Archive for the ‘Friends of Martinez Beavers’ Category


Posted by heidi08 On April - 12 - 2014Comments Off

I heard this morning the official word that Jari Osborne’s Canadian Beaver Whisperers documentary will have its American debut on PBS Nature May 14, 2014! (It will be released under the title “Leave it to beavers” which is SO overdone.) That means in a month you can get your friends together for the very best superbowl-type viewing party of the century! It will star our good beaver friends, Glynnis Hood, Sherri Tippie and Suzanne Fouty, with beaver problem-solving by Michel LeClare of Quebec. Jari is flying to New York to appear on MetroFocus May 1st and promote the series.

Sherri Tippie kissing a beaver kit (a pup). East Beaver Creek, Colorado. Photo Credit: © Ford McClave 2013

Not excited yet? Just read the promo:

A growing number of scientists, conservationists and grass-roots environmentalists have come to regard beavers as overlooked tools when it comes to reversing the disastrous effects of global warming and worldwide water shortages. Once valued for their fur or hunted as pests, these industrious rodents are seen in a new light through the eyes of this novel assembly of beaver enthusiasts and “employers” who reveal the ways in which the presence of beavers can transform and revive landscapes. Using their skills as natural builders and brilliant hydro-engineers, beavers are being recruited to accomplish everything from finding water in a bone-dry desert to recharging water tables and coaxing life back into damaged lands.

Beaver at work dragging large branch/closeup. Ontario, Canada. Photo Credit: © Michael Runtz

It says these great photos by Michael Runtz (a good friend of our good friend Donna DeBreuille)  can only be used for promotion but I’m pretty sure this qualifies! Watch it! Watch it! Watch it! Watch it with your children, your grandmother, your mailman. Drive up the ratings! Send letters to the station! Make PBS think they need a weekly beaver program! Don’t get up to use the bathroom during any part of it unless your in pain. Stay all the way to the very end of the  credits because it’s theoretically possible that my tiny name will be there.

Here’s the viewing schedule for KQED in case your busy that night.

KQED 9: Wed, May 14, 2014 — 8:00pm
KQED 9: Thu, May 15, 2014 — 2:00am
KQED Life: Fri, May 16, 2014 — 7:00pm
KQED Life: Sat, May 17, 2014 — 1:00am
KQED World: Sat, May 17, 2014 — 9:00pm
KQED 9: Sun, May 18, 2014 — 10:00am
KQED World: Sun, May 18, 2014 — 3:00pm
KQED World: Sun, May 18, 2014 — 9:00pm
KQED World: Mon, May 19, 2014 — 5:00am
KQED World: Mon, May 19, 2014 — 11:00am

 They haven’t released a trailer yet, but here’s the Canadian one which I adore.

New Beaver Friends….

Posted by heidi08 On April - 4 - 2014Comments Off

Ghostbear photography wrote back to my post:

Heidi – thank you very much for these comments. Your organization is doing amazing work, and we encourage everyone to visit you website for more information. What a great success story in your community!

 THANK YOU so much for the bonus information about the nursing female. How did we miss that?!

And when I asked them for a donation for the silent auction at the beaver festival they said

Thank you for your wonderful email. What an amazing story you have! We would love to share a photo with you to help raise money for the event. Let us know which photo(s) you would like and I will fix the watermark and send them your way.

I am curious as to where the Beaver Festival is held in Canada. Simon and I would love to attend one, as we are big beaver fans (as I’m sure you know if you’ve read that post!).

 Again, we both just love your email. Thank you for taking the time to contact us.


Jill and Simon are obvious beaver and wildlife friends! They get a link and a prominent place on our blogroll. Thank you so much for responding so positively to our story, and remember that if you photograph beavers you will naturally connect with all kinds of wildlife.

Beavers are the trickle down economy that work!

“Animal-watching meditation”

Posted by heidi08 On March - 31 - 2014Comments Off

CaptureThere’s a new beaver watcher in the Scottish countryside, and since she’s a very nice writer I thought I would share what she wrote on her blog. This is Mandy Haggith of Cybercrofter.

We immediately saw willow trees at the lochside showing signs of beaver activity, some chewed right off, some partly gnawed. Across the loch was a huge lodge – a mound of sticks built out into the water.

 We waited.

 There is a special kind of animal-watching meditation. It took me years to learn it. As a child I was incapable of sitting still. My dad used to take me badger-watching, which involved sitting quietly by a sett at dusk until the badgers emerged. I would rustle and fidget, and the badgers would no doubt hear and use a different exit. The more frustrated I became by the wait, the noisier my scuffling and the less chance of seeing a badger, until eventually we would give up.

 Somehow as an adult I have learned to wait quietly for animals. Attention is everything. Standing by that loch, I revelled in the cool breeze across the water, blowing gently in my face, perfect for not being smelled by the beavers. There was little sound except for the rippling water and the hush of breeze through twigs. It was good to know I was there, in the beaver’s habitat, experiencing their loch.

