Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 15, 2015

High Number UK Flower Blooms

BBC Science reports on what botanists found on the annual hunt for plants in flower on New Year’s Day.

They say according to textbooks there should be between 20 and 30 species in flower. This year there were 368 in bloom.

Read story at  BBC News – Unusual number of UK flowers bloom.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 15, 2015

National Parks Free Entrance On January 19, 2015

Press Release National Park Service

Free Entrance to all National Parks on January 19

Commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a visit to a Park

WASHINGTON – All national parks across the country will waive their entrance fees on Monday, January 19 to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

“We honor Dr. King and the tremendous impact of his life and teachings on the world,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “He moved hearts and minds through his words and actions. And his vision continues to inspire us to make positive changes in our communities.”

Visit Dr. King’s birthplace, home, church, and grave at Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Georgia; walk in his footsteps on the 54-mile long Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail in Alabama where he led the 1965 Voting Rights March; and stand where he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

Other national parks that commemorate the Civil Rights Movement include Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in  Arkansas, Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Monument in California, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas, Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Alabama, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC.

Read More…

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 14, 2015

Bird Feeding Frenzy At Richardson Bay

Audublog reports the first big herring run and bird feeding frenzy in San Francisco Bay is now happening at Richardson Bay. Read story at First big herring run in San Francisco Bay creates feeding (and birding) frenzy

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 14, 2015

Jepson Prairie Wildflower Observations 1/14/15

Solano Land Trust reports on Jepson Prairie.

Little in the way of blooms but a lot of ‘little plants’ growing.

Plants sprouting include Docecatheon, Plagiobothrys, Blennosperma, Stipa, Pleuropogon and Eryngium. Also observed a large flock of gulls, a few pelicans, curlew, grebe, Canada geese and swans settled on Olcott Playa. Photographs will be posted soon.

Olcott and Round Pond are essentially full.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 14, 2015

California Condors Secretly Mate In Wild

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on two condors mating in the wild. Even though condors are closely monitored, this pair managed to mate an raise a young bird without the knowledge of scientist observers. It is only the third  unobserved pairing of condors in the wild since 1997, when biologists began releasing the endangered birds in Big Sur.

Read full story at Surprise! Two California condors secretly mate, produce offspring – SFGate.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 13, 2015

How Humans are Creating ‘The Sixth Extinction’

The Yale News writes about how humans are driving an extinction process on a massive scale. They report three main ways we are doing this

  • altering the atmosphere, she said, noting that human beings add 10 billion metric tons of fossil fuels to the atmosphere each year. ….. climate changes are more extreme at the poles, but will in the end be more severe in the tropics — where the highest density of a wide variety of species live.
  •  the acidification of the oceans,….Acidification makes it tougher for any creature that makes a shell out of calcium carbonate to survive,
  • The third way humans are fueling extinction concerns the movement of species around the world,

Read article at YaleNews | Writer describes the ways humans are fueling ‘The Sixth Extinction’

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 12, 2015

Bad News For UK Backyard Diversity

Birdwatch Magazine reports

The British Trust for Ornithology’s latest report shows extremely worrying long-term declines in a quarter of Britains commonest bird species.

Read full article at Bad news for backyard biodiversity | News | Birdwatch Magazine.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 11, 2015

Anza Borrego Wildflower Report 1/12/15

DesertUSA reports on 1/12/15

Overall flowering was sparse, but thousands of annual seedling were germinating, for instance white fiesta flower. If conditions don’t dry out, peak season could be good.

See photos at  Anza Borrego Desert State Park – Wildflower Reports – DesertUSA.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 11, 2015

New Protections For Whales & Dolphins

Press Release Center for Biological Diversity

Feds Agree to Implement Seafood Import Ban to Protect Whales and Dolphins

New Regulations Will Prohibit Fish Imports That Fail to
Meet U.S. Standards
 for Marine Mammal Protection

NEW YORK— In a landmark settlement reached yesterday, the U.S. government agreed to adopt new rules that ensure seafood imported into the United States meets high standards for protecting whales and dolphins. The long-delayed regulations will require foreign fisheries to meet the same marine mammal protection standards required of U.S. fishermen or be denied import privileges, thus implementing a 40-year-old provision of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

“The new regulations will force other countries to step up and meet U.S. conservation standards — saving hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins from dying on hooks and in fishing nets around the world,” said Sarah Uhlemann, senior attorney and international program director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The U.S. government has finally recognized that all seafood consumed in the United States must be ‘dolphin-safe.’ ”

