzly Island Wildlife Area, Fairfield
  3. Napa-Sonoma Marsh, Sonoma
  4. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Moss Beach
  5. Sunol Regional Wilderness 

 

No Comments »

March
27th 2008
The tragedy of trash

Posted under activism & birds (general) & endangered species

BBC News has an article about some of the effects of the huge amounts of plastic trash floating around in the Pacific Ocean.  The first three sentences give the gist of this disheartening story:

The Midway Islands are home to some of the world’s most valuable and endangered species and they all are at risk from choking, starving or drowning in the plastic drifting in the ocean. Nearly two million Laysan albatrosses live here and researchers have come to the staggering conclusion that every single one contains some quantity of plastic. About one-third of all albatross chicks die on Midway, many as the result of being mistakenly fed plastic by their parents. 

Go anywhere there are lots of people, and you’ll see trash strewn about.  Go to the beach after a nice weekend, and see how many plastic bags, cups, bottles and bottle tops, toys, etc., are lying around.  People have no problem carrying them to the beach in the first place, but somehow, to carry them home at the end of the day is just too much trouble.  The beach example is particularly egregious because a lot of this stuff goes straight into the ocean, and people know it and don’t care, but trash on the street or in the gutters is hardly better, most of it ends up in the Bay (and thus the ocean) too.   What can I say, sometimes people disgust me. 

No Comments »

March
26th 2008
Bats are dying

Posted under endangered species & wildlife (general)

This story has been around for a few weeks, but it’s just made it into the popular press: in a situation somewhat like that of the “Colony Collapse Disorder” that kills bees, millions of bats are being killed by something that has been termed “white-nose syndrome.”  The number of bats involved is staggeringly large, and another disastrous winter like 07-08 could lead to the total extinction of several kinds of endangered bats. And “the impact of the bats’ deaths could be felt for centuries to come. “These bats reproduce very, very slowly,” [a bat expert] said. “Whatever happens now, it could take hundreds of years for the populations to bounce back.”

No Comments »

March
25th 2008
A California Wolverine!

Posted under endangered species & wildlife (general)

This is really, really exciting: California has wolverines!  Or, at least, a wolverine!  Some recent photos and hair samples confirm, for the first time since the 1920’s, that there is a wolverine in the state.  The San Francisco Chronicle has the story and some photos.  And by the way, don’t worry, the photo captions say the wolverine is at a “snare”, but this “snare” only catches fur samples, it doesn’t trap the wolverine!  (I’ve tagged this story with “endangered species” even though the wolverine isn’t endangered worldwide.  But it is extremely rare in the lower 48 states — these strong, tough, fierce animals need huge ranges to roam and there just aren’t many areas like that in the continental U.S.)

No Comments »

Next »