Equinox Celebration Tonight
The world is stuffed thick with inequities of every kind. All the more reason to celebrate a moment when equity prevails: the Autumn Equinox Gathering, this evening (Friday Sept 22) at 6:15 pm at the Chavez/Huerta Tribute Site and Solar Calendar in the park.
The Equinox, as the name implies, is the moment when light and darkness are of equal length. Up north of the equator, the days since the Summer Solstice have been getting shorter, and the nights longer. Today is the day when the two catch up with each other and, for a moment, stand head to head on equal terms.
Equinox is equal in another way. It’s the same north and south of the equator. The solstices are not; they’re flipped. Our Summer Solstice is the Winter Solstice in Peru, and vice versa. But the equinox is the equinox everywhere. True, the light horse and the dark horse are running in different directions up here and down there, but at this moment in time they are even all over the world.
How is all this flimflammery even possible? Why don’t the seasons run on the same schedule all over this round ball we cling to? Come ask Rabbi David Cooper, who will lead this evening’s celebration. He knows and he can explain it. Something to do with a 23 degree tilt. Besides that, Cooper can blow the shofar. He has done so at previous Equinox celebrations, which have a habit of falling around Jewish holidays. Our Equinox celebration isn’t religious. But the shofar has a more general call: “Sleepers, wake up from your slumber! Examine your ways … ! ”
The event starts at 6:15. The sun will set around 7:00. We’ll disband and scatter shortly after.
New Park Plan Feedback Meeting
A special meeting to gather feedback on the City Manager’s newest Waterfront Specific Plan draft is set for tomorrow (Saturday 9/23) at the Nature Center in Shorebird Park on the south side of the waterfront from 11 am to 1 pm. The new plan draft is available as a PDF here. I’ve drafted a four-page comment available as a PDF here. It will be helpful for the drafters of the new plan to hear from people who love Nature.
Coastal Cleanup Day
Saturday is also Coastal Cleanup Day. You can show up at the Nature Center in Shorebird Park anytime from 9 am to noon to volunteer. Details on this website.
Tattlers on a Rest Stop
A visit from a Wandering Tattler or two is a birding event. Bird lovers have been coming to the west side of the park daily since the first of these wide-roaming birds was spotted more than a week ago. This year has been special because the birds usually stay only a day or two. This pair has been seen almost daily around mid-morning since discovery. I’ve been lucky. I posted pictures of a single Tattler in last week’s blog. On Saturday I saw and got video of two Tattlers, plus a pair of Spotted Sandpipers, all in the same frame. On Thursday (yesterday) I saw the same pair of Tattlers again and got a bit more video footage. Put together, this is it:
The Tattlers are the grey ones in the foreground. The Spotted Sandpipers have brown tops and white bellies. They show no spots at this season. The Tattlers and the Sandpipers studiously ignored one another. One of the Tattlers went into preening mode the instant one of the Sandpipers came front and center a few feet away. The two species might theoretically encounter one another in Northwest Alaska during the breeding season, but the odds are low. The Tattlers breed only in that small corner, while the Spotted Sandpipers breed over most of North America including the San Francisco Bay Area. These sandpipers have been much studied. They have interesting sex lives; see this article here, and their nests are approachable. The Tattlers are much more secretive and hard to find. Their population is small. They are one of North America’s least known birds, with many gaps in the research literature about their biology and behavior. That, I suppose, is part of why bird lovers flock to see them when they visit. I saw them on the west side, about halfway between the gravel side path and the blue steel sculpture, just north of the spot where a sheet of plywood is stuck in the rocks.
Also on the Rocks
At medium and low tides, you could see that the riprap on all sides of the park had a heavy green covering of flat, ribbony and curly seaweed. Did the algal bloom we experienced in August promote this growth? Whatever the reason, for shorebirds, the green growth held a lot of interest. The Black Turnstones joined the Wandering Tattlers and the Spotted Sandpipers in foraging there, separated from the other species by a few dozen yards on the west side. Some Turnstones were busy on the east side. The Turnstones also fly in from Alaska, where they breed in a narrow strip near the north and northwest coasts. Several Black Oystercatchers (not pictured) also foraged in this habitat.
Pretty Young Finch
Among House Finches, the males usually hog the photos. It’s like with apples, the red ones sell better. But this young female, even though she didn’t have a red feather on her body, looked so pretty to my eyes that I put her in a short video. Hope you like it too:
The male and the female House Finches below might look like a happy pair, but moments later they pecked hard at each other’s bills, and the male flew off. He coped with his humiliation by eating. One of the Catalina cherry trees in the south apron of the Native Plant Area already has a few ripe cherries. They don’t have much flesh on them but it made him happy.
I’ve never seen a bird pay any attention to a thistle in the park. But then I saw this Lesser Goldfinch go to town on a thistle bush. The bird had to pry the seed off the feathery crown that the thistle uses to catch the wind and spread its seeds far and wide. The bird was so intent on its meal that it didn’t notice me standing not five feet away on the other side of the bush. I wish the bird good luck and hope it gets good and fat and eats every last one of those thistle seeds. Thistles, we don’t need more in the park.