Nitrate removal kit….get it? KIT?

   Posted by heidi08 On February - 12 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Fair warning. There are two fairly predictable puns in this mornings post. Never mind. It’s worth it.

Here’s a nice interview about the research done on the effects of the beavers in Devon by the Dr. Brazier at the University of Exeter. The interview is accompanied by some beautiful photos from the Wildwood Trust. Enjoy!

I spent most of yesterday working on my mural presentation for PRMCC. I made this to show something about the history of the beaver story being important to Martinez. I’m thinking of calling it “A community tale” or maybe “A community tail“…


Seems like it makes the point to me. What do you think?

BK sent this my way this morning and it’s pretty alarming. Apparently nitrates are in our lovely high mountain lakes too and affection biodiversity everywhere. Gosh I wish we only knew of SOME ANIMAL that was good at removing nitrates cheaply…but I’m just drawing a blank…any thoughts?

‘Frightening’ findings foretell ills for ecosystems

 The study’s lead author, recent PhD graduate Beth Hundey (Geography), showed, for the first time, that 70 per cent of nitrates in high mountain lakes in Utah are from human-caused sources – with fertilizers having, by far, the most impact at 60 per cent, along with another 10 per cent caused by fossil fuels. The research suggests these findings could apply to other mountain ranges in western North America.
Unlike temperature and dissolved oxygen, the presence of normal levels of nitrates usually does not have a direct effect on ecosystems. However, excess levels of nitrates in water can create conditions that significantly alter an area’s biodiversity
Wow. That’s terrible. The very thing which feeds us is also killing us – in more ways than one. If only there was a simple, cheap, effective solution. You know something really hardy that every state could afford and was guaranteed to make a difference…
 nitrate removal kit

Another chapter in our beaver tale

   Posted by heidi08 On February - 11 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Capture2Footer 1 5 x 3 5 inddHaving trouble deciding what to read at night? I might have just found an answer. This imminently published book covers the exciting return of beavers to the Detroit River. It’s lovely writing and illustrations are aimed at children 8-12 but you can bet I’ll be reading my copy avidly and telling you all about it here, at beaver central. I’m attaching the publishers pdf which you can read or download  for more details.

And yes. Let’s hear it for the beavers.


There’s a nice article about our Idaho beaver friends recent beaver count, but I’m sure you’ll agree that the choice of photo is a little inappropriate:

CaptureOof! I wrote Debbie and the paper when this came out but I’m there haven’t been changes. Never mind, lets focus on the words which are wonderful!

“Helping the Portneuf River watershed, one beaver at a time” is the motto of the Watershed Guardians, whose annual BeaverCount on Mink and Dempsey creeks last weekend was part of that effort.

The beaver count is a volunteer effort organized by Watershed Guardians. And the results from the annual census will influence how many trapping permits are issued for beaver on Mink Creek, Dempsey Creek and other streams within the Portneuf River watershed, said Mike Settell, the group’s director.

Several Scout troops and students from Idaho State University’s Outdoor Leadership program took part in the annual count on Saturday, along with 32 volunteer surveyors known as “Flat-tailers.”

During the annual count, volunteers recorded beaver scat, tracks, and slides, which indicate that the animals still occupy ponds on Mink Creek and other areas.

Currently in its fifth year, data collected during the count will be shared at open house events for the public, federal agencies, and Idaho Fish and Game, said Settell, who’s an environmental engineer. The findings will also be presented at the “State of the Beaver” conference in Canyonville, Oregon.

Settell said the number of trapping permits issued for beaver on the Main and the South forks of Mink Creek has been reduced from 10 to five animals, and trapping on the East and West forks was suspended for an additional two years.

Beaver are the original watershed guardians, Settell said. The indigenous animals play a crucial role in flood control, recharging the ground water supply and creating habitat in a pond-wetland-stream ecosystem.

“Along the Portneuf, beaver create habitat for every species from frogs to moose,” Settell said. “This year we’re also looking at fisheries, as well. And streams that have beaver activity typically have more and larger native species of fish, such as the Yellowstone cutthroat trout.”

Meanwhile, a lack of beaver activity leads to an increase in sediment and a greater chance of peak flood-damage downstream.

Settell said Watershed Guardians operates through volunteers and by donations. The mission of the group is to raise awareness about the crucial role that beavers play in maintaining wildlife habitat and water quality within the Portneuf River watershed.

Love that mission. Great work Mike and Team Mike! I’m so happy to have your voice for beavers on the good side. In the past couple years Mike has even undertaken a beaver musical festival known as the “Beaver dam Jam”, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with their many successes. Idaho is one place where sport trapping is still more common than depredation – so its a big deal that folks are looking out for beavers.

