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Bay Area Bird Blog » 2008» April

Archive for April, 2008

30th 2008
Turkey Vultures get no respect

Posted under local birds

[Photo from US Geological Survey website]
I sometimes take a look at a soaring bird and say to myself ‘eh, it’s only a turkey vulture,’ disappointed that it’s not something “more interesting.” Turkey vultures are common, and their uniform blackness isn’t as interesting or beautiful as the markings on most soaring birds. But, as I mentioned to a friend in Point Reyes last weekend, I’m going to try to pay more attention to them in the future. They’re great flyers, as skillful as the northern harriers (for example) that always gladden my heart; and they’re certainly majestic with their big wingspan and steady flight.

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29th 2008
“Living with Wildlife in the East Bay” talk series

Posted under local birds & local wildlife & talks/presentations

There’s a great series of talks on Mondays (usually the first Monday of the month) at the Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, 7:30 PM. Visit for details if you need ‘em. 

  • May 5: Raptors and Windmills at Altamont. Brian Latta, Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group.
  • June 9: Bobcats in the East Bay Hills. Jessica Sheppard, East Bay Regional Parks District
  • July 7 Exotic critters in the Bay.  Dr. Mary McGann.

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27th 2008
Point Reyes in living color

Posted under day trips

Point Reyes elk with wildflowersMy wife and I just spent the weekend at Point Reyes, where the wildflowers are putting on a spectacular show out in the elk refuge.  We’ve been going up there for years, and have never seen them like this.  I’m not saying they’ve never been like this, necessarily — maybe we just never hit the at their peak, or went on the right trail at the right time.  I’m not usually one to go all ga-ga over flowers, but this was pretty amazing.  The odd thing is, you’ll be walking through a patch of wildflowers like the one pictured, and then in the space of thirty yards the wildflowers will dwindle away and there will just be grasses, and then another fifty or sixty yards and it’s all wildflowers again.  (And northern harriers, turkey vultures, barn swallows, violet-green swallows, white-crowned sparrows, red-tailed hawks, ravens, grebes, herons, quail, and many many other birds..and elk, and black-tailed deer.)  It’s a great place to spend a few days (or even one), and now is a terrific time to go. 

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24th 2008
Go see the weaver-birds

Posted under entertainment

Katrina Zerilli passes along the following: “For my BFA Exhibition I am focusing on six birds that have inspired me growing up. I have painted them in watercolor and then adapted their colors to large striped tapestry weavings. I have been fascinated by birds my whole life but am only now finding the birder inside of me. I do not know if you are interested in local art exhibits about birds, but if so I would be delighted to have birders see my show!”

The BFA Exhibition of Katrina Zerilli
April 29 - May 3, 2008

Opening Reception: Wednesday, April 30, 5:30 - 7:30pm

North Gallery, California College of the Arts, 5241 College Avenue Oakland, CA 94618

Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11am - 6pm

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23rd 2008
California is full.

Posted under government

An article in the Wednesday San Francisco Chronicle starts with the line “Nearly 1.3 million East Bay residents could be forced to ration water as early as next month if rains don’t increase.” At the same time, the salmon population in Northern California has collapsed to the extent that the commercial fishery was closed this year, and this happened in part because of low water flows in rivers where salmon spawn. The Delta Smelt population has collapsed for the same reason. Drinking water for the Bay Area is piped hundreds of miles, over one of the world’s most active fault zones, and water that serves Southern California is piped there from up here, which is part of the reason we’re running low up here.

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23rd 2008
Light Brown Apple Moth, one more time

Posted under activism & government

The April edition of Estuary magazine, a publication of the CalFed program and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, has some coverage of the “Moth Mess” as they call it. (CalFed is a joint California/Federal agency that conducts scientific research and makes decisions related to water use in the Sacramento River Delta — what’s causing the decline of the Delta Smelt, how much water do the salmon need, that sort of thing). For those of you who have been living in caves for the past few months, the issue is that the “Light Brown Apple Moth,” an Australian species, has established a foothold in California. The moth is potentially a major agricultural pest, and could also be a threat to some plants that are important to natural ecosystems, and California wants to do aerial spraying of pheromones over the entire state to disrupt the moth’s mating in an attempt to totally eradicate it before it becomes fully established. Some Bay Area cities have sued to prevent this.

The Estuary article says that (1) analysis shows that bird kills on Monterey Bay were not, as some people have claimed, due to the “checkmate” pheromone spray; (2) an oft-quoted report by UC Santa Cruz’s Daniel Harder, that says that the moth is not a major pest in New Zealand, has been criticized by New Zealand researchers who “issued a stinging rebuke to his paper’s conclusion”; and (3) the California Department of Food and Agriculture is claiming success in eliminating the moth from some areas in Southern California through use of the pheromone spray.

[UPDATE: Thursday, April 24: “Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Paul Burdick ruled Thursday morning that aerial spraying to control the light brown apple moth could not continue in Santa Cruz County” pending an environmental review, which the state is trying to avoid on the grounds of an “agricultural emergency.”  The Santa Cruz Sentinel has an article about this, thanks to a blog commenter for passing this along.]

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22nd 2008
Happy Earth Day: our solar PV system just went online!

Posted under Uncategorized

Berkeley’s Earth Day celebration was last Saturday, but today is officially Earth Day. And by happy coincidence, our solar installer (Sungevity) just came by to show us the stuff we need to know about our new system. We haven’t yet had the inspection from PG&E to let us turn on the system (should be any day now) but we did throw the switches for a few minutes to make sure everything works — and it does! Once PG&E gives the word, we’ll be generating all of our own juice.
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21st 2008
First thing we do, we kill all the spammers

Posted under Administration

You would not believe how much spam this blog gets. There’s never a day with fewer than 3 spam messages, and some days have as many as 8. That means that I get about 20 spam comments for each real one. The spam comments are mostly similar: a bunch of random words (to supposedly throw off spam filters); a fake email address; and a fake link title with a link that actually points to a website selling something, like fake Viagra or fake Rolexes. The idea is that when these messages get posted to blogs, they’re seen by search engines like Google and Yahoo, which then assume that the sites that they point to are really good, so they get moved up in the search rankings.
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