Perched atop the windward western side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Russian Ridge offers spellbinding views and a grove of monumental, centuries-old oaks.
With millions of people and millions of acres of open space, the Bay Area is a lively, and sometimes uneasy, blend of wild and urban. In the East Bay, dozens of rare species — from birds along the Bay to wildflowers in the hills — survive against the odds thanks in part to the East Bay Regional Park District, whose staff does everything from creating nesting islands to clearing trees for the sake of imperiled plants and animals.
Snakes are famous for the amount of food they can stuff inside their skinny bodies. It’s common for a snake digesting a mouse or other prey to have an unsightly bulge marking the location of the meal. A snake’s lack … Read more
Most folks don’t think much of snakes unless they trip over them. It turns out that a remarkable diversity of serpents lives nearby, from beautiful red-bellied ring-necked snakes hiding under logs in damp woodlands to three- or four-foot rattlers sunning themselves on rocky slopes in Sunol Regional Wilderness. Able predators, many of our local snakes have evolved fascinating strategies for subduing their prey, whether rodents, amphibians, or even other snakes.
Ask most people to name the most important species of our grassland habitats, and they’ll probably pick coyotes, golden eagles, or even rattlesnakes. But experts say that the strongest contender of all is the animal eaten by all those other ones: the lowly California ground squirrel, a true keystone of local grasslands. Belowground, the squirrels’ lengthy burrows harbor insects, snakes, owls, and even frogs and salamanders that couldn’t live in such a dry landscape without the squirrels’ help. And above-ground, they’ve evolved some unusual defenses that allow them to thrive, even as they feed so many others.
In California, local upwelling centers power the extraordinary abundance of marine life at sites such as the Farallones, Monterey Bay, and the Channel Islands.
The East Bay hills are dotted with hundreds of ponds, many of which offer welcome habitat and shelter to native wildlife, from threatened California red-legged frogs and tiger salamanders to toxic newts, voracious water bugs, and migrating waterfowl. Just about any pond, from a verdant clear blue pool to the merest muddy puddle, has something interesting going on beneath the surface. But perhaps the most remarkable fact about these ponds is that nearly all of them were created as watering holes for livestock. Today, the East Bay Regional Park District is working to understand the complex relationships between native species, grazing cattle, and artificial ponds.
When Florence LaRiviere heard last year that 16,000 acres of Cargill’s salt ponds had been acquired for restoration, the longtime Bay advocate rejoiced. “This work will start changing the land and the waters back to what they looked like a … Read more
The baylands’ swampy smells and power lines are distasteful to many. But to Eileen McLaughlin, Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge was unknown territory to be explored. This energetic woman started volunteering at the refuge in 1998, going out to closed … Read more
Howard Shellhammer is known as the champion of a very rare mouse. A world expert on the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse, the former San Jose State biology professor has studied these diminutive rodents for over four decades, and spoken … Read more