Q: A group of families goes out every year, catching up to 300 crawdads for a big feast, releasing those with eggs. We often wonder if we’re depleting the supply. How long do they live? Are they native to the Bay Area? [Sam, Vallejo] A: Well, Sam, I am here to tell you go right […]
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.
The Bay | Wildlife
About 15 years ago, I took a solo backpack trip in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness near Ebbets Pass in the Sierra. On the first morning, camped beside a small lake, I was awakened—much too early!—by the sound of moos and bells, and emerged from my tent to find dozens of cows in and around the lake. […]
Farming and Ranching | Wildlife
Perched 600 feet above San Francisco Bay, Ring Mountain has spectacular views of the surrounding ridgelines, Bay, and urban areas. But you can also find much deeper views into the earth preserved in the remarkable rocks strewn about this wild and open landscape.
Botany | Geology
Usually around late April, following spring storms, Northern California beaches are littered with something that looks like gobs of purple-tinted slimy cellophane.
On an overcast day this winter, seven of us met for a bike ride through Richmond on the Bay Trail. We rode along Cerritos Creek, under two busy freeways, and out to the shoreline. At Point Isabel Regional Shoreline, we were greeted by a vista that runs from the Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline […]
By a quiet picnic area in the Presidio, water gurgles out of the hillside, spills over brick walls, and disappears underground on its way north to Crissy Field and the Bay. This is El Polin Springs, celebrated by the Ohlone and the Spanish for bringing fertility to anyone who drank of it. Ambitious plans to uncover the watershed's stream channels are peeling back interwoven layers of human and natural history to reveal a complete urban watershed.
Walnut grower Craig McNamara often gets asked about his father, Robert McNamara, former U.S. secretary of defense (1961—68) and World Bank president (1968—81). But the younger McNamara lives far removed from the halls of power in Washington: Since buying his Solano County farm on Putah Creek in 1980, he’s had his hands full with 26 […]
Farming and Ranching
Would you believe a twig is watching you? That some leaves can walk? And that if you brush against a piece of bark, it just might fly away? Insects play “April Fools'” tricks on their would-be predators all the time, hiding from these enemies by either resembling something living and dangerous (mimicry) or looking like […]
Two hundred years ago, the captain of a 280-ton whaling vessel reported seeing a bounty of fur seals on the Farallon Islands, 28 miles west of San Francisco. Subsequently, the captain and a small group of Boston-based whalers returned to slaughter an estimated 150,000 fur seals between 1810 and 1813. The seals were highly coveted […]
The newly fledged Forrest Deaner Native Plant Garden in the Benicia State Recreation Area has the distinction of being the second public garden in the Bay Area to focus exclusively on California native plants (the first is the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park). This 3.5-acre garden looks out over Southampton Bay, a quiet […]
Archive | Botany | Gardening
No matter where you live in the Bay Area, you’ve likely noticed the sinewy, graceful forms of great blue herons and great and snowy egrets. These sylphlike birds are mostly solitary, whether flying overhead or braced in stillness for the hunt. But during the springtime breeding season, they congregate in noisy colonies to nest and […]
It’s no longer a secret to readers of this magazine that native plant gardens can look as beautiful as those stocked with showy exotics, while at the same time providing habitat for native insects and birds and conserving water and healthy soil. To see native plant gardens in bloom, and get some ideas for your […]
Botany | Gardening
From November to February this past winter, biologists scoured lower Russian River tributaries in search of spawning coho salmon. The fish they were hoping to find were no ordinary salmon, but the hatchery-spawned offspring of wild salmon. The survivors from the first batch of hatchery-born salmon released into Russian River tributaries in 2004 headed out […]
The Ocean | Wildlife