Archive for 'birds'
There was a time when San Francisco’s Mitchell brothers were considered by many to be hip, heroes of the counterculture. Today, as a result of the direction their lives took, they are more likely to be perceived as examples of the degradations of porn.
But I’ve seen worse. Just the past weekend. In my own backyard.
I mean, the Mitchells weren’t cannibals, as far as I know. Apparently the same can’t be said for Cooper’s hawks. Four of the birds have been inhabiting my backyard this summer. They must have hatched from the same nest this spring. They got big fast, and our squirrels and finches have been looking nervous, keeping a wary lookout. These fierce birds squeeze their prey to death with their sharp viselike talons.
So this weekend I went out back and found that now we have three Cooper’s hawks — one of them was feasting on another. After I took the picture above it picked up the dead bird and flew away with it, as if it were but a single feather.
Not exactly a bambi moment.
The Lafayette Reservoir is a pretty little lake of 115 acres. It’s a tame spot, much used by joggers, families, and dog walkers. An easy 4.7-mile trail loops around the lake from the parking area. The reservoir itself is not drained seasonally as many are, so it retains a natural-looking, reedy shoreline.
There is a book launch on the lake, but it’s restricted to boats that can be hand launched, and gas motors aren’t allowed. All-day parking is $6 and there is a $4 boat use fee. There are many picnic tables — 135, according to park literature — some of which can be accessed by boat. Last Friday we canoed over to this float and had a little picnic. The float was also accessible by trail, but most of the joggers and dog walkers are so focused on their circuit of the lake they rarely come down to the water.
It’s quiet on the water, and by boat you have access to things the joggers don’t see, like the great blue heron in the upper right of this photo.
Because canoes are the most maneuverable and quietest of water craft, it is possible for canoeists to get very close to wildlife.
Lafayette Reservoir at Bay Area Hiker
Today beaches near the Golden Gate are closed as a noxious oil spill is washing up against the shore. A large South Korean-based Hanjin container ship struck one of the supports of the Bay Bridge and released oil into the bay from a damaged tank. According to Caltrans engineers the bridge got the better of the collision and suffered no significant damage. The cause of the crash is a mystery, since the bridge is pretty easy to spot by eye or radar, even in heavy fog. The ship even had a local pilot aboard. We are still waiting to learn the extent of the environmental damage.
The most famous oil spill on the bay occurred on January 19, 197. On that date, two oil tankers, the Arizona Standard and a sister ship, the Oregon Standard, collided in the bay. Winds and currents drove the resulting spill north toward Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County. As the Point Reyes Light recalls, “The collision ripped open six of the Oregon’s 26 fuel oil compartments, dumping 840,000 gallons of oil into the bay — more than half of which ended up on beaches around the Bay Area. The spill killed roughly 20,000 birds and some seven million marine organisms, according to Bay Area researchers.”
What was most remarkable about the event was the rallying of community support for the embattled beaches. The community of Bolinas quickly rallied. Sculptor Tom D’Onofrio shared his recollections with the Light:
Drawing on his days at a logging camp in the Adirondacks, D’Onofrio felt that stringing a boom — a row of logs — across the lagoon’s narrow mouth might provide a decent barrier, and that hay could be used to soak up oil.
“It was a crude plan, but this was instantaneous thinking,” the sculptor said.
He approached neighbor John Armstrong, a boatbuilder with many logs on his property, and persuaded him to help with the boom’s construction.
D’Onofrio then drove down to Scowley’s, the local cafe and hangout (now site of the Kaleidoscope women’s craft collective) to enlist manpower.
“I went into Scowley’s and jumped on a counter and yelled, ‘This is what’s happened: there’s oil offshore and it’s coming this way,’” D’Onofrio recalled. “‘We need every able-bodied man, woman, and big child. Can we count on you?’ And everyone there yelled, ‘Yeah, we’ll do it!’” By the time the band of volunteers reached the beach, hundreds of residents had converged at the end of Wharf Road to help.
While many birds were lost a large number were also saved, and the actions of the volunteers were inspiring. A nearby canyon was renamed Volunteer Canyon in commemoration of their efforts. It is home now to an Audubon center, and is the nesting place for egrets and blue herons. The image shows a group of birders enjoying the canyon, whose preservation is due in part to the sense of community that resulted from the mobilization of the volunteers.
UPDATE ON THIS NEW SPILL:
On their own: In Bolinas, residents struggle to keep fragile lagoon safe. “The residents were angry that such important work was left to amateurs while an international cleanup effort is under way only a few miles away.”
This pair decided a while back to hang out on a telephone pole outside my door. The big guy liked to hold a pose for long intervals with his wings outstretched. What does that behavior signify?
The large birds are pretty graceful, but I have to say it’s a weird sensation to look out the bathroom window and see that wingspread, not to mention the bare necks and beedy eyes.
On a related note, every day lately on the way into the city we pass a very large hawk sitting on the concrete lip of the appropriately named flyway that carpools use near the bridge approach.
According to recent reports, many of the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill are moving to the suburbs — relocating to Brisbane.
Okay, I’ll admit it, I’ve been a little lazy about posting here the past few days. I’ll have more to say about the Santa Cruz boardwalk later on. For now I’ll just let this image speak for itself (I think it might be saying “Hey, buddy, where’s the fish?”). Click the photo for a larger view.