In the beginning this blog was centered on San Francisco parks and open space issues with special emphasis on natural areas and natural history. Over time it began to range into other areas and topics. As you can see, it is eclectic, as I interlace it with topics of interest to me.

I welcome feedback: just click this link to reach me.

Monday, August 13, 2012


After the game, the king and pawn go into the same box. -Italian Proverb

1.   Shark survivors back shark fin ban/Japan endangering eels
2.   Birds of Honduras, Aug 16 in Berkeley
3.   Volunteers wanted for long-term Beach Watch monitoring
4.   Marine Sanctuary Protection Sought for Golden Gate Waters
5.   Wild Foods Foraging, the Good, the Bad, and The Ugly - Aug 16 in SF
6.   Lawn alternatives one-day symposium Sept 29
7.   FREE San Francisco native plants at Kezar Gardens
8.   Gasp!  American fertility now lower than that of France
9.   Green Connections: Walk Potrero Hill to Blue Greenway Sunday 19
10. Neighborhood Emergency Response Team training Aug 18-19 at CalAcademy
11.  Exclusive! An honest in-flight announcement

Attack survivors back shark fin ban - (excerpt)

A story in the Sunday Aug 12 SF Examiner says that 81% of the fins served in restaurants came from sharks listed as endangered, vulnerable or near threatened, according to a report released Thursday by the Pew Environment Group.  The data was collected by survivors of shark attacks who fanned out to a total of 51 restaurants in San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Las Vegas, Denver, Seattle, Washington DC, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Albuquerque.  The survivors hope the study will help convince the public that the ultimate price of shark fin soup is more than the typical $100 listed on menus.

Up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, Pew said...."if you care about the ocean, you need to care about sharks," said a spokeswoman of the survivors group.

In nothing does man, with his grand notions of heaven and charity, show forth his innate, low-bred, wild animalism more clearly than in his treatment of his brother beasts. From the shepherd with his lambs to the red-handed hunter, it is the same; no recognition of rights -- only murder in one form or another. -John Muir

Japan and the world’s troubled eels
Slip-sliding away
A summer mainstay comes under threat
Aug 11th 2012 | TOKYO |The Economist
Then there were two

THE heat-induced fatigue that strikes millions during Japan’s high summer is known as natsu-bate. A popular antidote is grilled eel, drenched in a sweet sauce and often served on a bed of rice. Rich in vitamins, protein and calcium, the restorative powers of the oily treat are eulogised in popular television shows. Yet unfortunately for Japan, the main ingredient is running out.

Overfishing has wrought havoc with global stocks of eels, prompting America to recommend that several species of eel be put on an international endangered list. That was front-page news in Japan. Greenpeace listed species of eel as endangered two years ago, joining sharks, bluefin tuna and Atlantic cod.



2.  Join Golden Gate Audubon for:
The Birds of Honduras
this Thursday August 16  in Berkeley 

Ocellated Quail / Photo by Robert Gallardo

Join GGAS for our August Speaker Series featuring Honduras birding guide Robert Gallardo!

Central America is a birder’s paradise that holds close to 10 percent of all the world’s bird species, and Honduras is right in the middle of it.
For the international community of birders, Honduras has always been shrouded in mystery and has only just begun to be discovered. It currently has almost 750 bird species, including many prized Mesoamerican endemics such as the coveted Ocellated Quail, Keel-billed Motmot and Lovely Cotinga, and the country’s only known endemic, the Honduran Emerald.

The country boasts the highest percentage of forest cover in Central America and an extensive but underutilized national park system. Robert will be showing a series of vivid photos that feature the country´s wonderful birds and many natural areas.

Robert Gallardo arrived in Honduras in 1993 as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer and has lived there ever since. He has worked on various projects: He started butterfly farms and a small eco-lodge, and co-founded the Honduran Ornithological Society. For more than 12 years, he has worked as a professional bird guide. Golden Gate Audubon offered two trips to Honduras in 2011, both led by Robert. He is currently writing the definitive Field Guide to the Birds of Honduras, to be published in 2014.

