Christopher Ross was the first person to see and to photograph a Burrowing Owl in Cesar Chavez Park in the fall of 2018. His short cellphone video documented the bird’s arrival on October 3. Chris’ video is part of my 24-minute “The Owls Came Back” movie documenting the 2018-2019 Burrowing Owl migration season. I then saw Chris almost every Wednesday fishing at his regular spot on the north side of the park, and learned that he was a manager at the Hilton Doubletree Hotel next door to the park, and that Wednesday was his day off. In our chats over the past two years, I also learned that he’s a keen and respectful observer of nature. He uses the quiet time between nibbles to study the water and the land, and he knows the names, habits, and the sounds of the area’s wildlife.
Christopher was born and raised in Berkeley until he was about 12 when his family moved to Richmond and he finished his schooling there. He started working at the Hilton in 2015 as a houseman, and was steadily promoted, becoming assistant front office manager in 2019. In that capacity he handled the emergency water break at the Marina on January 14 this year, and was quoted in Berkeleyside, setting up temporary toilet facilities, supplying drinking water, and fielding calls and in-person inquiries from hotel guests who found themselves unexpectedly cut off.
Then came the COVID pandemic, and suddenly Chris’ career hit a pothole. He’s inbetween jobs now, with a new job option waiting at a hotel in downtown San Francisco but no actual employment yet as the hotel is shut down for the duration. The upside is that he now has much more time for fishing, and he’s taking advantage. He’s very health conscious and always wears a mask in the park. He’s not only a successful fisher, he’s a tidy one who leaves no trace. He releases most of what he catches.