Read More…

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 10, 2015

Henry Coe Wildflower Report 1/10/15

Henry Coe State Park has a new wildflower bloom update for 1/18/2015 at the Pine Ridge Association website. It is limited to

To see what is in bloom including photos of flowers in bloom go to: Henry W. Coe – Wildflower Guide.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 10, 2015

122 Colombian Bird Species Face Extinction

Birdwatch Magazine reports

A new study, The State of the Birds in Colombia 2014 – produced by a leading conservation group in Colombia, Fundación ProAves – reports that decades of deteriorating ecosystem conditions have led to 122 of the country’s 1,903 bird species now facing extinction.

Read full article at  122 species of Colombian bird face extinction, says new report | News | Birdwatch Magazine.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 9, 2015

Flower Photos At Tilden Botanic Garden 1/9/15

Many Manzanitas are now in bloom at the Regional Parks Botanic Garden. Also in bloom are Ceanothus. There is also a fair amount of bird song and activity. Although focused primarily on flowers I saw or heard Anna’s Hummingbird, Steller’s Jay, Hermit Thrush, Scrub Jay, Dark-eyed Juncos, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatch, California Towhee, Varied Thrush, Fox Sparrow and the bird of the day a Red-breasted Sapsucker.

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Press Release Center for Biological Diversity

Review Initiated Over Protected Status of Coastal California Gnatcatcher

Anti-wildlife Group Trying to Strip Protection From Imperiled Bird 

CARLSBAD, Calif.— In response to a petition from the anti-wildlife group the Pacific Legal Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will review the status of the coastal California gnatcatcher to determine if it still qualifies as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. As in a petition that was rejected in 2011, the group does not argue that the gnatcatcher has recovered in the United States — but rather that it is not a valid subspecies and should be stripped of protection because its populations are healthy in Baja, Mexico.

Read More…

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 8, 2015

Five Creeks Talks

Friends of Five Creeks (, presents Bay Currents

Talks on Bay Area nature and environmental issues, emphasizing positive solutions
St. Albans Parish Hall, 1501 Washington Ave. (at Curtis), Albany Refreshments 7 PM, talks begin promptly at 7:30. FREE

Tues., Jan. 13: Groundwater: California’s Real Buried Gold
Underground, California stores far more water than falls as rain or snow, or can be held in reservoirs. But this hidden treasure has been treated first-come, winner- take-all.
Environmental attorney Tina Cannon Leahy is Principal Consultant to the California Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife, and the Assembly’s primary
water law and policy expert. She outlines the value and complexity of groundwater, along with opportunities, in the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and Proposition 1, that may help us use it wisely

Tues., Feb. 10: Greening Wine
For California’s almost 4000 wineries and 6000 wine-grape growers, sustainability involves low water use, healthy streams, diverse wildlife and native plants, soil rich in nutrients and free of toxics, fair treatment of workers, vibrant local communities, and more

Read More…

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 8, 2015

2015 Big Garden Bird Watch Jan. 24-25

The Big Garden Birdwatch is taking place Jan. 24 to 25. Bird populations are a great indicator of the health of the countryside.

All you need to do is spend an hour over the weekend of 24-25 January counting the birds in your garden. It’s that simple!

For more information and to register go to RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2015.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 7, 2015

Anza-Borrego Wildflower Updates 1/6/15

The Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association has two wildflower updates fo Yaqui Meadows including photos at Anza-Borrego Desert Wildflowers Update.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 7, 2015

Richmond Bay Trail Update

 The 16th Richmond Bay Trail  now has over 32 miles of Bay Trail built — more than any other city on this planned 500-mile hiking and biking route encircling San Francisco and San Pablo Bays. This is mainly thanks to efforts of TRAC, the Trails for Richmond Action Committee.
For maps, the calendar of events and other information about the Bay Trail in Richmond, please visit TRAC’s award-winning website designed and maintained by David Moore of Sincere Design. TRAC greatly appreciates your support for completing the Bay Trail. (It even includes a link to a slideshow of my photos of the Richmond Bay Trail.)
See the New Year Report prepared by TRAC, the Trails for Richmond Action Committee. This upbeat, colorful report features newly built Bay Trail sections and describes plans for completing the San Francisco Bay Trail in Richmond, at TRAC2015NYReportLR
Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 6, 2015

New Wetland In Solano County

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the creation of a new 1200 acre wetland. By breaching a levee from Dutchman Slough, the Cullinan Ranch became Solano County’s newest wetland. Although it will take years for plants to fill in Coots and Scaups have already come.

