Wednesday, April 23, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

At the Pond: Fall is the right time to think about nature

A flock of white-faced ibis forage at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area as a snowy egret takes flight. The bypass driving tour is open sunrise to sunset and the birding will get even better with the rains. Jean Jackman/Courtesy photo

A flock of white-faced ibis forage at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area as a snowy egret takes flight. The bypass driving tour is open sunrise to sunset and the birding will get even better with the rains. Jean Jackman/Courtesy photo

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From page A12 | October 27, 2013 | Leave Comment

By Jean Jackman
Albert Camus, the French author, said, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

Well, he probably didn’t foolishly plant two valley oaks and a fruitless mulberry tree in a small yard. Leaves galore. Plus this season, it is a “good mast year” for acorns — meaning a bumper crop. Solid ground covering of acorns.

Our love of valley oaks got a little carried away when we planted our yard. Word to the wise, plant natives, but not a valley oak in a small yard. I grew up in the Midwest and didn’t have a clue about California landscaping.

The squirrels are in ecstasy. They are hiding acorns in our car engine again. Time to paint the insides with cayenne pepper before they start to munch on the hood insulation and wires.

The turkeys love it. All 34 of them stop on the start of their daily stroll and at the end of the day before roosting in the Canary pines across the street in Covell Park. They especially enjoy eating on our roof. Perhaps they like the view.

I can remember my excitement when turkeys first arrived at the cemetery in 2006, a pair and five poults. It was such an unusual event back then before they inundated all neighborhoods.

Now, landscape ideas and information can be easily accessed at the UC Davis Arboretum website. You’ll find the 100 hardy, native, drought-tolerant plants that are easy to grow. And there is still time to plant.

Consider getting plants of special value to honeybees because they need help. We need them to pollinate one-third of the foods we eat and they are doing poorly all over the world. If you visit Honey Bee Haven on the UC Davis campus, you can view a half-acre public garden that will provide a three-season supply for honeybees.

Scientists attribute a number of main causes for the colony collapse disorder, which is a phenomenon when an entire colony will abandon its hive, but studies in the journal Science make the case for neonicotinoid pesticides as key drivers in pollinator decline. Habitat that bees eat is being killed of by the increased herbicide use driven by RoundUp Ready genetically engineered crops.

This is serious business for all of us. These neuro-toxic pesticides are found in lawn care products and flea products. Buyers beware. Honeybees are an indicator species. Scientists believe that the collapse is a warning of environmental degradation, part of the reason for collapse of biodiversity that is perhaps more of a threat to humanity than global warming that contributes to it.

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Those Friends of West Pond are at it again with good happenings. They had a picnic celebration last Sunday. Biologist Ed Whisler presented “Mammals, Amphibians, Reptiles and Fish at West Pond and Surrounding Neighborhood, an Annotated List (Observations 1989-2013)” that he has compiled over the past 24 years. He has generously offered to do the same for the North Ponds. Photos can be found at Facebook.com/FriendsofWestPond.

Gene Trapp and Ralph Hunter lead a two-hour birding and botanizing walk on the first Wednesday of every month. Walks start at 9 a.m. at the gazebo at the west end of Isle Royale. The next walk is Nov. 6.

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Little activity yet at the North Pond so I headed out the three miles to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area where there is a clockwise driving tour. There’s not a lot of water out there so few birds to see until you get to the permanent ponds. As usual, I spotted a northern harrier. It is a raptor easy to identify because it flies low over fields and marshes and has an obvious white rump patch. Gulls are gathering out there, six species. And islands were covered with mixed species — mallards, cinnamon teal, northern pintail, coots — all bunched up together.
What made my day was watching the white-faced ibis. From now until breeding season they are a glossy greenish-grayish, but in March, come breeding season, they will have the white border around a reddish face. They have a distinctive long curved bill and a wingspan of three feet. Listen to their grunts wehp-eph as they feed in a flock.

The Wildlife Area is south of Interstate 80 between Davis and Sacramento. Signs direct you on the driving tour. There are porta-potties at a couple of parking lots. The area is open from sunrise to sunset and always offers something interesting.

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Thanks to all who signed petitions asking passage of Assembly Bill 711. It passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed it, and that will save some of California’s most majestic birds from lead poisoning deaths. The new law will require nonleaded ammunition for all hunting in California beginning in 2019. A total of 130 wildlife species suffer the threat of lead poisoning, including hunters who eat meat hunted with lead ammo.

If enough speak up, we can make changes. Let’s find at least one green action to take this week.

I will be showing the movie “Over Troubled Waters — The Fate of California is in Your Hands,” a movie about the peripheral tunnel pipeline proposed by Gov. Brown, at my home at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5. Please email if you would like to attend. This is our watershed that would be drastically changed by the tunnels. Please get informed.

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Last night my lullaby was the song of a pair of great horned owls. Hoo hoodoo hoooo hoo of the male with an overlapping higher-pitched female answer. They just kept calling. Delicious. Kiss each day.

— Jean Jackman is a Davis resident; her columns are published monthly. Questions, comments, corrections? Contact her at JeanJackman@gmail.com

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