How many delights are we missing in our own neighborhoods?
Many times a week, I walk between the Northstar Pond and the Julie Partansky Pond. And yet, I failed to observe two active nests until expert birders on our monthly Friends of North Pond First Saturday Bird stroll pointed them out to us.
On the big pond side of the walk, there is a cottonwood tree with a sawed off branch with two holes. Stop for a few minutes and you might see a Nuttall’s woodpecker arriving to feed the chicks inside.
On the other side of the walk, hanging from a Canary pine tree is a brown pouch like structure hanging next to a couple of pinecones. Be patient there, too, and you will see a tiny bushtit quickly coming and going. It is an architectural wonder — woven from moss, grasses, and spider webs and insulated with feathers and fur. All of the bushtit family sleeps together, even other adult male helpers. After breeding season they sleep on branches. A social creature, it is usually found in flocks with mixed species foraging together.
Two mammals have been observed at the ponds this month. Cayce Wallace observed an American mink run across F Street. And several people have observed a coyote in the area. The development of The Cannery has no doubt forced them to relocate. Do not feed them. Keep your pet food inside and pets inside at night. Let us co-exist using sane practices and leave the coyotes to eat the rats and voles.
Come to the guided Friends of North Davis Ponds First Saturday stroll from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, June 7, and have some stop, look and listen rich experiences. Wildlife biologist Ed Whisler will lead. Meet at the parking lot next to 3500 Anderson Road. Bring binoculars. There are bathrooms and drinking fountains. It is all wheelchairs accessible.
Friends of West Pond have a first Wednesday schedule of guided strolls. Meet at 8 a.m. Wednesday, June 4, at the Gazebo at the west end of Isle Royale Lane. Bring binoculars. They stroll for two hours or more. They expect to see chicks in the Cooper’s hawk’s nest.
Here’s where I have had the most exciting viewing: Near the Yolo County Landfill is a heron and egret rookery. It’s on private fenced-in land but from County Road 103, you can view the eucalyptus grove peppered with nests and birds. They are walking, sitting patiently in nests, flying off to forage, building nests and making a cacophony of noises that sound most like lots of people gargling. Perhaps a couple of hundred birds. Drive out Pole Line (County Road 102) and turn on 28H. Then take the first road left, Road 103, and go 0.7 of a mile. When you see the grove of eucalyptus trees, carefully pull off the road. Walk up to the fenced area and enjoy.
A less pleasant topic is that we are beginning to see highly explosive and toxic crude oil from North Dakota and Canada being shipped through Davis. We have about 40 oil tank cars a day. If two refineries get their way, we will have an additional 188 oil tankers. California is the third biggest refining state in the country. Here is a chilling fact: More crude oil was spilled in U.S. rail accidents in 2013 than in the preceding four decades, more than 1.15 million gallons in 2013.
In July 2013, 72 tanker cars loaded with 2 million gallons of flammable crude oil derailed in Lac-Mégantic, a small Canadian town, spilling 1.5 million gallons of crude. The resulting fire and explosions burned down dozens of buildings, killed 47 people, and caused over $1 billion in damages. Similar accidents have occurred elsewhere, including in North Dakota and Alabama.
First responders are not prepared for accidents. We are further endangered by weak rail infrastructure and obsolete tanker design. Cities like Bellingham, Spokane, Seattle and Davis have passed resolutions to restrict oil until further review. Davis passed a resolution opposing transportation of crude oil through Davis and adjacent habitat areas. However, it is the feds that control the rails.
There is inadequate tanker design, weakened rail infrastructure and upstream rivers and streams and the delta to be considered. The curvature of the rail line and rail crossover through downtown is dangerous.
The draft EIR for Benicia’s Valero refinery proposal for a rail terminal to receive 100 tank cars of Bakken crude oil per day will be released June 10 for 45 days of public comment. The city of Davis will prepare written comments with neighboring jurisdictions. Yolano Climate Action invites the public to a Workshop including instruction, brainstorming, and organizing responses from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, in the Fellowship Hall of Davis Community Church, 421 D St. Refreshments included.
Please vote on Tuesday. Note endorsements for Joe Krovoza for California Assembly from the Sierra Club, California League of Conservation Voters, four more major environmental groups plus The Davis Enterprise, Sacramento Bee, and newspapers from Dixon, Woodland and Fairfield.
And remember, kiss each day.
— Jean Jackman is a Davis resident. Her columns appear monthly. Got a comment, question, story? Contact her: JeanJackman@gmail.com