Read article and see photos at  Just add water: A new wetland is created in Solano County – SFGate.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 6, 2015

Lawsuit To Protect Rare Rare Flowers From Oil Development

Press Release EarthJustice


More than 90 percent of imperiled beardtongues threatened by oil, gas project

Seven conservation groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for denying Endangered Species Act protection to two imperiled wildflowers in Utah and Colorado. The Service proposed to protect the White River and Graham’s beardtongues in August 2013 after determining that 91 percent of Graham’s beardtongue populations and 100 percent of White River beardtongues were threatened by the impacts of oil and gas development. The Service then reversed course in August 2014, withholding protection based on its claim that threats to the species were ameliorated by a last-minute, voluntary “conservation agreement” the Service entered into with the Bureau of Land Management and several state and county agencies with active roles in energy development.

Read More…

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 5, 2015

Ridgway’s Rail

On August I wrote about Clapper Rails Are Now Ridgway’s Rail | Natural History Wanderings. I recently saw several Ridgway’s Rails at high tide which I mentioned in a post A Relatively Big Day With Photos | Natural History Wanderings.

Ridgeway's Rail

Ridgeway’s Rail by Sandy Steinman

I decided to do a little research on Ridgway’s Rail and here is what I found out about the bird and Robert Ridgway for whom the bird is named.

Ridgway’s Rail (Rallus obsoletus) is an endangeredspecies of bird. It is found principally in California‘s San Francisco Bay to southern Baja California. A member of the rail family, Rallidae, it is a chicken-sized bird that rarely flies.

This species is closely related to the clapper rail, and until recently was considered a subspecies.[1] It has a long, downward curving bill and is grayish brown with a pale chestnut breast and conspicuous whitish rump patch. The population levels of Ridgway’s rail are precariously low due to destruction of its coastal and estuarine marshland habitat by prior land development and shoreline fill.

Read more at Ridgway’s rail – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Ridgway’s Rail is named after Robert Ridgway. Wikipedia tells us

Robert Ridgway (July 2, 1850 – March 25, 1929) was an American ornithologist specializing in systematics. He was appointed in 1880 by Spencer Fullerton Baird, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, to be the first full-time curator of birds at the United States National Museum, a title which he held until his death. In 1883, he helped found the American Ornithologists’ Union, where he served as officer and journal editor. Ridgway was an outstanding descriptive taxonomist, capping his life work with The Birds of North and Middle America (eight volumes, 1901–1919). In his lifetime, he was unmatched in the number of North American bird species that he described for science. As technical illustrator, Ridgway used his own paintings and outline drawings to complement his writing. He also published two books that systematized color names for describing birds, A Nomenclature of Colors for Naturalists (1886) and Color Standards and Color Nomenclature (1912). Ornithologists all over the world continue to cite Ridgway’s color studies and books.

Other birds named for Ridgway include the buff-collared nightjar, Caprimulgus ridgwayi (once known as Ridgway’s whip-poor-will);[100] the turquoise cotinga, Cotinga ridgwayi; the Caribbean subspecies of the osprey, Pandion haliaetus ridgwayi; a Big Island subspecies of the ʻelepaio, Chasiempis sandwichensis ridgwayi; Ridgway’s hawk, Buteo ridgwayi; and many other species and subspecies.[101] The monotypic genus Ridgwayia is named for him; it consists of Aztec thrush, R. pinicola.[102]

Read more about him at Robert Ridgway – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 4, 2015

SF Wildlife Benefit From Improved Health Of SF Bay

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the success of a forced an industry phaseout of common but toxic flame retardants known as PBDEs. There has been a steep decline the chemicals that posed a risk to the bay’s wildlife.

IN 2003 the chemicals levels in San Francisco bay were at higher pollution levels than anywhere else in the world. However a threat that could have damaged bay birds, shellfish and fish for years to come was averted due to the state mandated regulations which required the phasing out of the toxic chemicals.

