Posts Tagged ‘mammals’

San Francisco’s Natural History

April 20, 2017

Now I am shipping copies already ordered.  Books arrived today.  This book is also available for order from Amazon as book paperback and inexpensive Kindle download.
SAN FRANCISCO’S NATURAL HISTORY
FROM SAND DUNES TO STREETCARS69644847_Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEG_7303473


This book will sell for $25 plus shipping of approximately $3.20.  I am hoping it will be available in selected San Francisco book stores.  It will also be available as both a paperback and Kindle book from Amazon.

This book traces the changes in San Francisco’s landscape from the days of the Ohlone to the present.  What native species were present when only Native Americans lived here? What animal grazed, flew or swam here? In the wild countryside what natural waterways supported life?  What trees, fruits, and flowering plants would the Ohlone have known and used?  And…what happened to all that after the Europeans arrived? It’s a dramatic cascade of changes, filled with disappearance and devastation, ruin, restoration and rebirth.  As the centuries passed and the cityscape developed and changed, so has the natural landscape and the creatures in it, including us–humans, whose values and actions have altered and shaped everything.

In spite of what amounts to obliteration of the old natural environment, many native species survive and even thrive in the modern city.  “Life” here includes wildlife. Contemporary restoration projects mover forward.  Brown Pelicans and coyotes have been joined by new immigrants like collared-doves and eastern gray squirrels.  Forests of introduced trees today host Red-shouldered Hawks and Hooded Orioles. And yet, there is not stasis and never has been. Now comes climate change.  All is flux.

Through this book, I hope to help provide knowledge and perspective on what has gone before, but also what we now face.  To protect and preserve this peninsula, this beautiful piece of our planet, the decisions we humans must make are not just cosmetic, they are matters of life and death.  People must understand what’s happened and what’s happening in order to avoid repeating devastating mistakes of the past, and in order to proceed wisely and humanely into the future. From open space to micro-plastic pollution, the decisions rest with us.

SOME EXCERPTS

The want of sufficient level space on which to found so great and growing a city, has been partially rectified, at an enormous expense, by taking building ground from the waters, and by lowering, and in many cases absolutely removing bodily the multitude of sand hills, by which the place is immediately surrounded. What with digging out and filling up, piling, capping and planking, grading and regrading the streets, and shifting, and rebuilding, and again rebuilding the houses, to suit the altered levels, millions upon millions of dollars have been spent.                                       –Frank Soule, et al., The Annals of San Francisco, 1855

***

Nature’s plan has evolved through millions of years while man’s plans for the earth cover a short span of time and are very often both selfish and short-sighted.
–Helen Cruickshank, Thoreau’s Birds, 1964


***

Captain Jean François de La Perouse from France was the first European from outside the Spanish Empire to visit California after the founding of the missions and pueblos. In September 1786, he spent time in Monterey. About Monterey Bay he wrote: “It is impossible to describe the number of whales with which we were surrounded, or their familiarity. They spouted every half minute within pistol shot of our frigates, and caused a most annoying stench. We were unacquainted with this property in the whale, but the inhabitants informed us that the water thrown out by them is impregnated with this offensive smell.”

***

            In 1792–1793, Archibald Menzies, the medical officer for the British Expedition, headed by Captain George Vancouver, was immediately taken with the dramatic “broad sheet of water” that is the bay, described in the epigraph to this chapter. The observations by Menzies and other expedition crew are valuable as baseline information about how the area was changed over the decades that followed their visit. During their stay in the fall of 1792, the British sailors reported a large number of waterfowl in the marsh that is now Crissy Field. Menzies describes the area between Fort Mason and Fort Point as a “low track of Marshy Land along shore, with some Salt Water Lagoons that were supplied by the overflowings of high Tides and oozings through the Sandy Beach: on these we saw abundance of Ducks and wild Geese…”  Vancouver mentions large livestock flocks. He is visiting in 1792, less than two decades after the first colonists arrived from Mexico. Yet, already hundreds of domestic animals are ranging across a fragile landscape.

