Bill O’Brien

Bill O'Brien is an Oakland-based freelance writer whose muddy footprints can be found on the trails of the East Bay parks and beyond. His last story for Bay Nature was "Ubiquitous Eucalyptus" in the July-September 2005 issue.

Ubiquitous Eucalyptus


Some folks love their scent and shade; others resent them for crowding out natives; most of us know they came from Australia and found a niche here. But few know that the East Bay’s eucalypts owe their presence to one entrepreneur who thought the trees would make him rich. They didn’t, but now, love them or hate them, the trees are here to stay. Fortunately, some animals have profited from Mr. Havens’s mistake.

On the Beaten Path


Trails are the main way we access most of the Bay Area’s diverse and abundant open space. Despite that, it’s easy to forget that trails have to be planned and built by someone. However, for the East Bay Regional Park District, which has over 1,000 miles of trails, this is a full-time job. At places like the newly-opened Brushy Peak Regional Preserve, trail planners must balance people’s desire for access with the needs of native plants and animals.

Dredging up an Avian Oasis


What do you get when you scoop up 250,000 cubic yards of muck from the Petaluma River? Prime shorebird habitat, of course. Unlikely as it may seem, Shollenberger Park is a place where birders have spotted 150 bird species, from nesting avocets and stilts to harriers and egrets. And a new addition to the park will make it one of the largest publicly accessible stretches of wetlands in the Bay Area.