Thursday August 16th
7 p.m. refreshments, 7:30 p.m. program
Northbrae Community Church
941 The Alameda (between Marin and Solano Ave.),

Free for GGAS members, $5 for non-members.
For more information, call us at (510) 843-2222.

Have you checked out GGAS' new blog, Golden Gate Birder?  Click here to read it.


3.  Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary recruiting volunteers for long-term Beach Watch shoreline monitoring program

Orientations and training will be held this summer (schedule below) at the Sanctuary office at Crissy Field, San Francisco Presidio. Volunteers must attend one of the four orientation presentations, be 18 or older and commit to monthly surveys for a one-year minimum. Approximately eighty hours of classroom and field training in marine mammal and seabird identification and data collection is provided; some wildlife identification skills are required.

Orientations will be held:
Saturday, Aug. 25, 10:30am-noon and
Tuesday, Aug. 28, 7:00-8:30pm

Space is limited, and reservations are required. RSVP: contact Kirsten Lindquist,  e-mail or call (415) 561-6625 ext. 302

Required trainings will begin Sept 22 and run thru Nov 3, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday days, at the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Offices, West Crissy Field in the San Francisco Presidio.  Several field trips are included in the training.

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary launched its Beach Watch coastal monitoring program in 1993, providing long-term regular shoreline surveys spanning the Farallones and northern Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries. Data gathered provides sanctuary management with information on seabirds and marine mammals whose abundance or stranding patterns can be indicators of ecosystem health.  Live and beachcast (dead) wildlife are surveyed. Surveyors also document human use of beaches, report violations, detect oil pollution, and collect oil samples. The area surveyed spans 150 miles of coast from Point Año Nuevo to Bodega Head. The nonprofit Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association manages the Beach Watch volunteers and data base for the sanctuary.

During the November 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill, Beach Watch volunteers were among the first on the scene. In testimony given at the November 19, 2008 Congressional Subcommittee hearing on the Cosco Busan spill, the Beach Watch project was singled out for its preparedness and swift action in getting trained volunteers into the field.

Contact Kirsten Lindquist with any questions or to reserve your spot at an upcoming orientation,  e-mail or call (415) 561-6625 ext. 302


4.  Marine Sanctuary Protection Sought for Golden Gate Waters

Over the next month, NOAA will hold public scoping meetings on a proposal to expand Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary by 100 square miles outside the Golden Gate, the "Doughnut Hole." This includes urban waters off San Francisco, Daly City, Marin County and Pacifica that now have improved water and sediment quality since the sanctuary was first established. Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary will manage the area. Sanctuary protection would prevent oil exploration and drilling at this site, erection of structures on the sea floor, and other potentially injurious activities that could harm marine life, fisheries, or that could damage habitats.  See   for details.

Meetings are scheduled for:
Aug. 16, Louden Nelson Community Center, 301 Center Street, Santa Cruz, Calif., from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Aug. 23, Upper Fort Mason Building 201, Bay and Franklin Streets, San Francisco, Calif., from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 12, Pacifica Community Center Card Room, 540 Crespi Drive, Pacifica, Calif., from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Public comments on the boundary proposal will be accepted at Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary’s office through Oct. 10, at, Federal eRulemaking Portal with Docket Number NOAA-NOS-2012-0153; or mail to Maria Brown, Superintendent, GFNMS, 991 Marine Drive, Presidio, San Francisco, CA 94129.

San Francisco Natural History Series
Wild Foods Foraging, the Good, the Bad, and The Ugly
Guest Speaker: Jonah Raskin
7:30pm, Thursday, August 16th, 2012
FREE at the Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA

Foraging is making a comeback, with ever more people eager to find food in the wild. But with a growing population and diminishing natural resources, is it a sustainable practice? Jonah Raskin, author of books and articles about food, farming, and agriculture, will address this issue.

You can read more about this in a Bay Nature article from Apr/June of 2012: The Forager’s Dilemma.