***

1820   Estimated 200,000 northern fur seals killed for their pelts.

1932  First Mockingbird sighted in San Francisco.

***

One of the few surface streams still to be seen in San Francisco runs down Glen Canyon. It constitutes the headwaters of Precita Creek, which joins Islais Creek, named from the Ohlone word for hollyleaf cherry… In 1869 America’s first dynamite factory, the Giant Powder Company, blew up in Glen Canyon. Also, in the late 1800s, the canyon, then known as Rock Gulch, supported a private zoo and amusement park.

***

San Francisco’s original grasslands and coastal scrub are almost gone. Most grassland fell before invasive plants, pavement, housing, and other heavy use. A large swath of coastal prairie in McLaren Park became Gleneagles Golf Course. Fortunately, a parcel of nearly natural habitat survives on the eastern slope of Mount Davidson.

***

Farallones: Research over the past four decades by Point Blue has shown that Common Murres are now breeding earlier in the year, in response to climate change and its effects on upwelling in the California current.

***

Golden Gate Park: In 1870, when this land was set aside by the city government for a park, it was largely sand dunes. Before it was landscaped and planted, there were a few willow-bordered lakes on the site, some squatters in residence, and scattered oak groves in sheltered areas furthest from the windy beach. The most respected landscape expert at the time was Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York’s Central Park. He warned San Francisco these lands outside the city limits were not suitable for a proper urban, forested park. Olmsted’s conclusion about a park in the city was part cautionary, part damning: “There is not a full grown tree of beautiful proportions near San Francisco, nor have I seen any young trees that promise fairly, except, perhaps, of certain compact clump forms of evergreens, wholly wanting in grace and cheerfulness. It would not be wise nor safe to undertake to form a park upon any plan which assumed as a certainty that trees which would delight the eye can be made to grow near San Francisco.”

***

In 2010, the public had no idea that harmful micro-beads of plastic were being put into many consumer products and we were all guilty of spreading them across the planet. The San Francisco Estuary Institute and its partners are now studying the presence of micro-plastics and nano-plastics in San Francisco Bay. This research is being led by Dr. Rebecca Sutton. Her preliminary study found the bay was more contaminated by plastic than the Great Lakes or Chesapeake Bay.

***

Perhaps most threatening are a group of invasive Asian earthworms first identified on the East Coast and found in Oregon in 2016. The risk from these invaders is that they feed on the surface material in forests, quickly turning leaf litter and fallen plant matter into worm food and then feces. They drive out nondestructive worm species and clear the soil for erosion and desiccation, weakening forests trying to survive climate change and drought.

***

Climate change: Just how bad can this get?  A scientific look back at a previous die-off caused by ocean acidification brings up terrifying images if you value any currently living creature.  Volcanologist Seth Burgess studied the geological and biological changes that took place at the end of the Permian period about 250-255 million years ago.  It wasn’t simply the end of a geological age, it was the end of most living organisms.  Fossil records show that 90% of all ocean organisms and 70% of those on land went extinct. Trees and coral reefs disappeared. 

=============

Other links pertaining to this book:

Newslinks, stories pertinent to San Francisco’s natural history—present and future.

Table of Contents

Species named in the book

San Francisco images, before 1860 
San Francisco images, 1860 to present 

 

 

 

 

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CLIMATE CHANGE TALK–HERE’S MY BIBLIOGRAPHY

October 10, 2015

I speak about western birds and climate change at 530pm in Hannon Library at Southern Oregon University, Ashland, Oregon on the night of October 15th. Talk is free.

CLIMATE CHANGE: A SELECTIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR PACIFIC COAST BIRDERS This bibliography include articles and books that deal with species outside the Avian clan but changes in moose or monarch populations, or diseases in forest trees cannot be isolated from similar or related affects on birds.

Alaska’s spruce bark beetle crisis:
http://forestry.alaska.gov/insects/sprucebarkbeetle.htm

Amphibian decline:
http://amphibiaweb.org/declines/declines.html

Aridity:
A Great Aridness. William de Buys.

All the Wild That Remains. David Gessner. Book describes the environmental thoughts of Stegner and Abbey and author visits sites they knew and loved.

