Jul-Sep 2011

In this issue, learn why medium-size predators like raccoons and skunks are thriving right under our noses. And why harbor porpoises are coming back to the Bay, making the Golden Gate Bridge a great wildlife watching spot. And there’s never been a better time to get out on San Francisco Bay, where the new Bay Water Trail that’s taking shape all over the region. Plus find out what’s living in your favorite beach and how turret spiders can tell us about the ancient past. Cover photo by Bruce Finocchio, dreamcatcherimages.net.


Sowing the Seeds of Restoration

July 01, 2011 by Juliet Grable

Save the Bay turns 50 years old this year, and their native plant nurseries prove the organization is as vital as ever, with volunteers putting in thousands of hours growing native plant seedlings for the group’s restoration projects.

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The Middle Way

July 01, 2011 by Glen Martin

Grizzlies may be long gone and mountain lions few and far between, but many smaller predators are thriving in Bay Area wildlands and even in cities and suburbs. From plentiful raccoons and skunks to elusive badgers, midsize predators are major players in local ecosystems, so next time you hear the late-night clatter of garbage cans, give a nod to these scrappy survivors.

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A Life in Geologic Time

July 01, 2011 by David Loeb

In the 1970s, mother and peace activist Doris Sloan was working a nonprofit desk job in a basement office in San Francisco when she got into a UC Extension Sierra field class and fell in love with geology. The rest, as they say, is history. Over the subsequent three decades spent teaching, writing, and leading field trips, Sloan has done more than anyone to make the complex geology of California and the Bay Area comprehensible and fun for those of us without PhDs.

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Top Shark: This One Goes to Seven!

July 01, 2011 by Michael Ellis

The biggest shark in the Bay is the seven-gill–with two more gill slits than the average shark. Why the extras? Well, turns out they’re probably an evolutionary accident, but these are still fascinating animals–up to 10 feet long, and swimming right out there in the Bay!


And This Little Spider Stayed Home

July 01, 2011 by David Lukas

Tiny turret spiders, hiding in their silk-lined tunnels near your favorite trail, just might hold some geologic secrets in their genes. “These spiders are like rocks that don’t move,” says one researcher. Who’d have thought?


Jenner Headlands to be Run by Land Trusts

July 01, 2011 by Aleta George

When the Sonoma Land Trust acquired the Jenner Headlands, the best guess was that it would become a state park. Instead, the land trust will work with the Southern California-based Wildlands Conservancy to manage the large parcel, which includes a spot hawk watchers have staked out as a new “Hawk Hill north.”

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Living Landscape Lives Large in South Bay

July 01, 2011 by Aleta George

Even with state park closure looming, South Bay land trusts and philanthropists are thinking big with a major new initiative to protect 80,000 acres from San Benito County to San Francisco.

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Private Land, Public Access in Sonoma County

July 01, 2011 by Aleta George

Sonoma County’s 832-acre Bohemia Ranch has been eyed as a potential public park since the 1990s. With park funding hard to find, it seemed like access was a long way off until the land’s owners decided to partner with the nonprofit LandPaths to open the land to the public.

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Restoring Aramburu Island

July 01, 2011 by Aleta George

Aramburu Island sounds like it might be in the South Pacific, and until recently, it was about as noticed locally as some distant atoll. But then in 2007, in the wake of an oil spill, folks from Tiburon Audubon discovered that this humble island in Richardson Bay was a major refuge for injured birds. Now, they’re hoping to make it good habitat for healthy birds and other wildlife too.

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Watch Out for Invading Sea Lavender

July 01, 2011 by Aleta George

Advocates for native plants and wetlands say now is the time to worry about Algerian sea lavender, an invasive plant that barely has a toehold at the moment. If it spreads, it could become a major problem. But for now, it’s a test case for the Bay Area Early Detection Network, which aims to help eradicate invasives before they become intractable.

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From Mild to Wild

July 01, 2011 by Andrea Pflaumer

A regional effort to create a regional Bay Water Trail is bearing fruit with new funding for an integrated program of boat launches, education programs, and more. It’s time to get out on San Francisco Bay!

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Hidden Life in the Sand

July 01, 2011 by Sue Rosenthal

It turns out the sand at your local beach is not as simple as it seems–it’s full of little creatures. From sand crabs and beach hoppers to tiny water bears, there really is a world in a grain of sand, or at least between the grains of sand.


Jail Birds

July 01, 2011 by John Muir Laws

Alcatraz ranks right up there with riding the cable cars for most locals, but it turns out the island is a great place for watching birds! Jack hops on the ferry and chronicles the nesting behavior of snowy egrets, pigeon guillemots, Brandt’s cormorants, and western gulls.

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Letter From the Publisher

July 01, 2011 by David Loeb

There’s nothing like getting out on the Bay at water level. And now that harbor porpoises are again venturing daily inside the Golden Gate, there’s never been a better time to grab a paddle and hit the water–or at least let Bay Nature take you there in your mind’s eye!

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Safe Harbor

July 01, 2011 by William Keener

When William Keener got a report of a harbor porpoise inside San Francisco Bay in 2008, he knew this was big news: They had been absent since World War II. Now, Keener’s group of researchers has turned the Golden Gate Bridge into a world-class wildlife observatory where anyone can see porpoises in action. Why have they returned? Did Bay cleanup efforts make the difference? While we can’t know for sure, we can celebrate this rare case of a large mammal reintroducing itself into its former habitat.