Read story at   Chemicals’ phaseout a ‘success story’ for S.F. Bay wildlife – SFGate.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 4, 2015

Monarchs May Get Federal Protections

Press Release Center for Biological Diversity

Monarch Butterfly Moves Toward Endangered Species Act Protection

Feds Issue Initial Positive Finding on Petition Following 90 Percent Decline

WASHINGTON In response to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Xerces Society and renowned monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said today that Endangered Species Act protection may be warranted for monarch butterflies. The agency will now conduct a one-year status review on monarchs, which have declined by 90 percent in the past 20 years.

Monarch butterfly
Photo by Collete Adkins-Giese, Center for Biological Diversity. Photos are available for media use.

“The Endangered Species Act is the most powerful tool available to save North America’s monarchs, so I’m really happy that these amazing butterflies are a step closer to the protection they so desperately need,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Our petition is a scientific and legal blueprint for creating the protection that the monarch so direly needs, and we are gratified that the agency has now taken this vital first step in a timely fashion,” said George Kimbrell, Senior Attorney for Center for Food Safety.  “We will continue to do everything we can to ensure monarchs are protected.”

Read More…

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 3, 2015

Birding & Photos Richmond Bay Trail 1/3/15


Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Waterbirds were out in great numbers on the Richmond part of the Bay Trail. We saw Fifty-three different species along our four mile walk from Pt. Isabel to Shimada Park through Marina Bay and back to Pt. Isabel. It was a high tide and we managed to find one Ridgway’s Rail to the delight of our S.F. visitors. An Osprey flew overhead as we were finishing up. I also found one Anna’s Hummingbird who was a very cooperative photo subject. Although we saw a large number of Common Goldeneye they were all female. Today’s Bird List: Richmond Bay Trail Bird List 1/3/15.

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Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 3, 2015

Henry Coe Wildflower Report 1/1/15

Henry Coe State Park has a new wildflower bloom update for 1/1/2015 at the Pine Ridge Association website. It is limited to

To see what is in bloom including photos of flowers in bloom go to: Henry W. Coe – Wildflower Guide.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 3, 2015

No Landfill Near Joshua Tree

KCET’s Back Forty Blog reports

In a decision that is likely the killing blow for one of southern California’s longest-running environmental controversies, a federal judge has reversed a 1999 land swap in Riverside County that would have allowed the Kaiser Eagle Mountain company to build a large landfill adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park.

Read full story at KCET’s Back Forty at

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 3, 2015

San Francisco Christmas Bird Count 12/20/14

The Golden Gate Birder reports that in spite of the strong winds the San Francisco Christmas Bird count was able to document a preliminary total of 183 species – just short of last year’s record of 184. Highlights below.  See full article with photos at 2014 SF CBC was blowin’ in the wind | Golden Gate Audubon Society.

San Francisco Christmas Bird Count Highlights:

  • The famed Rustic Bunting in Golden Gate Park was found. (Collective sigh of relief.) The team had spent 45 minutes looking for it, when a photographer with “one of those 5 foot lenses” got the team on a bird that turned out to be the bunting.
  • Josiah Clark’s team at the Presidio reported a great flyover: 19 Tundra Swans and one Greater White-Fronted Goose. They also managed to see a Nelson’s Sharp-Tailed Sparrow.
  • Bob Power’s team found two Ancient Murrelets and one Brown Booby over the Sutro Baths/Cliff House area.
  • The Lake Merced team found 50 White-throated Swifts furiously foraging and a flock of Tri-colored Blackbirds, as well as a Tropical Kingbird, Cassin’s Auklet, Great Tailed Grackle and a Yellow-Shafted Flicker.
  • The Eastern Golden Gate Park team had dueting Great Horned Owls and a nice group of 148 Band-Tailed Pigeons. Plus that Rustic Bunting!
  • Varied Thrush were abundant, as they had been in the Oakland CBC several weeks earlier. The Eastern Golden Gate Park team spotted 124 Varied Thrush – even higher than their American Robin count of 88.

