Park Events

(Burrowing Owl Update Below)

Trifecta of Bad Manners

Three illegally off-leash dogs inside Burrowing Owl Sanctuary

This past Friday, the day before yesterday, I was walking up toward the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary in the northeast corner of the park when I saw three off-leash dogs roaming inside the “art” fence that surrounds the area. Their owners had been walking south on the paved trail, but had struck off west into the Nature Area and were whistling for their dogs to follow. The two big dogs crossed the fence as if it didn’t exist. The little one had to hunt for a bit to find his passage.

These aren’t the first dogs I’ve seen roaming inside the space that’s supposed to provide a secure home for the wintering Burrowing Owls. What made this incident more alarming is that the dogs ran on the rocks, not just on the grass. The rocky slope is generally considered to be a safer refuge for the owls than the grassy plain. These dogs show that no place inside the refuge is safe from off-leash dogs.

The woman in a blue jersey in the video had nothing to do with the dogs; she just happened to be passing by. The dogs’ owners had half vanished into the Nature Area at the time I took the video. They must have been a very privileged or a very ignorant lot, or both. In a few minutes they scored a trifecta of insensitivity to nature. They ran their dogs off leash in an on-leash area. They let their dogs invade a threatened bird sanctuary. And they walked with dogs in the Nature Area, which is posted as off limits to people and dogs.

Update: Park visitor Erika St. John was one of the witnesses to this event and snapped this photo, which shows two of the three dog owners involved. They’re on the left. The woman in the blue jacket is not involved, she just happened to be passing by.

Two of three owners of off-leash dogs, on the left. Erika St. John photo.

Patching it Up

Gouged meadow after repair

On January 10, possibly the wettest day of the year, the Berkeley Fire Department held a wildfire suppression exercise on the east side of the park. A Department official explained that trainees had to get this drill by that date to get certified. The fire engine driver drove the heavy machine onto the rain-soaked meadow, where it sank to the axles, and gouged a huge pit. See “Storm Tracks,” Jan 12 2023. This past week, the area having dried out a bit, a Parks landscape worker with a front-end loader filled in the gouges and smoothed the area over. It isn’t as pretty as it was, but grass and weeds will blanket it in due time and the incident will be forgotten.

Burrowing Owl Update

This morning the Burrowing Owl in the park selected Perch A again. This put it out of view of most park visitors, with the exception of the very few who crossed the fence at the south entry to the Open Circle Viewpoint and had powerful optics to see the bird, some 110 yards to the north. At the time of my visit, around 9 am, the owl stood comfortably on one leg, as it does when it’s not alarmed, and looked left and right in a routine fashion. It occasionally pecked at its other foot, but otherwise remained at rest. It had no furry companions at the time.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) Jan 29 2023

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