The California North Coast Chapter of The Wildlife Society
Winter 2004 Volume 8, Number 1
You have found it!!! Our new electronic version of the California North Coast Chapter – TWS newsletter “The Marten.” This is one of our small attempts to reduce waste and keep you our membership updated. Hopefully everyone has had a chance to look at the updated webpage. Many thanks to those involved in getting it up and running.November has come and gone and we as wildlife professionals are faced with many obstacles. I have seen many a slumped shoulder and heard many a deep sigh. I have also felt the confirmation of commitment from many of you for our wildlife resources. Now, more than ever, our voices must be united and heard.
The first step is getting involved. Sometimes at what level is difficult to determine. I believe the small efforts (volunteering for a day, presenting an idea) can be just as beneficial to the larger efforts (organizing a conservation committee or workshop).
The next step is communication and coordination with other wildlife organizations (SNVB, Audubon) including our own (western section, national). In force, I believe we can hold our ground.
In short, if you are upset about how things have turned out, get involved. And for those of you who toe the line, keep it up, your efforts are valued more than ever.
Hope to see all of you at the mixer, one of our meetings or at a workshop. Happy Holidays!!!
Crested Caracara shows up in Humboldt!!!!
On the fourth of September longtime Humboldt birder/ornithologist Ron LeValley was giving a ride to his son who works in Eureka. It was a normal day as Ron was driving south on 101 towards Eureka when he looked out towards Humboldt Bay at the mouth of Jacoby Creek, where the old red house is located, and noticed a raptor that was bright red in the face. Ron immediately pulled over without thinking, just like any dedicated birder would that is always looking for that next “good bird”, and identified it as a Crested Caracara.
Within a short time, after numerous phone calls by Ron, the Humboldt birders were out in force gazing at this newest addition to the Humboldt County avifauna, cheering and high-fiveing each other while people driving by were probably wondering what all the wierdo’s with “cameras” were looking at. The bird ended up hanging out in the Arcata Bottoms for the next two days and was seen by many until the sixth of September. This is the 463rd species of bird to be recorded within the boundaries of Humboldt County.
Interestingly, just before the sighting of this Caracara in Humboldt, one was found on August 22 along the Mendocino County coast; before this record another was seen inland in Sonoma County on private property. These records probably all pertain to the same bird and are being treated as such by the California Bird Records Committee- the group responsible for analyzing and accepting or rejecting rare bird records throughout the state.
The westernmost range of Crested Caracaras is normally in south-central Arizona, where it is considered rare, and it continues east to Texas with isolated populations in Louisiana and Florida, and all the way to to southern South America. Despite their rare status in Arizona, Crested Caracaras are typically a fairly common species, often being found with scavengers like vultures in open and semi open country but will also pirate prey from other birds. Occasionally they will catch their own prey, which consists of live birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
California has experienced an increase of Caracara records in recent years so the next time you are checking out the local vultures or driving your son to work be sure to note that raptor that has a bright red face and be sure to tell somebody about it!!!!
Bat Boxes at Sequoia Park Zoo
As many of you know, the Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka is undergoing major renovations. The new Barnyard exhibit opened last year, and the new entry pavilion is opening early in 2005. This building will house a larger concessions area and gift shop, as well as meeting rooms and educational displays on native wildlife. This increased focus on environmental education by the zoo presents us with great opportunities for cooperative projects. As part of our educational outreach, CNCTWS is working with the zoo to set up informational signage and roost boxes for bats. Bats live in Sequoia Park during the warmer months, and we hope that by providing boxes, we can bring them into view of zoo visitors. The informational displays will include a clear model box at eye level so visitors can see the inner workings of the boxes. Once the new entry pavilion is open, we’ll be ready to go with boxes and signs. Come by the zoo in the spring and see the fruits of our labor!
Notes from the Editor
After editing The Marten since early 2002, it’s almost time for me to move on. While I’ll remain a CNCTWS member and will be active as time permits, new commitments have made it difficult for me to continue to produce this newsletter. It’s perhaps fitting that the transition will occur along with the move from hard copy to a solely electronic version.
I’ve had so much help these past three years. I’ll single out Keith Hamm, Sandra von Arb, Lisa Ollivier, Katie Moriarty, David Juliano, Rob Hewitt, and Denise Walker-Brown for writing articles, proofreading, picking up finished product from the printer, or helping to get mailings out the door, and too many others to list have made contributions as well. I’m not really certain yet who’s going to step up and take this publication into the future (any volunteers with a basic knowledge of html?) but I know that someone will.
I’ll take this opportunity to reflect on my recent north coast experiences, and a few of the things that led up to them. I first visited here in 1985, the first of three winters of research in Mendocino County, and I knew then that I’d be back. In the spring of 2001 that became a reality, and I joined CNCTWS within a short time after moving to Ferndale.
In Chicago, where I’d spent most of my life, relatively intact natural habitat consisted mostly of tiny, fragmented preserves. Because of a few visionaries who had acted as early as the 1920s to set aside land, things were better than downstate. In the so-called “prairie state” entire counties had no remaining native grasslands. Around the city, hundreds of pocket-preserves, seldom exceeding 200 acres in size, required intensive management in the absence of landscape level processes. Fortunately, with a population of over eight million in the metropolitan area, lots of dedicated volunteer labor was available to supplement agency staff. I was fortunate enough to witness the birth of something wonderful. There were many success stories, as we came to understand prairies and wetlands, then oak savannas, then oak woodlands. But there were very real limits, too.
I came to northern California in part because the landscape still functions here. It is still possible to plan at a watershed scale; top end predators are not only still present, but occasionally encountered. Restoration is not as common as what I’d been accustomed to, because so much land is still at risk. Political battles continue over how to allocate natural resources. The smaller population base means that volunteer resources are usually spread very thin.
Many residents are beginning to realize that land use practices common in the past are not sustainable. I’m dealing with that first hand as a newly-elected councilman in Ferndale.
Looking through survey notes from the 1850s, one reads of a vast, meandering spruce and willow lined watercourse just north of where Ferndale now stands. It must have teemed with wildlife. As recently as the early part of the 20th Century, ocean going vessels were able to navigate the Salt River as far as Port Kenyon.
Today the “river” is a willow-choked stagnant ditch which floods every winter. Everyone wants a solution, but that means building a consensus, and it means some sacrifice. Dredging will accomplish little unless the tidal prism is restored, unless sediment input is reduced, unless levees are moved back.
There are still places, reached only by boat and in the lower part of the drainage, where it is still possible to get a sense of that ecosystem mostly now lost. It may not be politically or economically feasible to put all of it back. But perhaps, with enough partners at the table, we can make the system function again, and give future generations a chance to understand part of our our legacy.
That’s just one example of the challenges facing Humboldt County. There’s plenty for all of us to do, in a lot of different places. Information on wildlife and related natural resources is essential as we make those tough decisions, as we determine the future of the local landscape and economy. I’m sure I’ll continue to encounter many of you as this journey continues.