A few days ago, I stepped out into my backyard that borders a small perennial creek in north Berkeley. Noise and commotion in the branches of the live oaks and bays overhead caught my attention. First I noticed a chickadee stopping momentarily on a small branch above my head. Then another. Then there was a ruby-crowned kinglet, identifiable by its nonstop motion, plump breast, and short needlelike beak. Then I caught sight of my favorite member of these wintertime mixed-species troupes of songbirds, the Townsend’s warbler. With its irrationally bold, bright plumage of yellow, olive, black, and gray, this bird belies our notion of the drabness of nature in winter.
As I tried to find the Townsend’s again in the maze of branches, another small bird flew down toward the bottom of one of the oak trees and started working its way up the trunk. It was a brown creeper, not uncommon in oak woodlands, but only the second I’d seen in my yard in 22 years, so the sighting was unexpected and, hence, delightful.
The brown creeper is easy to identify, not so much by its rather plain field markings, but by its habit of dropping down to the base of a tree branch or trunk and then making its way up, gleaning small insects and grubs from the bark before dropping diagonally to a nearby trunk and repeating the process again and again. Sort of like producing a magazine: We work our way methodically through the articles for one issue, then start all over on the next.
With this issue, we have worked our way up the trunk 41 times, gleaning a decade’s worth of stories about common and uncommon moments and epiphanies brought to us by the surrounding landscape, in our own backyards and farther afield, but always close to home.
These 10 years of gleaning stories for Bay Nature have held more than their share of surprises for me–from the gray whales in the Bay we covered in 2003 to the dedicated activists and adventurers we encountered in our 2006 special section on access to nature for disabled people; from the epic landscape-level saga of the South Bay salt ponds restoration to the miniature marvels of our native bees. Through these stories and so many others, we’ve succeeded in nurturing a deeper connection to local landscapes and to the people working to protect them.
When Malcolm Margolin and I decided to launch Bay Nature 10 years ago, it was not a given that we’d find the audience to keep us going for one year, let alone 10. So I want to thank you, our readers, for giving us the opportunity to keep gleaning great stories while encountering wonderful writers, photographers, and artists to help us tell them.
By way of thanks, we offer this special anniversary issue, in which we’ve hunted for stories up a different tree than usual. We’ve replaced our regular “On the Trail” articles with original essays and poems by some exceptional Bay Area writers reflecting on particular places with special resonance for them. And we have one more anniversary treat for you: Our 10th Anniversary Gala at the Lakeside Theater on January 22 will be a lively celebration of the creativity inspired by Bay Area nature (see baynature.org/gala).
Ten years on, we still haven’t run out of stories to tell or our passion for sharing them with you. I hope you’re as ready for another decade as we are.
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Veteran environmental activist, writer, editor, publisher, educator, and coastal wetlands scientist Phyllis Faber has made countless contributions to the Bay Area environmental movement.