Our mural meeting went very well yesterday, we have been approved by the art committee and assuming they have a quorum next week we are on the schedule to present at the PRMCC on Tuesday. Artist Mario Alfaro showed up with a canvas of his latest efforts, and we were all very impressed. Click twice to see a bigger version.

panomuralThis artwork really  focuses on our natural color scheme and boasts an egret and a turtle! Love the many beavers, and very happy to see the children in the stand of trees near the dam. So familiar! I’m thinking this will look amazing on the bridge.

Ohh and I found this by accident the other day. It’s obviously a computer generated reading of our wikipedia entry, but fun to see nevertheless.

Git yer kilt an’ save the beavers!

   Posted by heidi08 On February - 10 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

CaptureSome mornings you just want to curl up with a mug of coffee and a bagel and savor articles like this. It wasn’t easy to get you the full text but I KNEW you would want to read it, and it’s much finer writing than anything I’m likely to say, so get comfortable. It was written by Jim Crumley for the Courier, the author of Nature’s architect, and considered by some to be the finest nature writing in Scotland – when you read this you will see why.

1Ahh, does that describe our Martinez beaver controversy or WHAT? Nothing gets thought about more than whether or not some bit of nature should be allowed to do natural things. How true!

2And beavers don’t VOTE. Did you get that? I am SO JEALOUS of Scotland. It gets writers like this AND really good beer. And castles. What do we get?  Buffalo, Starbucks and primary elections. That’s what.


Shhh…we’re coming to my favorite part….about stakeholders.

4“It permeates the official language like midges on a dam day on Mull“. Is it possible to fall in love with a column? For those of you that haven’t experienced the luxury of midges, let me say that once a million years ago Jon and I went for a delightful picnic on the Scottish countryside. and were very surprised to learn that while we were happily enjoying our treat, some tiny invisible insects were busy enjoying US. Midges stealth and strategy lies in the fact they are much smaller than mosquitoes – so they never get slapped as they should. Unlike mosquitoes – not all kinds bite. But they come in clouds and are VERY annoying. Mull is an island in Scotland. And accusing the government of counting as many stakeholders as there are midges on this wet island makes me very happy indeed.

5“And look no further than the BUNGLING BRUTALITY of the badger cull”. Not only is this alliteration at its finest, Crumley cheerfully slashes his enemies with a stark oxymoron. Lots of bullies are happy to be called brutal, but but having your brutality described as ‘bungling’ changes the meaning entirely. Now instead of ‘pulling the wings off flies’ you are pulling the tail feathers off a chicken and everyone is looking at you and wondering why.

6Ambassadors of biodiversity“.  Ahhh I love the way that sounds. Someone needs to read me this article every earth day in a thick Scotish brogue – I’m thinking maybe Frank Helling as John Muir.


33,000 signatures! How ironic! If the farmers had just put up with the beavers they would have probably gotten their way in earning the right to depredate problem beavers. Now this has created such a national and international stir they will never hear the end of it.

Capture1Beavers are as much Scots as the people themselves.  LOVE IT!


This morning we’re off to the PRMCC again for more mural review with Mario’s most recent draft, and yesterday I was invited back to the SF Waterboard to give a talk. Apparently the planning division liked it so much beavers are being invited back for the Watershed division. Nice!



And the results are in…

   Posted by heidi08 On February - 9 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

A natural ally in the fight against floods – the beaver

The experiment which has been running for five years in West Devon has been both a world-first and a profound surprise for the scientific community. The results of the experiment are startling. During the five years the two beavers have lived a wild and natural existence in their seven-acre enclosure they have built 13 dams using the kind of scrub willow and hazel that tend to line Westcountry streams and these have had a profound effect on both water flows and on pollution.

The scientists have been looking at three different areas in the changing hydrology – the amount of flow which goes into the beaver-zone and then comes out; the increase in the area’s water storage capacity; and the effect on pollutants.

He explained how the 13 beaver dams are slowing the water flow. “The water comes in at the top and fills up behind the first dam, overflows and fills the next. It is like a staircase. There is a constant release of water – each pond draws down and is replenished before the next rainfall.

The professor showed us a graph on which a blue line showed flows measured at the input to the site, and a red line showed the outflow. As you’d expect, the blue line zig-zagged up and down as heavy rains were followed by dry periods – but the red line measuring output remained more-or-less straight across the middle of the graph.

And there was another reading. “From this landscape here we are seeing an average of 150 mg per litre of sediment coming off farmland in storms. But what we see leaving the site here is just 15mg per litre. Behind every one of these dams the water slows until it’s practically not moving – the sediment settles and fills the pond.