When the Rivers Run Dry. Fred Pearce.

Avian keratin disorder:
http://atowhee.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/freak-beak/
I am investigating an epizootic of similar bill deformities in Alaska. This epizootic has recently spread to the Pacific Northwest, with a large cluster of bill deformities appearing in the Puget Sound region. Birds affected by this ‘avian keratin disorder’ have bills that are abnormally long and often crossed, such as in this nuthatch. We’ve determined that the keratin layer of the beak (like the material in a person’s fingernails) is growing too rapidly. Despite extensive testing, we still don’t know what’s causing the problem. We’ve documented beak deformities among a large number of species, including chickadees, crows, nuthatches, jays, woodpeckers, ravens, and several raptors. We are very interested in receiving reports of any birds with abnormal bills such as this one. Please visit our website at the USGS Alaska Science Center or contact me directly:
http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/biology/landbirds/beak_deformity/index.html
–Colleen Handel
Research Wildlife Biologist
USGS Alaska Science Center
cmhandel@usgs.gov

Beetle infestation:
Empire of the Beetle. Andrew Nikiforuk.
Birds as sentinel species: “Canaries in a Global Cole Mine?” pp. 1337-1338. “Ecology” 88(5), 2007. Review of the book Birds and Climate Change by Moller et al. Elsevier. Burlington, Mass. 2006.

Bobcat-lynx hybrids:
http://www.nrri.umn.edu/lynx/information/hybrid.html

Bumble bee evolution right now: Functional mismatch in a bumble bee pollination mutualism under climate change. Authors: Nicole E. Miller-Struttmann, Jennifer C. Geib, James D. Franklin, et al. Science 25 September 2015: 1541-1544. [DOI:10.1126/science.aab0868] Researchers write: “We found that in two alpine bumble bee species, decreases in tongue length have evolved over 40 years. Co-occurring flowers have not become shallower, nor are small-flowered plants more prolific. We argue that declining floral resources because of warmer summers have favored generalist foraging, leading to a mismatch between shorter-tongued bees and the longer-tubed plants they once pollinated.”

California climate change:
http://www.climatechange.ca.gov/climate_action_team/reports/
http://oehha.ca.gov/multimedia/epic/ [this contains list of all state’s climate change reports]

California’s official West Nile Virus website:
http://westnile.ca.gov/wnv_basics.htm

California West Nile infection map:
http://westnile.ca.gov/latest_activity.php

Carbon tetrachloride still being emitted:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/23/ozone-depleting-compound-found_n_5701157.html

Center for Biological Diversity:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/index.html

Christmas Bird Count Analysis:
WWW.audubon.org/bird/bacc/species.html

Climate change anxiety:
http://www.care2.com/causes/climate-change-anxiety-and-how-we-can-become-climate-resilient.html

Climate change disagreement, not debate:
“How to Talk About climate Change So People Will Listen. By Charles Mann. “The Atlantic,” Sept., 2014.

Climate Peril: The Intelligent Reader’s Guide to Understanding the Climate Crisis. By John Berger. Northbrae Books. 2014.

Coal use worse than we’ve been told:
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28942403

Coal burning waste:
http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c02d.html

Coffee:
“Climate for Coffee” in “National Geographic” magazine. Sept. 2015.

Extinction
Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. Elizabeth Colbert. Henry Holt. 2014.

Extinctions predicted:
“Extinction risk from climate change” letter in Nature 427, 145-148 (8 January 2004) | doi:10.1038/nature02121; Received 10 September 2003; Accepted 13 October 2003, By Chris Thomas, et al.
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v427/n6970/full/nature02121.html

Feral. George Monbiot. Penguin. 2013. Argues for helping all animals and plants find space for survival.
Website for book: http://www.monbiot.com/2013/05/24/feral-searching-for-enchantment-on-the-frontiers-of-rewilding/

Greenhouse gas list, according to IPCC:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPCC_list_of_greenhouse_gases

Greenland ice sheet loss accelerates:
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28852980

Grizzly-Polar Bear Hybridization
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/17/magazine/should-you-fear-the-pizzly-bear.html?

