Our summer issue, our longest ever, includes a special section celebrating the 50th anniversary of Point Reyes National Seashore. In it, some of our favorite writers share intimate portraits of the signature habitats of this signature park. Also featured in this issue are the Napa River’s ecological history, Sonoma’s new Bohemia Preserve, and the prescribed-burn approach to fire management in an East Bay Regional Park. Other stories focus on cuckoo wasps, nature geometry for kids, a beach plastic monitoring program, and more.
Cover photo by Todd Pickering, toddpickering.com.
Our summer issue, our longest ever, includes a special section celebrating the 50th anniversary of Point Reyes National Seashore.
A cuckoo wasp is one of those remarkable animals that appears for just a few seconds and makes you wonder what the heck you just saw. Fast-moving and no larger than a skinny housefly, these wasps stand out nonetheless: They glow an outrageous iridescent blue-green, as if illuminated from within.
The Outer Coast
You always know essentially where to find it: just aim yourself toward the western horizon, and go. At the road's end, the trail's end, the far end of that last dune-trudge or bluff-scramble, it's there: a great conjunction of land, sky, and sea. North America meets Pacific Ocean.
The latest on a long-running debate over a possible expansion of the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area into a valley near Livermore.
Bishop Pine Forest
When I started visiting Point Reyes in the 1970s, the landscape from Limantour Beach up to the crest of Inverness Ridge had a special appeal. I had spent my early childhood in the New England countryside in the 1940s, so vestiges of the pre-Seashore ranching days made me nostalgic--homestead sites, dammed lakes, fence lines, timothy hay growing in old fields. On the other hand, watching the wild ecosystem come back, with its brush rabbits, jackrabbits, quail, hawks, and bobcats, was endlessly fascinating.
Hungry river otters are popping up around the Bay Area in places where they haven't been seen in a while. Have fun watching them, but guard your chickens!
Recent dune restoration at the southwestern edge of the Presidio has worked wonders for native plants.
The looming bulk of Mount Hamilton is a familiar sight to anyone driving Highway 101 through the Santa Clara Valley. At 4,196 feet, it's the tallest peak visible from the shores of San Francisco Bay. This is the most expansive wild landscape in the Bay Area: roughly 700,000 acres of public parks, university and conservancy reserves, and private ranches. Now it's also become a living laboratory for studying the affects of climate change.
Climate | Stewardship
Meet the ambassadors of grasslands — among the few birds you’ll meet that live in holes in the ground. As Jack Laws shows, they’re charming as all get out. Like this article?There’s lots more where this came from…Subscribe to Bay Nature magazine
Two local botanists are at work on a multi-year project to create the first-ever Solano County flora -- a record of all the native plants that grow there.
Botany | Stewardship
Tomales Point Grasslands
Three days after the Indian--I'll call him Fidel--avenged the assault on his wife and slayed the young rancher who'd committed the horrible deed, the posse of vigilantes pursuing him found him, not near the small settlement of Marshall, but across Tomales Bay on a ridge; and not in a thicket of coyote bush and low-growing fir where he might've hidden, but in the middle of an open grassland.
Botany | History
After years of discussion, agitation, and debate, a final deal is in the works to make a permanent Alameda Wildlife Refuge for the endangered California least terns that nest on a former naval base.
Looking for wildflowers and a view? Milagra Ridge delivers. Located off of Skyline in Pacifica, Milagra Ridge offers a sanctuary for many native species.
Walk any Bay Area trail and your kids might marvel at the views, the wildlife, or the gurgling of a creek--but the variety of geometrical shapes? That takes a junior nerd or somebody interested in making abstract classroom ideas concrete.
Sonoma County’s People-Powered Park
A remarkable Sonoma County landscape is finally preserved, protecting redwoods, Sargent cypress, serpentine grasslands, and a beloved waterfall.
Recreation | Stewardship
Every day, east of Highway 24's Caldecott Tunnel, thousands of commuters hurtle--or crawl--past a fine swath of the East Bay's glorious greenbelt, where just off the highway, the north trailhead of Sibley Volcanic Preserve invites exploration.
Maybe you take the bus to work or abandon the gas pedal on Bike to Work Day, but how do you know whether you and your neighbors are making a difference in your community?
Climate | Stewardship
Shrublands of Point Reyes
The shrublands of the Point Reyes National Seashore, which include the northern coastal scrub and maritime chaparral, hooked me long ago with their vibrant charms. Found on slopes within the influence of the sea, they hug the land as tightly as a knitted sweater, shrugging off the challenges of wind, salt spray, and fog.
Point Reyes for millennia provided rich habitat to a diversity of plant and animal species. Its discovery and settlement by Europeans and then Americans altered the landscape, but not irretrievably. And thanks to some determined visionaries, the peninsula and its habitats were protected 50 years ago.
Recreation | Stewardship
Historical Ecology of the Napa Valley
There's a lot more to the Napa Valley than wineries and fancy food. Look closely and the landscape reveals clues to a past full of greater ecological complexity, from beaver ponds to vast freshwater marshes. New research into that history may point the way to a more biodiverse future.
History | Water
Looking for Marine Debris on Local Beaches
It's early on a weekday morning, and Chris Pincetich is sifting through a small pile of debris on Stinson Beach. He's at the high-water mark, called the wrack line. That's where buoyant ocean flotsam gets stuck as the tide goes out. As we walk along, he stops and points out how plastic strapping looks a lot like weathered eelgrass. Pincetich isn't your ordinary beachcomber. He's a scientist trying to compile a local data set for a global problem: marine plastic pollution.
Stewardship | The Bay
Part of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, this preserve features 13 miles of trails on 2,035 acres along the upper west side of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Dawn. Spring tide. Fog shrouds the estuary. A shore-cast tree trunk--contorted, branching skyward--rests in the shallows. On its twisted branches roost a half-dozen cormorants, some with wings outstretched or akimbo, others standing upright, necks coiled into graceful question marks. That congregation, silhouetted by the morning light, suspended on the rising tide between the pewter sky and the mercurial bay, conjures a prehistoric diorama, a world awaiting sunlight parables.
The Ocean | Wildlife
As we prepared this article in April 2012, we were saddened to learn that environmental pioneer Ernest Callenbach passed away at home in Berkeley with his family at his side. We’re honored to publish this interview with the author of “Ecoptia” and other seminal books.
Wildland Fire in the East Bay Hills
The 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm left no doubt that big fires happen in the East Bay. Now, the East Bay Regional Park District is fighting fire with fire at Redwood Regional Park, one part of a massive effort to reduce fire danger across thousands of acres in the East Bay Hills.
Stewardship | Urban Nature
We mark Point Reyes National Seashore’s 50th anniversary by looking at the peninsula’s signature habitats through the eyes of five noted authors: Introduction and estero by Jules Evens, outer coast by Claire Peaslee, bishop pine forest by David Rains Wallace, shrublands by Judith Lowry, and grasslands by Greg Sarris.
Point Reyes, the spectacular park that turns 50 this year, is also the reason I decided to stay in the Bay Area after coming for a visit decades ago.