“If you are water company and a river has high sediment, it costs a lot of money to treat. Nitrogen and phosphorus both enter this site at reasonably high levels especially in storms – but at the bottom end we see so little in nitrogen and phosphate, the university’s equipment cannot actually detect the minute amount.

They’re doing a great job of showing why beaver belong on the landscape in Devon. I’m so pleased by their effort to document the changes. I take with many grains of salt the idea that this has never been studied before – but certainly the effect of two beavers on a habitat that’s been without them for 500 years has never been studied before. So that’s excellent!

Love this remark from the retired farmer who was willing to tolerate beavers on his land.

“This water is all going down to Roadford reservoir; it eventually becomes drinking water,” said Mr Morgan. “So if you can make the water cleaner, that is a good thing. “If they took the fences away, I’d be perfectly happy for the beavers to stay – they can be managed like everything else.”

Managed like everything else! Did I read that correctly? What man of steel is this that faces the beaver threat with actual pragmatic courage? I think I’m in love.

They’re even proposing incentives for farmers who allow beavers on their land. Be STILL my heart.

Mark Elliott, who is in charge of the beaver product for the Devon Wildlife Trust, has been spending a lot of time considering how farmers and landowners might get on with beavers if they were re-introduced to British landscapes after centuries.

“The key challenge is ensuring there is some mechanism by which landowners who store water on their land in the headwaters get some sort of payment for the wider benefits that they are providing for society,” he told the WMN, adding that he was not just talking about beaver-created wetlands.

“There are already Countryside Stewardship schemes that recognise the wildlife benefits, and pay a landowner for changing the way they farm – but if a landowner allows beavers to flood some low-lying pasture, for example, maybe they should receive some sort of payment for the reduction in flooding downstream.”

Can I get an amen?

Here’s a little something I put together yesterday to celebrate urban beavers.

urban beaver

Hopes are never false

   Posted by heidi08 On February - 8 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

I was hopeful this week when someone told me that on Martinez Rants and Raves an ‘otter’ had been seen at Ward street. Obviously I went to look it up thinking that otter are mistaken for beaver quite often and maybe I’d have good news. I was even more excited to read that the sighting took place at 8 am.

Unfortunately for us, however upon skillful cross-examinationm, the witness was certain it was an otter. She explained she knows the difference and enjoyed watching its slender tail for sometime.  Sigh. Obviously the lucky otter was chasing the steelhead run which had been noticed a little before. I can’t regret the near miss though – because having renewed hope was fun and it made me look up something about steelhead I hadn’t known before.

Apparently steelhead can spawn several times! Who knew? And they need and flat gravel bed to do it above a pond, Igor Skaredoff told me where there was a riffle once with gravel, I will have to ask him again where these sea-going fish return to. I know that steelhead start out their lives as rainbow trout, and literally undergo a SEA CHANGE (smoltification) when they pass through open water and get to saltwater. They come all the way home to spawn. Which is amazing.  Around here spawning usually happens November to April, or in the “Winter Run”.Trout & Beaver

I also know that beaver dams help them a lot by giving them deep pools to grow up and rich food to fatten up. But there is nothing on youtube about this I can share, because if you search for beavers and steelhead you only get many, many images of bulldozers ripping out beaver dams to “Protect” steelhead.

Which is, as I’ve said many times before, like protecting banks from money.

At least we have nearby beavers to amuse us. Rusty Cohn is sorely feeling the effects of winter visibility of his Napa beavers and has taken to using his drone photographs more creatively. Yesterday he wrote me about looking up Martinez on the b4ufly app and learning that because of concord airport the area west of amtrak (the creek is west of amtrak) is off limits for aerial photography. Sigh. But he got some fun photos of the Tulocay creek habitat.

I SO wish we could have similar photos of our beaver habitat. And of course some beavers to maintain it. Sigh.

There’s a new section on the website I don’t know if you noticed. I’ve been getting so may regional emails about ‘how do we save our beaver’ that I thought it deserved a menu item. I’ll expand it more as I think about it, but I think this is great for starters.

CHEWYesterday I decided that if SPAWN and CLUC can use fun acronyms, why can’t we?


Friends with Cameras

   Posted by heidi08 On February - 7 - 2016Comments Off on Friends with Cameras

It was lovely to come across this article about the talents of someone we know.  Suzi deserves every bit of attention she gets, and we’re very lucky that she lives in the area.

Award-winning Petaluma-based photographer Suzi Eszterhas lives on the wild side

Petaluma-based wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas is living her dream.

The 39-year-old animal enthusiast graduated from a childhood spent observing squirrels and birds in her backyard to photographing jaguars in Brazil and traveling around the globe documenting the lives of animals while sharing a message of conservation with future generations.

