Kelly and I had a wonderful Valentine's weekend at the Gatehouse Inn, a lovely Victorian bed and breakfast in Pacific Grove. We spent our daylight hours walking along the coast, visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, picnicing at the mouth of the Carmel River, and yes, doing a little bit of birding... We saw most of the expected coastline birds you could expect to find without much effort: Common Loon, Pelagic, Brandt's and Double-crested Cormorant, Black Oysteratcher, Black Turnstone, Mew Gull and smartly-dressed Heerman's Gulls. While we failed to find the Zone-tailed Hawk at the Carmel Middle School, we did find Western Bluebird, Western Meadowlark, Orange-crowned Warbler and our first Allen's Hummingbirds of the spring.


On my daily lunch hour walk, I passed by the pepper tree along San Francisquito Creek I mentioned a few days ago. I decided to turn around and get another look at the holes I had seen the Red-breasted Sapsucker making before. Sometime I must get a photograph of these holes. There are perhaps 100 holes, maybe more, all in neat rows around various parts of the tree's trunk. They're about the diameter of a pencil, maybe less, and the Sapsucker creates each hole carefully to bleed the tree of its sweet sap and attract insects which it then eats. It also enjoys the sap of course. Anyway, as I admired the workmanship of the holes I noticed that the Sapsucker himself was perched right there, frozen and silent, waiting for me to move away. I hadn't even noticed him at first because I was only looking at the holes. I never expected to find their creator there. I decided to move on without investigating the holes any more. I'm sure he wanted to get back to work.


The California Spotted Owl has lost its "endangered" status, and has been downgraded to the unprotected station of "sensitive". This is a bitter-sweet situation. The three subspecies of Spotted Owl: Northern, California and Mexican have never been common and any suggestion that they are on the increase is good news indeed. It's what we've all been hoping for. But this change does not mean they are not out of danger. The birds in California are of special concern, especially in areas where logging is prevelent and there are a lot of negative feelings originating from the logging industry toward the bird responsible for shutting down these profitable areas. Many loggers blame the Owl for their lost jobs... The loss of the federally protected status of "endangered" means the species is no longer protected by the threat of heavy fines for those who would harm the bird or harvest the old growth trees the species depends on. The downgrade was immediately met with resistance from environmental groups, which view the decision as not only a blow to the species but forest conservation as well. More details can be found at: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/uniontrib/tue/news/news_1n11owl.html


The following letter was drafted by the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society as part of an emergency conservation effort and addresses recent plans to "enhance" the trail beside Stevens Creek. If you recall, our class visited a portion of this area at the start of both Fall and Winter terms. The work that is proposed calls for the removal of 74 mature trees and large amounts of creekside vegetation. If it proceeds as planned, this work will involve serious disruption to the already fragile community of 170 animal species (some of which are endangered) that make this area their home. The letter does not call for a stop to plans, but a reconsideration of how the work will be carried out. Please consider sending a copy of this letter to each of the following Mountain View Council members and be sure to include your address if you live in Mountain View:

Sally Lieber
Ralph Faravelli
Matt Neely
Micheal Kasperzak
Mary Lou Zoglin
Greg Perry
Rosemary Stasek
Matt Pear
Nick Galiotto

Please send your letters to:

Mountain View City Council
500 Castro Street
P.O. Box 7540
Mountain View

Dear Council Member (fill in name),

I am very concerned about the extensive damage to the fish and wildlife habitat that is described in the draft EIR for Stevens Creek trail reach 4 segment 2, which is planned from Yuba Drive to Mountain View High School. The removal of mature trees and creekside vegetation, along with bank reinforcing and the transportation and operation of construction equipment along the creek will severely degrade the habitat for threatened steelhead trout and other wildlife.

According to the "Stevens Creek Trail and Wildlife Corridor Feasibility Report" published by Mountain View in 1991, "The habitat along Stevens Creek is recognized by the California Department of Fish and Game as a threatened resource." "Enhancement and protection of the creek corridor is important to the survival of native plant and animal communities." "Preservation and enhancement of these natural resources should be a goal of all future projects along the creek corridor."

Stevens Creek provides Mountain View's only major riparian habitat for wildlife. It should be protected and restored, rather than seriously damaged. The trail should be routed in such a way that it is not necessary to remove mature trees or creekside vegetation, and so the reinforcing creek banks and operation construction equipment in the creek bed are not needed.

Please adopt plans that will protect this remaining remnant of Mountain View's natural heritage. Thank you for considering my concerns. I look forward to hearing back from you on this matter.

Sincerely, (your name)

Thank you in advance for helping prevent the destruction of this dwindling habitat. If you know of anyone else who might be interested in this issue, whether they be Mountain View residents or not, please ask them to help with the effort by forwarding them the link to my News section.


