Tag Archives: Animals

Salmon? In Berkeley?

Chinook Salmon (adult) Photo Credit: Roger Tabor (USFWS)

Not Codornices Creek, but you get the idea.

This is happy news, though someone needs to tell the salmon it’s the wrong size for the creek:

First Chinook salmon reported in Codornices Creek

Codornices Creek is a little creek, mainly year-round, that flows off the Berkeley Hills and through the Hills’ populated alluvial fan to the east shore of San Francisco Bay. It’s pretty much the same as any of thousands of small creeks in Urban California, except for one thing: it’s in Berkeley, and so there have been people working to restore it for a generation.

Chinooks are more usually associated with large main-stem rivers like the Sacramento: little coastal streams like Codornices Creek are more suited to smaller coho salmon, and steelhead for that matter, which have in fact been seen in the creek for some time, though apparently not in a self-sustaining spawning population.

Then again, the fish set the rules, not us, and the Codornices Chinook’s more likely destination in the Sacramento-San Joaquin watershed has been, as the fisheries biologists would put it in technical terms, massively fucked. This chinook was probably born in a hatchery instead of a leafy rill with a nice cobble bottom; all but one of the Sacramento and San Joaquin’s major tributaries have been plugged with giant concrete dams, cutting off access to something like 99.9999996 percent of the watershed’s spawning habitat. Agricultural runoff of pesticide-laden silt and silt-laden pesticide fills the water along the way to the dams.

But at least it’s a small, one-fish vote of confidence in the good work my former neighbors have done trying to keep Codornices Creek alive, and until we can engineer precisely targeted earthquakes at the bases of the big dams, that’ll have to do.

(Special homechild points if you heard this post’s title in Mel Blanc’s voice.)

Devil’s Hole pupfish losing struggle for survival – News – ReviewJournal.com

A depressing take on the Devils Hole pupfish by Henry Brean in the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Ted Koch, supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Nevada, said this week he doesn’t know whether the tiny fish can be saved.

“I’m worried it may be an emergency,” said Koch, “and I don’t know whether there are enough of them left to still be viable. We’re definitely very concerned.”

I wrote a bit of the background of this piece a couple weeks ago at Pharyngula. Sad all around.

Healthy salmon mark San Joaquin revival

Over a decade ago I stood at the Hills Ferry barrier mentioned in this article, confluence of the Merced and San Joaquin rivers, and wondered if the salmon would come back in my lifetime.

I still wonder, but this is good news.

Healthy salmon mark San Joaquin revival – SFGate.

Protect Gold Butte

Most of you have never heard of it, but northeast of Las Vegas, in one of the least-visited parts of the continental United States, a desert treasure in Nevada needs your support.

I visited Gold Butte for the first time in 1997. I was just passing through, heading for a tiny outpost in the Arizona Strip called Pakoon Springs, which later became part of the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument. A fire there had damaged a Joshua tree forest some years before, and I wanted to take a look at the recovery so far. My old truck carried me up over the slopes of Virgin Peak and across the state line, where I took some photos that turned out to be abysmally fuzzy. Joshua tree near Pakoon Springs, AZ (The fire had burned patches of the landscape, but not all of it. Much of it looked intact. In this shot, taken facing eastward into the Arizona Strip, the long ridge in the background is the Grand Wash Cliffs escarpment. The notch in the Cliffs toward the right? That’s the downstream end of a rather famous natural landscape feature. )

My old truck was a four-cylinder 2WD, so my relief at not getting stuck in the Pakoon’s washes was considerable, and I headed back across the line into Gold Butte to explore the Whitney Pockets area for a little while. I’ve always meant to get back to Virgin Peak and do some hiking, like these folks did:

It’s one of the best places I’ve ever been. It’s wild, wide, open, and spacious. Gold Butte is a botanical, geological, and archaeological treasure. It’s priceless habitat for desert tortoise and bighorn sheep. It’s also within a couple hours’ drive from two fast-growing cities — the metastasopolis of Las Vegas, and the smaller but even more enthusiastically desert-defacing St. George, Utah — and the almost-city of Mesquite NV. As a result, those who use the desert as a blank slate across which to scratch their grubby fingernails pose a significant and increasing threat to the landscape:

And unlike the Pakoon and other adjacent lands across the Arizona line in the Parashant NM, Gold Butte is essentially unprotected.

Nevada environmentalists and land managers are working with local elected officials to change that. Last year Representative Shelley Berkley introduced HR 7132, a bill that would have given Gold Butte National Conservation Area status, like the Red Rock Canyon area on the other side of Las Vegas. The NCA would have covered 362,177 acres, with 200,000 more acres of BLM and Park Service lands in the area declared wilderness. The bill did not pass, and must be reintroduced in this theoretically more receptive Congress.

The Nevada Wilderness Project has an action site where you can find ways to help them protect Gold Butte, from writing letters to sharing your hard-earned cash.  The Friends of Gold Butte has a website and a companion blog where you can stay informed, and if you’re in the area, there are events listed in which you can take part.

And if you’re not a local, you can still let people know Gold Butte exists. It’s one of the last best places, a forgotten puzzle piece in the Grand Canyon biome, and it deserves protection.