9/20 Bay Area Life Cycles - Becky Jaffe
10/18 The UNnatural History of San Francisco Bay - Ariel Rubissow Okamoto
11/15 Forgotten Landscapes: California 500 years ago - Laura Cunningham

San Francisco's Thriving Ravens
Adrian Cotter - July 19th, 2012

“Commuturalism” I’ll define as using ones commute as a time to practice being a naturalist – to paying attention to the nature I find on my commute. I’m lucky to live in a city where I have a job to which I can bike or walk.

My interest in ravens started in earnest a few years ago. I stopped to watch a raven flying at 7th and Mission above the plaza of the new federal building. It was a beautiful thing. What really got my attention though was when it flew into a nest high up on a federal courthouse.

For the next couple months, I stopped by nearly every day to watch the progress of a raven pair, bringing up 4 nestlings into the world.  After they’d flown, I started to pay more attention, and as the year passed I started to write things down, and started to ask questions.  The first most obvious question: would they come back?

The other thing that kept me going, was something I’ve learned over time at all these other lectures I’ve come to, and had a hand in arranging (full props to Philip Gerrie for that task). That is how often a question comes up to which the lecturer doesn’t know the answer. And as I started to read about ravens, I felt there were plenty of gaps, plenty of things that all these information sources didn’t talk about.

And those ravens did come back, until they were driven off by crows. Which lead to more questions, and the need for me to actually be able to differentiate the two. I began altering my commuting route, and eventually found another pair of ravens, and then a couple more.

This year, I found 11 active nests mostly on the north eastern side of the city, with a couple outliers in the south. 6 of these nests were on trees, 1 was on a ship, 1 was on a sign, 3 were on buildings, and one was on a bridge.

In the lecture, I talked about the history of ravens in general, their distribution, and their distribution and numbers here in San Francisco.

I spent a good portion of the lecture going over the difficulties of identifying a raven and a crow. Ravens are bigger, have massive beaks, longer wings, a wedge shaped tail that’s more ragged when straight.  However all these clues can be meaningless when the bird is not that far away.

There are other clues: behavioral – ravens fly higher and will ride thermals, crows tend to nest with some helpers, raven nests are more visible. I’ve found the easiest way to find a raven, and sometimes the only sure way to know, is by sound. Ravens have a much more varied sound range, and calls that are distinct from crows.

I spent the last third of the lecture going through the lives of the ravens I’ve met, talking about how they nest, the odd choices they seem to sometimes make, the difficulties that the parents and nestlings have. I spoke on what they eat, where they sleep, and how they raise their fledglings.

We ended the talk with talking about some of the problems ravens cause putting more pressure on populations of ground nesting birds in particular – the snowy plover chief among them. Ravens are here in numbers now because ultimately we leave a lot of food around for them, but as smart, opportunistic creatures, that is not the only thing they’ll eat.

I suggested at the end of the lecture that what we need is better data, in particular about their overall numbers, and their habits through the city: how the flocks move, to where, and when.

If your interested in helping out, or if you have any information about raven nests, or roost locations, please drop me an email at

If you have your own SF raven stories to share, you can send them to me by email, or share them in the comments below. I’ll hopefully be making a slightly simpler guide to identifying crows and ravens, with a better intro to how they sound. In the meantime:


6.  Lawn Alternatives: Do-It-Yourself Native Plantscaping is a one-day symposium being offered on Saturday, September 29, 2012, 8:45am to 5:30pm at Foothill College, Lecture Hall 8338, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills.

The theme is how to design, install, and care for native plant gardens – to save money, save water, and save the environment, all at the same time. Topics range from garden design and plant selection to lawn removal, garden installation, and maintenance, with a focus on specifics, practical steps, and how-to information. If you are a homeowner looking to do it yourself or a landscape professional wanting to hone or refresh your skills, this event is for you.

The speakers are accomplished professionals and authors: Peigi Duvall of Indig Design, Deva Luna of EarthCare Landscaping, Sherri Osaka of Sustainable Landscape Design, Nancy Bauer, author of The California Wildlife Habitat Garden, and Helen Popper, author of California Native Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide. The program includes refreshments, lunch, and a reception.Books and plants will be available for sale.

