In this issue, we introduce you to the secretive mountain lions that live in the Bay Area, to the past and present ecology of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and some of the possibilities for its future, to western pond turtles (the only native turtles on the Pacific Coast of North America), to the ruggedly beautiful Palisades of Napa County, and to an extinct plant that was rediscovered living alongside a busy San Francisco freeway.
Cover image by John Grow/Cheryl Gray-SLP Photography, slpstudios.com, for Felidae Conservation Fund.
This issue features the secretive mountain lions of the Bay Area, the ecology of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and the west coast’s only native turtle.
About the only thing people agree on about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta–the subject of countless white papers, editorials, and political debates–is that it’s in a heap of trouble. But this 1,000-square-mile patchwork of islands, sloughs, wetlands, and farmlands is also a rich and complex–if highly altered–ecosystem at the core of the San Francisco Estuary. Here […]
This map covers the entire Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, showing protected areas, water conveyance systems, subsided areas (below sea level), and water salinity gradient.
Mending the Broken Heart of California
About the only thing people agree on about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta--the subject of countless white papers, editorials, and political debates--is that it's in a heap of trouble. But this 1,000-square-mile patchwork of islands, sloughs, wetlands, and farmlands is also a rich and complex--if highly altered--ecosystem at the core of the San Francisco Estuary. Here we take a look behind today's news to understand what the Delta once was, how it has been changed, and what it might become . . . with a lot of help from its friends.
History | Stewardship
Scenes of Transition
Superhighways stay out of the Delta, mostly. But if you have ever driven on Interstate 5 south of Stockton, you have just grazed one of the southernmost Delta islands, Stewart Tract. Filling the angle between the San Joaquin River and Paradise Cut, one of that river's lesser branches, it is also at the intersection of two specifically South Delta concerns: urbanization and flood control.
Imagine raising your kids on a precarious bunch of sticks on a tree branch. Some birds had the same thought: Yikes! These cavity-nesters take shelter by excavating nest holes in trees, or by using existing holes--in trees, cliffs, buildings, bridges, tractors...
Scenes of Transition
The Delta’s westernmost island, which shields major water-export pumps from incoming saltwater, is a testing ground for several efforts to prepare this fragile region for the threats of sea level rise and levee degradation.
Next time you sneeze, think of it as an homage to pollen, the key to the reproduction of plants all over the world. Look a little closer, and this stuff turns out to be well worth a few sneezes now and then!
A construction site along one of San Francisco’s busiest thoroughfares hardly seems like a good spot to find one of our region’s rarest plants. But that’s just where a passing biologist saw a manzanita thought extinct for decades. And now a whole lot of people are trying to make sure this lone survivor isn’t the last Franciscan manzanita.
On June 7, butterfly lovers in San Francisco will be out taking a count, and you can help.
Urban Nature | Wildlife
Native plant advocates charge that the studies done for the proposed casino at Richmond’s Point Molate ignore the site’s rare collection of native grasses.
A Wild Life on the Urban Edge
Odds are you'll never see a puma. But if you spend enough time outside in local open space, there's a good chance a puma will see you. We know surprisingly little about how these secretive top predators persist alongside millions of people in the Bay Area, but they're certainly here. And learning more will help us figure out how to better accommodate this icon of wildness in our midst.
The Bay Area has dozens of great open space agencies. Two decades ago, during a down economy, they got together to create an Open Space Council. It turned out to be a very good idea indeed.
All over the Bay Area in spring, native plant gardeners throw open their yards during several public tours. Chances are, there are some great gardens right near you.
Trekking Above the Napa Valley
Napa's Palisades are rugged, beautiful, and about as wild as it gets in the Bay Area. And with the wildflowers in bloom, spring is high season for a great hike above the vineyards.
Botany | Geology
Telling the story of the Delta, beyond farmers vs. fish.
In spring, not every hummingbird you see in the Bay Area is the same. But they’re all gorgeous. Jack helps us tell the difference between the Allen’s, the rufous, and the Anna’s.
Q: I recently saw a video of a cloud of birds moving in wild patterns. Then I saw shorebirds doing the same thing. Why do birds do this–other than because they can? [Michael, El Cerrito] A: There are several kinds of bird flocks–huge numbers of geese taking off and landing, V-shaped formations of pelicans, mass […]
Ask the Naturalist | Wildlife
Make Way for the Western Pond Turtle
The Pacific Coast of North America has only one species of native turtle: the western pond turtle. Just 80 years ago, a naturalist found more than 100 of these creatures thriving along an unremarkable stretch of a local creek. Today, a similar survey turns up a fraction of that, as natives compete with plentiful escaped pet turtles and other exotics. But a new conservation plan could tip that balance, and public awareness, back in the western pond turtle's favor.
Are you interested in learning more about the Delta or in exploring it further? Here's an extensive--but by no means complete--listing of resources on the Delta's ecosystem, recreational opportunities in the Delta, organizations that are working to restore and protect it, and the political processes that are shaping its future.
Archive | History
Scenes of Transition
This flooded island has become a surprising refuge for endangered Delta smelt, which have ended up living here full time, much to the surprise of biologists. But an invading exotic plant threatens that success, unless land managers can make some changes to tilt the game back in the smelt’s favor.