Coyote-killing “tournament” in Idaho

From our friends at Project Coyote, this upsetting press release.

Wildlife advocates are condemning an upcoming coyote killing “tournament”, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 21, and sponsored by the Bent Rod Outdoors, a Challis business.

“This event has no place in the 21st Century”, said Brian Ertz, a Hailey resident, and president of Wildlife Watchers, a group that says wildlife viewing, rather than killing, is preferred by the majority of Idahoans. “We are urging concerned citizens to contact the Bent Rod Outdoors [(208) 879-2500], and also the Challis Chamber of Commerce [(208) 879-2771] to protest this day-long coyote slaughter.”

The coyote “tournament” was publicized through ads in the Challis Messenger on Feb. 12 and 18. When contacted, a Bent Rod employee stated that there would be prizes including cash for the most coyotes killed, the largest and smallest coyotes, and other categories. Coyote killers would enter the Bent Rod’s “tournament” by paying $25 per person, or $50 for a two-person team. The “contest” starts Saturday morning and ends that evening at Bent Rod Outdoors.

The full release is below the fold. You have time to make a call: I know it.

No, seriously, you do. Don’t make me pull out the pictures.

OK, fine.

coyote and raven

Idaho coyote and raven. Photos by Lynne K. Stone.

Challis Chamber of Commerce (208) 879-2771
Bent Rod Outdoors (208) 879-2500

Also, please note the ORV-related item in the release. Yeah, class acts, those guys. Respecters of wildlife, those guys.

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Best field guide ever

I don’t do paid reviews of books nor other products, and I think bloggers who do are unethical — whether they disclose that the review is paid or not. I say this because I’m about to rant about how amazingly cool iBird Explorer Plus is, to the point where people might start to wonder. In fact, I didn’t even get a review copy: I paid full retail.

I used to fantasize about having a field guide that took advantage of high tech data storage and retrieval wizardry. Imagine: a hand-held, interactive and searchable database field guide, with range maps, identifying information, sound, and sharp images both drawn and photographed. (When I used to daydream about such a thing it generally weighed five pounds and was about the size of a standard box of Kleenex.)

I have that field guide now.

iBird Explorer browse screeniBird Explorer Plus, an application for the Apple iPhone, is a database of 891 North American bird species. (There’s a Windows Mobile version, Winged Explorer, which I haven’t seen, and a handful of smaller regional versions for the iPhone.)  You fire up the application and — after a splash screen displayed while the app loads — you find yourself at the browse window. You can select any of the 891 species, scrolling through the long alphabetical list, or you can hit the “search” button at the bottom and bring up the interactive key.

iBird Explorer key screen If you know that the bird in question is a swallow, say, or a wren, and you’re just not sure which one, you can enter some of the word in that text field at the top to narrow down your choices. You can then select known information from the fields below, which include location by state, general shape of the bird (is it hawk-shaped or duck-shaped or wren-shaped, and so forth), size, habitat (coast, desert, etc.), whether or not the bird frequents feeders, patterns and coloration of the suspect’s plumage, bill shape and size, and family. With each selection, the app narrows down the list of possibilities. Given the size of the database and the number of entries, the app processes your selections relatively quickly.

iBird Explorer individual species treatment The individual species accounts are well-designed if, for obvious reasons of data conservation, a bit cursory. Each individual page has links to succinct and well-organized species information, a more extensive treatment of the species on the web, range maps, a photo to complement the drawing, a list of similar species and — coolest of all for people like me who tend to bird by ear — recordings of each bird’s voice. These recordings are clear enough, and loud enough, that you could use them to attract birds of the appropriate species — and the software provides a reminder about the ethical implications of doing just that. The sound page also features a list of similar-sounding birds, if appropriate, and you can hear each similar recording without leaving the page.

iBird Explorer range map screen The guide has been compiled by the committed birders at whatbird.com, and they show their experience in the birding community by assuming they’re going to get flak for inaccuracies, die-hard ornithophiles picking nits of varying size over rangemaps and descriptions, descriptions of behavior, and the like. They’ve already heard from birders that the app doesn’t provide enough detail on seasonal variations in plumage, for instance. This is where the concept of the app really shines: the purchase price includes a lifetime subscription to updates, and the developers promise to incorporate users’ criticisms to make the app more and more useful with each iteration. Personally, I’d like to see the developers make use of the iPhone’s GPS functionality and calendar, so that one could rule out goshawks and cardinals when one’s phone happens to be in the Mojave and Scott’s orioles if it’s winter in the Mojave. Even better, the app could use those functions and flag species as “uncommon,” “occasional vagrant,” and “hurry up and call the Audubon Society hotline.”

This app is brilliant, and it’ll get better. It’s a clever use of the iPhone’s technology that will actually increase people’s knowledge of, and appreciation for, the planet they’re on. How often does that happen? I suspect that there will be people who’ll buy the iPhone (or iPod touch) solely to use this app, and I have trouble saying that’s a completely bad idea.

Available through the iTunes store, the full version of iBird Explorer costs $19.99.