A Tropical Kingbird continues in Colma, along the west side of Cypress Lawn Cemetery along El Camino Real. It was reported on the January 26 [and continues to be seen through the first week of February] from the large row of trees between El Camino Real and the cemetery. This Mexican to South American Flycatcher has a bizarre pattern of dispersing northward after breeding far to the south. It is seen each winter in our area (generally along the coast), but is always newsworthy. I haven't gone to see this individual myself yet, but I wanted to make the news availbable to those who would like to pursue it.

Somewhat outside of the normal scope of this class, there is a remarkable rarity in Monteray County, specifically Carmel. A Zone-tailed Hawk has been seen on a somewhat regular basis for a week now. The Monteray Bay Birds (MBB) listserv has been posting updates on the wherabouts of the bird. Information can also be found by calling the Northern California BirdBox at 415-681-7422. It seems the bird is spending much of its time over the Carmel Middle School but was also seen flying east up the Valley. It was also seen about one half mile east of the Laureles Grade intersection with Carmel Valley Road. Again, I have not gone after this bird, but others may wish to. Primarily a bird of the Southwestern states, it often escapes detection because of its uncanny resemblance to the familiar Turkey Vulture.

Definately of local interest is an apparent Peregrine Falcon nest at the Palo Alto Baylands. Several birders report a Peregrine Falcon sitting on an old Raven nest on the PG&E tower across the water from the sailing station. The pair of falcons have been together in this area for a few days, according to one SBB member. One bird was sitting on the nest, turning around and checking it out, and the other one was perched a few feet from the nest.

On a scouting trip for an upcoming visit to Ogier Ponds in Morgan Hill, Kelly and I were able to find two species not yet seen this term, Osprey and Common Merganser. We also flushed an American Bittern and got brief looks at a Merlin.


There's more upsetting news regarding George Bush's thoughts on the environment in the news this week. The treat has existed for several months now, but a recent report about his administration's proposal to loosen restrictions on logging in the Sierra woodlands can be found at: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/02/04/MN205884.DTL This link is comes to me form my friend, Brian Christman. As always, I recommend people write our president directly about their feelings regarding this issue, or any at: president@whitehouse.gov

On a happier note, I saw an adult Peregrine Falcon fly overhead as I walked on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto this afternoon. It appeared to be carrying something in its talons, but without my binoculars I could not tell what it was for sure. Coincidentally, Kelly's 3rd Grade class attended a presentation about Peregrine Falcons today at Meyerholz School in Cupertino. The kids got to see an actual Pergrine Falcon up close and hear about the conservation efforts that brought the species back from the brink of extinction.


Larry Tunstall, who I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet, posted the following news item on East Bay Birds listserv (EBB). I wanted to make it available to class members in case any feel, as I do, that we should not continue to develop the Bay front. I believe we should concentrate on preserving, or as in this case, reclaiming lost habitat for birds and other wildlife. Please do what you can to help, whether that be writing letters or voting for canditates who maintain that conservation of our natural resources is a priority.

"For eight years, the Navy's lack of progress on cleaning up contaminants at the former Alameda Naval Air Station has postponed the creation of a National Wildlife Refuge there to protect the nesting sites of the endangered California Least Tern. Now it appears that a new law may allow the Navy instead to transfer the land to a group with ties to developers, mining and oil companies, etc. The Golden Gate Audubon Society is requesting that you write some letters to support the planned wildlife refuge." Thank you Larry for alerting us of this situation. For more information visit: http://www.goldengateaudubon.org/Conservation/actionalerts/alert2003-01.htm

On a different subject, the Sage Grouse conservation efforts seem to have suffered a setback. Recent disturbing news can be found at: http://www.mammothtimes.com/times2003/SageGrouse01-09.htm Kelly and I hope to make our first attempt at locating this species in California in early spring. The bird has declined in recent decades for many reasons and this news cannot be good for its chances of survival in the future. I can't think of a single reason why relaxing conservation efforts would be helpful.


Our class outing to Arastradero was sombre. The gray clouds and brief episodes of drizzle seemed to reflect the sadness we all felt after the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and it's crew of seven astronauts in the skies over eastern Texas this morning. Rick Husband (father of two), William McCool (father of 3), Mike Anderson (Navy surgeon), Kalpana Chawla (born and educated in India), David Brown (on his first space flight), Laurel Clark (mother of one on her first space flight), and as if to punctuate recent struggles in the Middle East, Israel's first space traveller, Ilan Ramon (father of four), were all lost. Our group shared a moment of silence and then continued with our walk. I like to think that walking together and finding life around us helps us deal with sad events like today's, perhaps you agree.