The symposium is organized by the California Native Plant Society (Santa Clara Valley Chapter), hosted by Foothill College Environmental Horticulture Department, and sponsored by Bay Area Water Supply Conservation Agency and Santa Clara Valley Water District. Registration is now open; discounts are available for advance registration by Sep. 15, for CNPS members, and for students. Space is limited: early registration recommended. To register, visit: For more information, email, or call 650-260-3450.

FREE FREE San Francisco Native Plants FREE FREE
The Native Plant Nursery at Kezar Gardens is offering free San Francisco native plants to the public. The nursery has over forty plant species including coast buckwheat, pink currant, sagebrush, monkey flower, gumplant, sagewort, yarrow, aster, seaside daisy, Douglas iris, bunch grasses and much more.
If you have a garden in the Franciscan Biological Region(San Francisco and Northern San Mateo County), these plants are genetically adapted to the environmental conditions, support local wildlife and are easy to maintain.
Five free plants per customer will be the limit.
If you want more than five plants then the price will be $5 for each additional plant.
The nursery is at Frederick and Arguello in Golden Gate Park next to Kezar Stadium. Hours of operation are Monday to Saturday 9-4 and Sunday 12-4.
Information Greg Gaar 584-8985 evenings.

(JS:  Get a load of this...)

Virility symbols

American fertility is now lower than that of France

Aug 11th 2012 | from The Economist

CONSERVATIVE Americans like to contrast the vigour and virility of their own country with the decadence and decline of Europe. Demography is exhibit A in their argument. Mitt Romney, for example, talked about Europe’s “demographic disaster” as he ended his presidential bid in 2008, calling it “the inevitable product of weakened faith in the creator, failed families, disrespect for the sanctity of human life and eroded morality”.  (excerpt)

(Something else to worry about - loss of virility.  Not enough people in the world.  Worry worry worry.)


Green Connections: Upcoming Events
Connect with Us!

Walk: Potrero Hill to the Blue Greenway, Grey to Green to Blue -- with Chocolate Sprinkles!
Date: Sunday August 19, 2012
Time: 1pm - 3pm
Meeting Location: Potrero Hill Recreation Center, 801 Arkansas Street (between 22nd and 23rd Street)
Leaders: Elizabeth Stampe & Rachel Russell
Nearby Transit Routes: Muni Bus: 10, 19
Info: Join Walk San Francisco and the SF Parks Alliance to explore walking connections from Potrero Hill to parks and the Blue Greenway, a 13-mile walkway along San Francisco’s southern waterfront.  We'll start off at Potrero Hill Recreation Center and head down to the bay, exploring how the City can improve walking connections to parks and the waterfront. Highlights of the tour include Esprit Park, Warm Water Cove, and the new Pennsylvania Community Gardens. Oh yes, and we'll have a special stop for ice cream (optional) at Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous. Yum.


10.  Neighborhood Emergency Response Team - NERT

Hi Jake,
I am a big fan of your Nature News.  I am a native Sunset Parkside resident and I also volunteer for the SF Fire Department Emergency Response Team (NERT) in SF.   I would like introduce you to and see if you would publish training information.  The NERT program, a 20 hour course over 6 weeks (or intense two day trainings) is free to all citizens who live and work in San Francisco.  The instructors are active SF Fire Fighters who teach us the means of how to be safe. Program Coordinator is an active fire fighter.  The NERT program began just after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 when residents of the Marina District approached the Fire Department to ask them to start a program that would teach people how to be prepared. NERT is a recognized State CERT program.

You may ask if this is about nature.  As a backpacker, to me, it is.  After a major event such as an earthquake, we will be up to our ears in nature.  We may have to camp out, cook, clean, etc. outside of our homes.  As you may or may not be aware, an earthquake is predicted, based on Earth science, to hit SF Bay Area within the next 30 years.   The NERT program teaches individuals how to be ready to shelter in place, to take care of their families, neighbors, and friends.  By acquiring this knowledge, we will have the ability to use these skills which will help us to prepare, mitigate, respond, and recover after we have experienced such an event.  The news of just these tragedies from around the world show us just how much we need to be prepared and ready.