Read More…

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 2, 2015

Birding Tilden Park: Jewel Lake 1/2/15

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

The cold morning didn’t stop 37 people from showing up on Allan Kaplan’s monthly first Friday Audubon walk to Jewel Lake in Tilden Park. Most impressive sighting was watching a Pied-billed Grebe struggling with and eventually swallowing a comparatively very large fish. Other highlights included seeing a Hooded Merganser swim across the lake and watching a group of Robins, Varied Thrush and Hermit Thrush feeding on Toyon and Cotoneaster berries near the lake. Alan also shared information about mixed flock behavior.  Today’s Bird list Jewel Lake, Tilden Park Bird List 1/2/15.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 2, 2015

Antelope Valley Updates 12/30/14

Antelope Valley reported on 12/30/14 on the Latest Poppy Preserve Researcher Field Notes

Poppy Reserve
Rainfall amount to date: 4.69 inchesFilaree has its true leaves but no flower buds. The grasses are up to 2 to 3 inches; asters and rubberrabbit brush still have blooms. Beavertail cacti have plumped pads. There are patches of green onthe hillsides. Tumbleweeds have turned brown, are starting to break off and tumble and formingmounds of several plants clustered together. There are still buckwheat in bloom and going to seed.Fiddleneck is up to 1 and 1-1/2 inches. Found a few pygmy-leafed lupine. There are poppy plantsthat are still in the 2 to 4 spiked leaved cot stages, no true leaves yet.

Burrowing Owls
The recent rains have cleaned off a lot of the previous droppings at the entrances, which will hopefullymake it easier to know which habitats have new residents. The insect maintenance crews havecleared away a lot of the pellets but I did find a lot of Darkling beetle body parts at some entrances. Ionly spotted one owl on my last trip, but hopefully we will be getting new residents soon as the matingseason will start in February.

Ripley Desert Woodland
With the rains that fell on December 12th there are a lot of grasses coming up and a lot of unidentifiedcots. The trees look greener and the dieback a darker brown. There is a lot of dieback under thetrees. The male Juniper trees are forming the cones.

via Latest Poppy Reserve Researcher Field Notes.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 2, 2015

Desert Rain May Mean Good Wildflowers

DesertUSA Wildflowers reports

Jan 1, 2015 - Rain and snow for southern California and Arizona this week, this could help get the 2015 wildflower season off to a good start.

Anza- Borrego The end of the year storm brough rain to the park, looks good for next year wildflower season. Visitors are reporting water in Cougar, Sheep, and Indian Canyons. Some wildflowers have been spotted.

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve Reports: We got over 2 1/4 inches at the Poppy Reserve iso far! We’re now up to 2.8 inches, almost as much as we got all of last year! We’re off to a good start, let’s hope it keeps up; no guarantees yet….

Joshua Tree It snowed in some area of Joshua Tree National park

Death Valley The end of the year storm is bringing rain to the park, looks good for next year wildflower season. National Weather Service predicts snow levels as low as 2,000 feet for Death Valley National Park. The park had a total of 1.49 inches of rain 2014. 1 inch of that was in the last 5 months. 


Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 2, 2015

2014 State Of the Birds

Press Release Cornell Lab of Ornithology

“State of the Birds” Report Assesses the Health of the Nation’s Birds

The Good News: Conservation Efforts Work When Applied

The Bad News: Populations Are Down in Many Key Habitats

Washington, D.C.—One hundred years after the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the nation’s top bird science and conservation groups have come together to publish The State of the Birds 2014—the most comprehensive review of long-term trend data for U.S. birds ever conducted. The authors call the results unsettling. The report finds bird populations declining across several key habitats, and it includes a “watch list” of bird species in need of immediate conservation help. The report also reveals, however, that in areas where a strong conservation investment has been made, bird populations are recovering. The full report can be found at


The State of the Birds 2014 is authored by the U.S. Committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative—a 23-member partnership of government agencies and organizations dedicated to advancing bird conservation. The report is based on extensive reviews of population data from long-term monitoring. It looks to birds as indicators of ecosystem health by examining population trends of species dependent on one of seven habitats: grasslands, forests, wetlands, ocean, aridlands, islands and coasts. This year’s report is also a five-year check-in on the indicators presented in the inaugural 2009 State of the Birds report.

After examining the population trends of birds in desert, sagebrush and chaparral habitats of the West, the report’s authors identify aridlands as the habitat with the steepest population declines in the nation. There has been a 46 percent loss of these birds since 1968 in states such as Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to development are the largest threats. These are also significant threats in the nation’s grasslands, where the report notes a decline in breeding birds, like the eastern meadowlark and the bobolink, of nearly 40 percent since 1968. That decline, however, has leveled off since 1990—a result of the significant investments in grassland bird conservation.

“This report highlights the threats that birds face, but it also offers hope for their future if we act together,” said Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. “I am gratified that the Smithsonian contributed to this important effort, which shows that collaboration among agencies and organizations can yield valuable insights into difficult challenges.”


Read More…

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