Early Guys

(Burrowing Owl and Berkeley Fire Department Below)

Red-winged Blackbird male (Agelaius phoeniceus) Feb 1 2023
New Fennel sprouts (Foeniculum vulgare)

It was only the first of February, but two male Red-winged Blackbirds were ready to party. Each of them staked out the top of a Fennel bush in the northwest corner of the park, and let loose with their “I’m here, don’t come near, unless you’re a female” call.

But these boys will probably have a long wait. Females travel on their own schedule. In recent years I’ve gained the impression that they don’t get here in any numbers until the new Fennel has grown dense to the point where it allows privacy for the nests that the females will build.

Right now we have a lot of old dry gray Fennel. The new Fennel is sprouting but the fine green foliage that eventually makes a secure nursery habitat is just a few inches along. Figure March or later before the scene is ready for nest building. Come back later, guys!

Burrowing Owl Update

All was quiet with the Burrowing Owl in the park when I visited this morning. The bird stood in Perch B again, as it has the past couple of days. I was able to show the bird to a couple of early park visitors. The owl looked content and sleepy, squinting at the world through the narrowest slits, and turning left and right in a relaxed manner. A ground squirrel crossed in the foreground, but the bird paid it no attention.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) Feb 2 2023

Berkeley Fire Department Holds Drill

Testing the standpipe

The Berkeley Fire Department held another of its series of wildfire suppression trainings this morning. The object is to train personnel in deploying fire hose, hooking up lengths of hose to one another, hooking up a nozzle at the end, and controlling the stream from the nozzle. I came on the scene toward the end of the exercise when the crew members were bringing in the hose and stowing things away. I saw that the hose was hooked up to the truck, not to the red standpipe sticking out of the grass. I asked a trainer whether they could get their water from the standpipe instead. He said, let’s see, and took a wrench and opened the valve on the standpipe. A small gush of water came out and then, nothing. All of the standpipes in the park are on one valve, he told me, meaning that none of them has any water. “I thought they fixed it,” he concluded. In case of fire, the Department would have to truck in the water in tanks, as they are doing for the training exercise. That’s what they had to do for the July 4 fire in 2020. In today’s drill, the fire engine driver was careful not to drive onto the grass. See “Storm Tracks,” Jan 10 2023 and “Park Events” Jan 29 2023.

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