If this works for you, please let me know.  Once a month, I send out information to as many folks as will have us publish.  If it works for you, please let me know.  The training events take place in every neighborhood depending on set up and/or request.   Diane River

There is a training starting on Saturday. 

August - Golden Gate Park
Academy of Sciences
Staff entrance, Nancy Pelosi Drive
Two Day Intensive!
Saturdays 8:30am-5:30pm
August 18: Class 1, 2, and 3
August 25: Class 4, 5, and 6 Recertify Opportunity

** To enroll or Recertify - Call 970-2024 or – and provide Name, Phone Number, Location and Start Date of Class. See the SFFDNERT web site for more information – To Recertify for the Intensive Training dates; please arrive not later than 10:30 AM!!!!


11.  Fear of flying

Welcome aboard
In-flight announcements are not entirely truthful.  What might an honest one sound like?

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  We are delighted to welcome you aboard Veritas Airways, the airline that tells it like it is.  Please ensure that your seat belt is fastened, your seat back is upright and your tray-table is stowed.  At Veritas Airways, your safety is our first priority.  Actually, that is not quite true:  if it were, our seats would be rear-facing, like those in military aircraft, since they are safer in the event of an emergency landing.  But then hardly anybody would buy our tickets and we would go bust.

The flight attendants are now pointing out the emergency exits.  This is the part of the announcement that you might want to pay attention to.  So stop your sudoku for a minute and listen:  knowing in advance where the exits are makes a dramatic difference to your chances of survivial if we have to evacuate the aircraft.  Also, please keep your seat belt fastened when seated, even if the seat-belt light is not illuminated.  This is to protect you from the risk of clear-air turbulence, a rare but extremely nasty form of disturbance that can cause severe injury.  Imagine the heavy food trolleys jumping into the air and bashing into the overhead lockers, and you will have some idea of how nasty it can be.  We don't want to scare you.  Still, keep that seat belt fastened all the same.

Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not remove it now.  In fact, do not bother to look for it at all.  In the event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero.  This aircraft is equipped with inflatable slides that detach to form life rafts, not that it makes any difference.  Please remove high-heeled shoes before using the slides.  We might as well add that space helmets and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction.

Please switch off all mobile phones, since they can interfere with the aircraft's navigation systems.  At least, that's what you've always been told.  The real reason to switch them off is because they interfere with mobile networks on the ground, but somehow that doesn't sound quite so good.  On most flights a few mobile phones are left on by mistake, so if they were really dangerous we would not allow them on board at all, if you think about it.  We will have to come clean about this next year, when we introduce in-flight calling across the Veritas fleet.  At that point the prospect of taking a cut of the sky-high calling charges will miraculously cause our safety concerns about mobile phones to evaporate.

On channel 11 of our in-flight entertainment system you will find a video consisting of abstract imagery and a new-age soundtrack, with a voice-over explaining some exercises you can do to reduce the risk of deep-vein thrombosis.  We are aware that this video is tedious, but it is not meant to be fun.  It is meant to limit our liability in the event of lawsuits.

Once we have reached a cruising altitude you will be offered a light meal and a choice of beverages--a word that sounds so much beter than just saying 'drinks', don't you think?  The purpose of these refreshments is partly to keep you in your seats where you cannot do yourselves or anyone else any harm.  Please consume alcohol in moderate quantities so that you become mildly sedated but not rowdy.  That said, we can always turn the cabin air-quality down a notch or two to help ensure that you are sufficiently drowsy.

After take-off, the most dangerous part of the flight, the captain will say a few words that will either be so quiet that you will not be able to hear them, or so loud that they could wake the dead.  So please sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.  We appreciate that you have a choice of airlines and we thank you for choosing Veritas, a member of an incomprehensible alliance of obscure foreign outfits, most of which you have never heard of.  Cabin crew, please make sure we have remembered to close the doors.  Sorry, I mean:  'Doors to automatic and cross-check'.  Thank you for flying Veritas."

The Economist, 9 September 2006


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