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Fruits of the Forest

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The classic image of a redwood forest is one of stately tall trees, dense shade, and lots of green. The columnar trunks of the giant trees draw our gaze up to the high canopy, but if we follow them down … Read more

In the Shadow of Giants

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The hills above Oakland once held some of the largest redwoods ever seen, one estimated at 31 feet in diameter. Ten million years ago, such trees towered over much of North America. Nothing in this long history prepared them for the coming of men, armed with axes and saws, who felled all of Oakland’s redwoods in just 15 years. But even second- and third-growth redwood forests hold their charms, not to mention the subtle suggestions of the forests they can once again become. And you don’t have to go too far from downtown Oakland to find them.

Dredging up an Avian Oasis

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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.

Saving El Palo Alto

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Imagine a landmark so prominent that anyone looking south from San Francisco or north from San Jose could spot it. Spanish missionary Padre Pedro Font wrote in his diary in March 1776: “I beheld in the distance a tree of … Read more

Cal Academy Ant Exhibit

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On May 1, the California Academy of Sciences will open its new (temporary) doors at 875 Howard Street in downtown San Francisco. As it rebuilds its Golden Gate Park location, more than 85 percent of the animals from the permanent … Read more

Mount Diablo Audubon Christmas Count Results

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The Mount Diablo Audubon Society’s 51st annual Christmas Bird Count, which took place on December 14, 2003, benefited from sunnier weather and better visibility than the previous year. About 60 volunteer bird counters spotted more than 51,000 birds representing 148 … Read more

International Migratory Bird Day 2004

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Birds will again be studied—and celebrated—at the International Migratory Bird Day festival at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, May 8, in Alviso (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). The free event will include naturalist-led bird … Read more

Grassland Heritage

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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.

Indian Paintbrush

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It turns out that some of the Bay Area’s showiest wildflowers are also parasites that draw water and nutrients from their neighbors.