A favorite food of the southern sea otter is black abalone, a marine mollusk that has historically put down roots in rocky intertidal zones from Southern Oregon to Baja. This once-abundant creature—one of seven abalone species found off California—is nearing extinction and has moved one step closer to protection under the Endangered Species Act. The […]
You reach Fred Dickson’s place by turning south off Highway 37 near Sears Point on Reclamation Road, the very name a reminder of the glory days of diking and draining. “This was nothing but a marsh at the beginning of time,” says Dickson, whose home will soon disappear under encroaching waters. He faces the prospect […]
In late spring, a thumb-size least tern chick emerges from its egg on Alameda Point. The chick’s eyes are open at birth, and it can walk soon after hatching. Its parents, who shared incubation, also take turns caring for the chick. But this chick, like the others born on this abandoned runway at the shuttered […]
Despite covering a large area that has abundant wildlife, the San Pablo Baylands offer few public access points, among them the following sites (listed roughly from east to west): Ponds 1/1a: These former salt evaporation ponds are now owned and operated by the state Department of Fish and Game. Native vegetation has begun to return […]
Two grinding rocks once used by the native Patwin people at Lynch Canyon Open Space in Solano County are perfectly situated. There are strong winds for winnowing the skin from the acorns, a small creek for flushing the bitter tannins, and plenty of flat areas for drying acorns in the sun. I imagine the Patwin […]
At first, it seemed like a rather straightforward task to put together a map for our section on the San Pablo Baylands. While no map worth its salt is ever simple, on a scale of one to ten, I was guessing maybe a three. After all, when you drive Highway 37 from Vallejo to Novato, […]
At the Moss Landing Marina halfway between Santa Cruz and Monterey, I slip into a kayak and paddle toward Elkhorn Slough, one of California’s largest tidal salt marshes. Just beyond the mouth of the slough, Monterey Canyon reaches seaward for 95 miles, plunging as deep as the Grand Canyon. Upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich waters here […]
It’s almost impossible to miss Sutro Tower, the lanky broadcast antenna that looms 977 feet above the summit of one of San Francisco’s tallest hills, itself over 900 feet tall. However, few people know that underneath that landmark sit 61 acres of open space, rich in history but until recently nearly inaccessible, with trails buried […]
Botany | Urban Nature
Across San Pablo Bay, Contra Costa County is also trying to manage growth wisely. The population here is expected to increase by 127,000 within 20 years, and housing for those newcomers will be built somewhere. The trouble is, developers are eyeing open space that’s already home to about 150 rare species, including California red-legged frogs, […]
On summer weekends, the nearly 4,000 picnic tables of the East Bay Regional Park District are packed with families from many of the Bay Area's diverse communities, returning year after year to their favorite spots, along with great blue herons hunting gophers, crows and ravens pillaging trash cans, and raccoons swiping meat right off the grill. All just part of the curious ecology of our local picnic areas.
The old adage says the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but that’s really just the beginning of the story from the tree’s point of view. The real excitement starts when animals&mdashbirds, deer, people—come along and carry the apples away, perhaps spitting out the seeds as they eat. For the tree, that’s the whole […]
The adorable river otters of Rodeo Lagoon, in the Marin Headlands, don't seem so cute and playful when they take down a brown pelican.
The Bay Institute of San Francisco Works with public agencies and nonprofits to promote wetlands restoration around San Pablo Bay, including a partnership with Dept. of Fish & Game and Sonoma County Water Agency on the use of reclaimed water for the Napa-Sonoma Marsh project. (415)506-0150 firstname.lastname@example.org www.bay.org California Department of Fish and Game Manages […]
Few craft can match a kayak for allowing you to immerse yourself in the watery universe of bay or ocean, moving silently through the world of seals, otters, dolphins, and seabirds. Two of our region's most experienced sea kayakers take us out on the water for up-close and personal encounters with some of the bountiful and charismatic marine life plying our local marine habitats.
Paddling | Wildlife
On an early map of San Pablo Bay, made in 1775, the Spanish explorer Jose Canizares wrote this phrase: “forests of the red duck.” The “forests” were the North Bay marshes, and the “red duck” was Aythya valisneria, the canvasback. The male has an off-white back, chestnut head, and—in breeding season—startling red eyes; the female […]
Along the gentle arc of the northern San Pablo Bay shoreline, one of the region's least loved highways, Highway 37, traverses one of its most fascinating landscapes. Best to be in the passenger seat, for the country you are traversing deserves far more than a stolen glance...
Defining the edge of a shifting body of water like San Francisco Bay, whose exact extent changes with every tide, every season, every storm, can be tricky business. In our region the regulators sometimes fall back on a botanical criterion. In doubtful cases the Bay can be said to begin and end with the presence […]
Botany | The Bay | Wildlife
We are somewhere west of the Napa River, nosing in a small boat along a slough between hollow islands known as Pond 2 and Pond 5, trying to grasp just how much has changed hereabouts in the last 24 months. Just as you would have three years ago, you experience only a narrow, reed-fringed channel […]
The southernmost hump of the Sears Point ridge, known locally as Cougar Mountain, looms over Highway 37. Not its height but its isolated station makes it visible from highways and byways all over the North Bay. Now its windswept slopes and the diked fields at its feet belong to the Sonoma Land Trust, forming a […]
Barbara Salzman was “hooked on nature” after taking her young son on field trips with Elizabeth Terwilliger, Marin’s legendary environmental educator. Salzman is now president of the Marin Audubon Society (MAS), which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The organization is best known for birding trips, but under Salzman’s dedicated direction, MAS has become a […]
Everybody knows about the California clapper rail, the charismatic (though elusive) endangered bird of San Francisco Bay marshes. The San Pablo Baylands shelter almost half its known population. But here the clapper shares the wetland with its smaller, quieter, and still more elusive cousin, the California black rail, Laterallus jamaicensis coturniculus. The black rail is […]
Once home to California's largest landowner, Mount Madonna near Gilroy showcases an impressive range of habitats, from redwood forests to open oak woodlands, serpentine barrens, and chaparral.
When Greg Sarris of Santa Rosa, an adopted child, learned that his paternal grandmother was a Coast Miwok, it opened the door to a whole alternative culture. He would soon begin to explore that heritage, absorb it, and work to present it to the world—not as an activist at first, but as a novelist and […]
Though they get a lot less attention than their South Bay counterparts, the ongoing restoration efforts in the North Bay, particularly along the Highway 37 corridor near San Pablo Bay, are guided by the same bold vision of bringing back large swaths of the wildlife-rich wetlands that once characterized much of the San Francisco Bay […]
Q: Do any local breeding birds mate for life? Why? [Leo, San Francisco] A: Some local birds do form long-lasting pair bonds of several different kinds. Ravens and scrub jay pairs hang out together all year, not just at breeding time. Wrentits and resident Canada geese also have long relationships that can last more than […]
Ask the Naturalist | Wildlife
On a fall day in duck hunting season, the sound of shotgun fire echoes across the Napa-Sonoma Marshes. It will continue to do so. Here as elsewhere, hunters have paid a good share of the cost of habitat protection, and they are welcome in principle on most of the region’s public wildlife lands. Ducks Unlimited, […]