(Burrowing Owl Update Below)
The recent series of storms has left some tracks in Chavez Park, some made by wind, some other. This old and nearly dead Monterey Pine, planted by the DAWN pioneers who established the Native Plant Area in the early 1980s, lost its footing in the rain-soaked soil and surrendered to the western gale over the weekend. It’s the second of these native trees to fall. An earlier nearby tree crashed just a year ago and remains leaning at a steep angle, awaiting attention from the Urban Forestry people. The new crash narrowly missed the new plantings that the Chavez Park Conservancy set in the ground in early November as part of the Native Pollinator Project. One new planting for a Torrey Pine got a little bent but not beyond repair. Given the high number of trees down all over Berkeley, it may be a while before this tree is handled.
Monterey Pines can live for 100 years in ideal conditions, but the west side of Chavez Park is a rough neighborhood. The soil is poor and the wind is hard. Monterey Pines are fast growing, and the new plantings will in a few years fill up the holes in the sky that the fallen trees left.
On the other side of the park, the Berkeley Fire Department chose one of the wettest days of the year to stage a wildfire suppression drill. Two recent recruits took turns coupling one fire hose to another and working a nozzle valve to spray a jet of water on the paved pathway and its margins. They took the water from a tank in a Fire Department truck. A supervisor advised me that the red standpipe (left foreground in photo) did not have enough volume or pressure to serve for fire suppression.
And on the subject of storm tracks, a fire engine driver tried to turn the truck around on the green near the water fountain, instead of proceeding to the gravel trail that leads to the Off Leash Area. The heavy truck sank to the axles in the waterlogged soil and made a nasty set of gashes, see photo below right. Parks landscape staff on the scene told me it would be repaired after it dries out a bit, which could be a while.
Burrowing Owl Update
As if its lease on Perch B had expired after ten days, the Burrowing Owl this Thursday morning returned to Perch A. In this spot a park visitor cannot see it from the paved perimeter trail outside the “art” fence. As before I had to cross the southern gate and set up in the Open Circle Viewpoint with a long lens to see the bird, 110 yards distant. I let the camera run for half an hour while I walked up to the “ghost” road and replaced one of the signs there, shredded by the storms. Reviewing the video later, at home, I see an owl that’s mostly alert and looking left and right frequently. To show the regularity of these motions I speeded up one segment of the video, below, to four times normal speed. The remainder of the video is at regular speed. The only action that I saw other than head rotations was a couple of yawns, a foot switch, and a poop. It’s a small slice of an owl’s life in winter in Chavez Park.