A photographer I met on the Virginia Street dirt road told me that she had photographed raptors in the Berkeley Meadow. She had seen two Red-tailed Hawks and one Cooper’s Hawk. Others also have reported raptors visiting here on their southward migration. So, after first checking the Burrowing Owl area for owl arrivals — sadly, none yet — I headed for the Meadow at midday.
At noontime many birds get out of the heat, and no raptors showed themselves while I walked slowly on the fenced path. By way of consolation, a Western Meadowlark rose from the grass and settled on a bush almost but not quite out of my camera’s range. This bird sat quietly, turning this way and that, without emitting one of the melodious songs for which its kind is famous.
On the other side of the path my eyes hit a most unexpected show of flowers. This was a yucca plant, probably yucca gloriosa, but as a non-botanist I have to enclose that in question marks. I’ve seen these in Southern California, but never before up here. How in heck did it get here?
After making the westward turn just before the path hit the University Avenue gate, I saw several stands of bushes with a profusion of whitish and whitish-purple daisy-like flowers. These are probably the sea aster, tripolium pannonicum, but could be one of several aster sisters or cousins. They made quite a bright show amidst the green and brown of their surroundings. One source says that this plant’s ability to bloom late into autumn offers value to late-coming butterflies and other pollinators that would otherwise have no flowers to visit. Sea asters don’t last long as cut flowers, but there are people who eat them, declaring them “a superb, tender, salty succulent with a complex sweet flavour with hints of iron and nut.”
A walk through the Meadow almost always has its rewards, beyond just the exercise and the bath of green for the eyes. If we get lucky we’ll have heavy rains again this winter. Ponds will form and the Meadow will host scores of domestic and exotic waterfowl.
The official name of the Meadow, for the record, is the Sylvia McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. Naming this historical battleground between commercial and environmental forces for McLaughlin is the least she deserved. Read up on McLaughlin here and on the history of the battles here.