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Jul-Sep 2009

Our summer 2009 issue features some of our area’s lesser-known habitats and creatures. From the vantage points of kite-mounted cameras and field microscopes, two researchers study and record beautiful images of the diversity of life in a ditch at the South Bay salt ponds. In this issue we also discover by kayak the less-visited middle reach of the Russian River and learn some of the secrets of bats, tarweeds, and the tiny gall wasps that inhabit the ecosystem created by an oak tree. Cover image by Stephen Joseph, stephenjosephphoto.com.


When the Mole Whacks Back

July 01, 2009 by John Muir Laws

Find out how a little worm ties together the lives, and deaths, of several ocean animals, from sea otters to surf scoters to the mole crabs that live in great numbers in the sands of many beaches.

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Call of the Galls

July 01, 2009 by Ron Russo

Standing sentinel near the highest point in the East Bay Regional Park District, an ancient blue oak is our window into a spectrum of life in the orbit of one grand tree. From passing raptors and nesting acorn woodpeckers and browsing deer, we zoom in to the strange and colorful world of the gall wasps. These tiny insects are first-rate engineers, manipulating their host trees into creating peculiar shelters for the wasps’ larvae, in often-fanciful shapes reminiscent of sea urchins, dunce caps, and more.


Counting Gulls, with Protective Gear

July 01, 2009 by Aleta George

Clad in bike helmets and ratty clothes, staff and volunteers with the San Francisco Bird Observatory brave the South Bay’s raucous seagull nesting colonies, where the explosion of breeding gulls threatens to push aside less aggressive species.

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Exotic Jellies in the Bay

July 01, 2009 by Aleta George

On a hot July afternoon last year, UC Davis graduate students Alpa Wintzer and Mariah Meek dipped glass jars and nets into Suisun Slough at Suisun City’s public dock in Solano County. They were capturing small gelatinous creatures that look and act like jellyfish. These jelly look-alikes seemed to be everywhere and are beautiful to watch. But they’re also a problem…

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New Home for the Marine Mammal Center

July 01, 2009 by Aleta George

The Marine Mammal Center, one of the foremost wildlife rescue organizations on the West Coast, has a new home where you can see a lot more of what the center’s staff and volunteers do to care for and study injured and ill seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals.

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Remembering Brian O’Neill

July 01, 2009 by Aleta George

In May 2009, the Bay Area–and the nation–lost one of its most eloquent and effective advocates for open space preservation and access. Brian O’Neill, superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) since 1986, died of complications from heart surgery…

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Seeking Creeks, Confronting Sea Level Rise

July 01, 2009 by Aleta George

Kids take the Creek Seeker Express to Martinez to learn about the creeks that run through our neighborhoods, while a new juried exhibit shows off designers’ ideas for confronting sea level rise.

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Hard Time to Be an Oak

July 01, 2009 by Daniel McGlynn

About one-eighth of California’s land area is covered in oak woodlands. Despite that vast acreage, it’s hard to be an oak in California. Threats to oak survival include the effects of fire management, increased pressure from booming rodent and deer populations, disease, drought, competition from exotic plants, and the largest threat of all, development…

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Letter from the Publisher

July 01, 2009 by David Loeb

If you’ve ever hiked Sweeney Ridge, or biked the Marin Headlands, or birdwatched at Fort Funston, or been seduced by wildflowers at Mori Point, Brian O’Neill has touched your life. And he will continue to touch it, even though the long-time superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) passed away on May 13, […]

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Morning Orchestrations, Putah Creek

July 01, 2009 by Rachel Dilworth

I think the mantis must taste like a high Aas it scalds through an alto sax: tangy, wounding, green.The tamarisk branch sounds her with a single breath. The wasp gall, speckled as a festive egg, andfuchsia stars full of midge that bloom like urchins,unexpectedly, on the underside of leaves are more the work of a […]

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Out at the Weep

July 01, 2009 by Bay Nature

Using kite-mounted cameras and field microscopes, an architecture professor and a retired microbiologist have uncovered surprising diversity in an unassuming ditch next to a railroad grade that cuts across the South Bay salt ponds near Alviso. From vivid oranges laced with bird tracks to bright greens bubbling with oxygen exhaled by cyanobacteria, there’s complexity and wonder waiting at the Weep, from several hundred feet in the air down to the microscopic level.

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Return to Devil’s Gulch

July 01, 2009 by Darla Hillard

Memories of the 1930s in what is now Samuel P. Taylor State Park.

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The Longest Haul of Them All

July 01, 2009 by Michael Ellis

Which bird that migrates to or through the Bay Area travels the farthest to get here from its breeding grounds?

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A Night Out with the Bats

July 01, 2009 by Cat Taylor

Spend a night out as a bat and you’ll be amazed by these critters’ abilities to “see” in the dark and fly nimbly as they catch fast-flying bugs.

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The Scent of Summer

July 01, 2009 by Judith Larner Lowry

Wake up and smell the tarweeds, the scent of summer.

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Turning Back the Plastic Tide

July 01, 2009 by Sue Rosenthal

An innovative program uses albatrosses as “winged ambassadors” to help middle school students learn about the distant consequences of plastics that end up in our ocean.

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Around the Bend

July 01, 2009 by Sarah Sweedler

Put your boat or raft in the river above Healdsburg and follow a wild, green thread flowing through an altered landscape.

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Bay Nature