“Basically, I worked my whole life trying to make a career in wildlife photography,” the Marin County native said. “I knew as a child what I wanted to do. I’ve never really known a life with any different goals.”

Eszterhas has been published in more than 100 magazine covers and feature stories, including Time and Smithsonian magazines and BBC Wildlife and she’s earned recognitions in prestigious contests including Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Environmental Photographer of the Year competitions as well as the National Wildlife Photo Contest, but it’s not the fame that’s important to her, she said.

What a great article! I’m so happy that we got to cross paths! Suzi is smart enough to have worked her whole life to make a living doing what she loves, and she deserves this kind of article from her home town.

Though she’s done work internationally, Eszterhas, who moved to Petaluma about a year and a half ago, has also been active locally, documenting the Ninth Street Rookery in Santa Rosa, a median on a city street where birds nest, and the Tulocay Beaver Pond in Napa, where beavers established a home in a creek near a large hotel, she said.

But not a mention of US??? The original urban beavers? Your friends who told you about the beaver pond in Napa and took you there in the first place? No mention of sitting all those nights on the bank eating pad thai out of a box and enjoying the best beaver sightings you will EVER see?

Suzi at workNapa didn’t give you a shirt, Suzi, sheesh!

Well as it happens I was sent some other lovely Napa photos this morning, and the timing couldn’t be better to share them. These are burrowing owls at the nearby golf course, and Rusty says it’s what photographers do in the winter when beavers are hard to see. I just think it’s pretty fortuitous that we’re seeing these on SUPERB OWL SUNDAY! For reasons best understood only by me, I especially love the grumpy one.

Superb owl

Wake me up when it’s over. Photo by Rusty Cohn

superb Owl sunday

Now what is he looking at? Photo by Rusty Cohn

Nice work Rusty. I was staggered the first time I saw owls living in the ground like feathered hobbits. Rusty was even lucky enough to catch a photo of the architect and tenant side by side. So I couldn’t resist playing a little.

Superb Owl Today!

Would you care for some WHINE with that Mr. Quinn?

   Posted by heidi08 On February - 6 - 2016Comments Off on Would you care for some WHINE with that Mr. Quinn?

The fine report by the Vancouver Park Commission is taking some heat. Something was printed this morning from Stephen Quinn, the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One. Obviously the paper felt the entire airwaves wasn’t space enough for him in which to broadcast his petulant opinions, and granted him a full page to write whatever he liked. In my head I hear the voice of Niles Crane writing this over an expresso, see if you don’t agree.

Biodiversity report wildly exaggerates the alleged upside of critters in the city

I have read with interest the so-called draft Biodiversity Strategy you released earlier this week and I have to tell you, it’s not sitting well with me. Frankly, it scares me, particularly the sections outlining measures that could lead to more wildlife running around our city. I urge you to take a more cautious and measured approach.

Let’s begin with beavers. While the Park Board apparently sees the increase in the city’s beaver population as a positive signal, I assure you it is no such thing.

I had never seen an actual beaver until a few weeks ago. Have you seen one? It was huge, like a giant flat-tailed rat with hideous teeth and beady black eyes. It was swimming upstream in Still Creek right beside the Superstore parking lot. I can tell you that just a short distance away there were mothers walking with their children! No one should have to face this sort of threat at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning in a place that is supposed to be nature-free.

Day-lighting the creek was a huge mistake! Your own report says salmon have returned and are spawning and then dying and if I may quote, “provide food for otters and mink.” So attracting more wild animals?Where does it stop? Bears? Wolves?!Capture

It goes on at some length, because word restrictions are only necessary for us persona non grata peons, not for celebrities like Mr. Quinn who’s afraid of beavers, wolves and bears. It all reads like those paragraphs so you can get the idea.  For my money the best line is, why would anyone want to daylight a creek anyway?

My hair was on fire this morning when I read through this tripe and burned out my response, but now I can see the humor of it. It’s almost  offers the best argument against itself by very quickly becoming absurd. If he didn’t have a national radio platform to beat his drum every day I could laugh this off. Hmm.

Your report also celebrates the “healthy populations” of other mammals like raccoons and skunks. Have you seen what

the mammals you love so much have done to my lawn – which already looked pretty terrible thanks to your ban on cosmetic pesticides? They have reduced it to mud, I tell you!

And then you say that 674 racoons have been killed by cars since 2001? Does that not tell you that animals like raccoons don’t belong in our city? I find it interesting that your staff can keep such an accurate count of dead raccoons but still not know how many coywolves are out there.

I had no idea that this golf course mentality existed in Canada. I thought it was uniquely American – a product of places with green lawns and clipped hedges. Thank you, Mr. Quinn for opening my eyes.

Of course I sent my letter to the editor. You should too.