When Spanish explorers first saw the San Francisco Bay in 1769, they found a land cloaked largely in perennial grasses. But the extirpation of the native elk herds that grazed the land, the introduction of cattle, and the incursion of European annual grasses abruptly and dramatically transformed the landscape into the familiar green hillside carpets that turn into brown thickets in summer. Today’s grasslands, altered as they are, still produce some beautiful wildflowers, lots of wildlife, and if we look closely, remnants of the native bunchgrasses of yore, which can be enhanced with careful management. The parks of the East Bay hills are a good place to start looking for that mix of the grasslands of yesterday and today.
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As migrating shorebirds pass through Northern California, environmentalists hope they don’t meet the same fate as the hundreds of raptors that perish each year at Altamont Pass in Livermore. More than 40 golden eagles, up to 300 red-tailed hawks, up … Read more
How many people does it take to figure out the number of bird species that breed in Napa County? For the Napa-Solano Audubon Society (NSAS), all it took was some 70 volunteers, most of whom surveyed separate 5-kilometer plots between … Read more
Rush Ranch Open Space features the largest intact brackish tidal marsh in the San Francisco Estuary. That’s why it has been designated, along with China Camp State Park, as California’s newest and largest National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR). The NERR … Read more
A good rain sends all manner of mushrooms pushing their way up from underground. Here are some of the places around the Bay Area where you can admire the beauty and diversity of these charismatic fungi.
In technical terms, mushrooms are the charismatic sexual reproductive structures of fungal individuals whose main body (fine, cobweb-like filaments called hyphae) is well hidden in the soil or amongst leaves and rotting wood. The primary role of the mushroom is … Read more
The rounded hills by the Bay are the first thing that catch your eye at Coyote Hills Regional Park. But the brackish and freshwater marshes behind the hills have a charm of their own. Remnant of a once-extensive mix of tidal and freshwater wetlands that sustained a thriving Ohlone community for several thousand years, the marsh is now home to marsh wrens, muskrats, and one of the East Bay’s few remaining patches of tules.
A million years ago, in a climate much like ours today, the land around an ancestral bay teemed with large animals: mammoths and saber-tooth cats; bears, horses, and peccaries. By 300 years ago, the mammoths were gone, but grizzlies, elk, condor, and pronghorn were abundant.European settlers wiped out many of those animals, but programs to reintroduce some of them are now under way. Which raises the question: What should a healthy, native megafauna look like now?
To learn more about ancient megafauna and efforts to protect and restore the Bay Area’s megafauna: Megafauna Video Check out our feature article on the Bay Area’s prehistoric megafauna, and then watch KQED’s video on megafauna, part of their Quest … Read more
In the 40 years since the movement to save San Francisco Bay began, we have moved from desperately fending off more bay fill projects to proactively restoring thousands of acres of shoreline wetlands. Yet how healthy is the Bay that we are saving? What are the factors that affect the health of the Bay and what are we doing about them?