Health hazards with climate change:
http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/health.html

IPCC report, Fall, 2014:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2014/08/26/climate-change-report-united-nations/14638079/

Christina Larson “Hostile shores”
Science 9 October 2015: 150-152. [DOI:10.1126/science.350.6257.150]. Describes environmental degradation of marshlands used by Asian migrant birds.

Methane from rice:
http://www.ghgonline.org/methanerice.htm

Methane sources:
http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html

Minnesota moose population:
http://www.startribune.com/local/270761141.html

Moose population decreases:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/science/earth/something-is-killing-off-the-moose.html

Monarch migration and species hybrids on NPR’s “On Point:”
http://onpoint.wbur.org/2014/08/20/monarch-butterflies-migration-climate-change

Monarch population decline:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140819-monarch-butterfly-milkweed-environment-ecology-science/

Monarch population decline covered by “Living on Earth,” of NPR:
http://www.loe.org/shows/shows.html?programID=14-P13-00026

Monterey pine disease:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_pitch_canker

Mountaintop species and climate change:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/mountaintop_species/index.html

National Wildlife Federation, on adaptation to climate change:
http://www.nwf.org/climate-smart

Oak sudden death:
http://www.suddenoakdeath.org/

Ocean acidification effects on marine life:
http://oceana.org/en/our-work/climate-energy/ocean-acidification/learn-act/effects-of-ocean-acidification-on-marine-species-ecosystems
“PATHOLOGY ASSOCIATED WITH WEST NILE VIRUS INFECTIONS IN THE YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIE (PICA NUTTALLI): A CALIFORNIA ENDEMIC BIRD”
Holly B. Ernest, Leslie W. Woods and Bruce R. Hoar
Journal of Wildlife Diseases Apr 2010, Vol. 46, No. 2 (April 2010) pp. 401-408
M

Moller, Anders, et al. (eds). Feeling the Heat. Elsevier, Burlington, MA. 2006.

Pepperwood Preserve climate change studies:
http://app.pepperwoodpreserve.org/pls/apex/f?p=514:10:7789024140228

Pine beetles:
http://e360.yale.edu/feature/whats_killing_the_great_forests_of_the_american_west/2252/

Rising land:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-21/epic-drought-in-west-is-literally-moving-mountains.html

Solar power installation kills birds:
http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2014/08/22/pecking-order-energys-toll-on-birds

Starfish die-off on Pacific Coast:
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/scientists-zero-whats-causing-starfish-die-offs/

Tricolored Blackbird Population Crisis
http://ca.audubon.org/newsroom/press-releases/2014/california-fish-and-game-commission-considers-emergency-listing-tricolo
Urban heat islands:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/20/urban-heat-island-effect-us-cities_n_5696009.html?

Warming hiatus:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/atlantic-ocean-slows-global-warming-but-scientists-believe-hiatus-will-end-around-2030-1.2743216?cmp=fbtl

White-tailed Ptarmigan’s future:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/white-tailed_ptarmigan/map.html
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/white-tailed_ptarmigan/
World Health Organization on climate change, starvation and disease:
http://www.who.int/topics/climate/en/

GREAT GRAY OWL NEIGHBORS

February 24, 2015

Here is a list of some of the many species we know share living space with Great Gray Owls in some portions of the owl’s range across California, Oregon and Washington State:

[* indicates evidence that this species can be prey for a Great Gray Owl]
BIRDS:
Canada Goose                                   Branta canadensis

Common Merganser                      Mergus merganser

California Quail

Mountain Quail*

Ruffed Grouse

Sooty Grouse

Dusky Grouse

Bald Eagle                                                            Haliaectus leucocephalus

Spotted Sandpiper                                          Actitis macularius
Wilson’s Snipe                                   Gallinago delicata

Spotted Owl                                                       Strix occidentalis

Boreal Owl                                                          Aegolius funereus

Northern Pygmy-Owl                     Glaudicium gnoma

North Saw-Whet Owl                     Aegolius acadius

Vaux’s Swift                                                       Chaetura vauxi

