Park Week 12/8/2023

Owl Cameo

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) in dense fog Monday morning 12/4/23

The Burrowing Owl that visited the park in dense fog on Monday morning didn’t stay. I returned to the scene that afternoon in bright sunshine, and the owl was nowhere to be seen. I’ve checked every day since then. As of publication time, it has remained absent.

My theory is that this is the owl that stayed in our park last winter. It came back in October but hated the radical clearcut that Park management had performed in the area. The owl chose to settle, instead, in the rip-rap at Pt. Isabel. Monday, in the security of the fog, our owl came back to see if the habitat had improved. It had not improved, and so the owl went back to Pt. Isabel.

It’s true that Pt. Isabel has even more loose dogs than we have in Chavez Park. (It’s legal there.) But the owls there have the protection of effective border fencing. The birds sit just outside the dog park’s border fence. A dog would have to work very hard to get at the owls at Pt. Isabel. Here, we have a worthless artistic screen that dogs of all sizes can and do easily get over or through. Case in point: on Tuesday morning, as I watched, a dog owner allowed two of her dogs, off leash, to jump the fence and roam inside the Burrowing Owl preserve. “Oh, they got away from me,” she said. Given the substandard fence here, the Pt. Isabel dog park is a safer place for Burrowing Owls than Chavez Park.

Uncommon Visitors

Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator)

Red-breasted Mergansers remain “one of the least understood species of waterfowl in North America,” according to the authoritative Birds of the World subscription reference by the Cornell Bird Lab. The Merlin app rates them as “uncommon” here, and in fact I’ve only ever seen their cousins here, the Common Merganser (“Rocket Ducks,” Jan 16 2022). These three appear to be females. I saw them in the dense Monday morning fog. I would not have seen them at all except that they paddled very near the park’s eastern shore. (The “dehaze” feature of photo editing software improved the image.) Mergansers stand out among ducks with their sharp, narrow bills. They’re expert divers and feed primarily on small fish, although they’ll take shrimp and similar crustaceans if available. They’re such good fishers that for many years commercial salmon fishers accused the birds of depleting salmon stocks by eating the fingerlings. They breed on lakes in the boreal forests and tundra regions around the globe. They spend the winter up and down coastlines around the world.

Other Birds Seen in the Park This Week

How many can you identify from their picture? Put cursor (or finger) over image to see ID caption.

Willet on Salad

Willet (Tringa semipalmata)

This Willet on the east shore of the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary was feeding on seaweed. So what? Well, from time to time we get to add a footnote to the authoritative ornithological accounts, such as Birds of the World, which says about the Willet that its diet consists of “Insects, small crustaceans, mollusks, polychaetes; occasionally small fish.” Dozens of studies, none mentioning anything about vegetarian fare. Yet here it is, a Willet chowing down on a seaweed salad, and not just one odd snippet, but a regular bellyful. When the textbooks are updated, you can say you saw it here first. LOL. But don’t hold breath. We already noticed Willets eating seaweed here four years ago, “Willets Go Veg,” Sep 18 2019.

Another Pirated Photo

As I pointed out earlier (“Hargreaves Jones: Million Dollar Picture Pirates” Nov 30 2023), the consulting firm that City management hired for waterfront advice “borrowed” half a dozen photos from this website without asking permission. I’ve now discovered another instance. On page 105 of the consultant’s “Waterfront Specific Plan” draft of 10/30/23, this picture appears (below left):

This picture is a cropped copy of a photo that appeared on this website on May 24, 2019. It’s a photo of the plant Bull Mallow (Malva nicaeensis). Here is the original, above right. Notice that the consultants have cropped the photo top and bottom. The bottom-side crop conveniently removed the copyright notice: “© 2019 Jutta Burger.” Why is City management continuing to rely on this unethical, unscrupulous consulting firm?

Keeping Clean

California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi)

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One thought on “Park Week 12/8/2023

  • I saw two meadow larks golden in the greenery, working away above the east facing basin the morning of Dec. 6th If only the dogs and mowers will leave them alone.

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