Lewis’s Woodpecker                      Melanerpes lewis

Williamson’s Sapsucker                 Sphyrapicus thyroideus

Red-naped Sapsucker                    Sphyrapicus nuchalis

White-headed Woodpecker       Picoides albolarvatus

Hairy Woodpecker                                          Picoides villosus

Black-backed Woodpecker                          Picoides arcticus
American Three-toed Woodpecker     Picoides dorsalis

Northern Flicker                                               Coalptes auratus

Pileated Woodpecker                    Dryocopus pileatus

Olive-sided Flycatcher                   Contopus cooperi

Western Wood-Pewee                 Contopus sordidulus

Willow Flycatcher                                             Empidonax traillii

Dusky Flycatcher                                              Empidona oberholseri

Cassin’s Vireo                                    Vireo cassinii

Clark’s Nutcracker                                           Nucrifraga columbiana

Gray Jay                                                               Perisoreus canadensis

Steller’s Jay                                                        Cyanocitta stelleri

Western Scrub-Jay                                          Aphelocoma californica

Common Raven                                                Corvus corax

Tree Swallow                                     Tachycibeta bicolor

Black-capped Chickadee                               Poecile atricapillus

Mountain Chickadee                      Poecile gambeli

Red-breasted Nuthatch                                Sitta canadensis

White-breasted Nuthatch                            Sitta carolinesis

Pygmy Nuthatch                                              Sitta pygmaea

House Wren                                                       Troglodytes aedon

Pacific Wren                                                       Troglodytes pacificus

Bewick’s Wren                                  Trhyomanes bewickii

Golden-crowned Kinglet                              Regulus satrapa

Ruby-crowned Kinglet                   Regulus calendula

Western Bluebird                                            Sialia mexicanus

Mountain Bluebird                                          Sialia curruccoides

Townsend’s Solitaire                      Myadestes townsendi

Hermit Thrush                                   Catharus guttatus

American Robin                                                Turdus migratorius

Nashville Warbler                                            Oreothlypis ruficapilla

Orange-crowned Warbler                            Oreothlypis celata

Yellow-rumped Warbler                               Setophaga coronata

Hermit Warbler                                 Setophaga occidentalis

Townsend’s Warbler                      Setophaga townsendii

MacGillivray’s Warbler                   Geothlypis tomiei

Green-tailed Towhee                    Pipilo chlorurus

Chipping Sparrow                                            Spizella passerina

Lincoln’s Sparrow                                             Melospiza lincolnii

Song Sparrow                                    Melospiza melodia

Fox Sparrow                                                       Passerella iliaca

Dark-eyed Junco*                                           Junco hyemalis

Western Tanager                                             Piranga ludoviciana

Cassin’s Finch                                    Carpodacus cassinii

Red Crossbill                                                      Loxia curvirostra

Pine Siskin                                                           Spinus pinus

Evening Grosbeak                                           Coccothraustes vespertinus

MAMMALS:

mountain lion

bobcat

fisher

marten

short-tailed weasel

raccoon

black bear

common gray fox

elk

mule deer

North American porcupine

Botta’s pocket gopher* Thomomys bottae

northern pocket gopher

western pocket gopher

Townsend’s chipmunk* Tamias townsendii
yellow pine chipmunk*

western pocket gopher*   Thomomys mazama

creeping vole*   Microtus oregoni

dusky-footed wood rat*   Neotoma fuscipes

Norway rat*   Rattus norvegicus

coast mole*   Scapanus orarius

shrew-mole*   Neurotrichus gibbsii

vagrant shrew*   Sorex vagrans

Trowbridge’s shrew* Sorex trowbridgii

fog shrew*   Sorex sonomae

Douglas’ squirrel*     Tamiasciurus douglasii

red squirrel*

northern flying squirrel*   Glaucomys sabrinus

western red-backed vole*   Clethrionomys californicus

montane vole*   Microtus montanus

long-tailed vole           Microtus longicaudus

Richardson’s vole

red-backed vole*

heather vole*

deer mouse*   Peromyscus maniculatus

golden-mantled ground squirrel*

 

*Known prey animal within the Pacific Slope states