Don’t you love those passages? I am so jealous about going badger-watching! How true about the inner stillness you must cultivate to wait for wildlife to show itself to you. Except not in Martinez – where the train whistles, garbage trucks and swearing drunks all combine to create a hum that apparently relaxes our beavers. They seem to show themselves when they’re ready regardless of what you do. She had to work harder on the Tay.

As the light dimmed, details of the lodge became harder and harder to make out across the loch, and it became easier and easier to hallucinate brown furry bodies! I think I saw, faintly, movement at the fringe of the loch. I can’t be certain.

 But what I can be certain of was the splash. And then the ‘pfffff’, closeby, a sound similar to that made by a seal surfacing. Only this was freshwater, so it couldn’t be a seal – it must have been a beaver!

Ahhh the inspiring detective work of a beaver spotter! Thanks Maggie for a lovely read. Our own Lory and Cheryl went on their own beaver trek last evening. They saw one of our kits! ( Now almost a yearling) working hard at the third dam. (You should trek down and see for yourself that it’s coming along nicely.) Cheryl writes:

Lory and I went down to beavers. Moses was there and had seen 3 beavers. We followed a kit (yearling now!) down to the third dam where he wrestled with another kit and then brought mud and sticks to the dam. They have a big hole upstream of that dam they brought a big branch into. I have a few pics I’ll get up tomorrow but they probably arent the best as it was getting dark.

And from Lory:

When Cheryl and I got to the secondary Moses was there and he said he saw three beavers. As Cheryl walked further down Moses and I spotted one beaver coming down the bank near the bank hole. One swam down and across the secondary. Cheryl and I followed him down to the third dam. It looks great. Lots of wood on it. Before we left we had two kits down there working. A man came by and wondered what we were looking at. He was from town but didn’t know there were beavers around. He watched with us. Let’s see what happens after these next few days of rain.

How wonderful that our youngsters are growing up together! Wrestling and carrying on in typical yearling fashion! I’m sorry we all weren’t there to see it, but I’m sure we remember what it looks like!


Almost yearling push-matches: Cheryl Reynolds

Sniff, they grow up so fast! Since this footage of the tiny fellow was taken on the evening of May 5 last year and then we didn’t see him again until June,  I can’t imagine he was more than a month old. So almost Happy birthday to him or her and the siblings!

All in a day’s work…

Posted by heidi08 On March - 20 - 20141 COMMENT

Yesterday I was up at 5 getting nervous for the conference. Talking beavers to a roomful of fish-biologists? What if I forgot what to say? What if the computer goes blank? What if what if what if? Jon drove me to the memorial hall where in the span of 5 minutes I was warmly greeted by Mike Callahan, Michael Pollock,  Rick Lanman, Mary O’brien, Brock Dolman, Kate Lundquist,  Sherry and Ted Guzzi and I thought, oh, I know these people,  I can do this.

Tim Robinson was leading the session, and what I hadn’t understood before is that he had presented at a conference some pretty uncheerful information about beavers and gotten a SLEW of heated responses and emails which made him curious to learn more. I think  an old Martinez supporter (GK) had tipped me off to his presentation at the delta conference, and I had written him an eyeful. To his amazing credit he actually sought me out and invited me to this talk along with a team of the most intelligent beaver advocates on the planet.

Rick started the day and competently went through the evidence about where beaver belonged historically. Eli went next and showed where they are right now. Then it was my turn and as always, talking about the Martinez Beaver story with footage and photos was very well received. A tech woman on hand made sure every one’s talk went perfectly and it was an awesome morning, By 10:30 I felt relaxed and pleased.

After the break, Michael Pollock presented on steelhead and beavers from the bridge creek data. (Does he ever get nervous? I don’t think so.)  Then Tim presented on the unique challenges he faced with beavers on the Santa Ynez river which is a controlled water management system that releases water for the lower valleys. Then Kate talked policy and Mike Callahan talked about his adaptions to flow devices to allow salmon passage.

It was an amazing morning. After lunch they all went for a beaver fieldtrip on the Santa Ynez, and Jon and I dashed home to get things ready for dinner after a well-earned picnic in the sun looking at the beach.

I had invited folks for dinner at 6:30 but at 6:15 Mary called and said the fieldtrip had run long and they just got back. I wondered honestly if anyone would show and wistfully thought about the number of enchiladas we would be forced to eat on our own, but by 7 Mary, Michael Pollock (and his  very smart tribal attorney girlfriend Karen), Sherry and Ted, and Mike Callahan were all there. We sat on the deck and drank beer while the sky darkened and the air cooled and then we funneled inside to Jon’s enchiladas and guacamole where our very small table  hosted the most intelligent  lively cheerful beaver conversation this side of the atlantic.

DSC_4315Somewhere in this day, I had the feeling of heavy accomplishment. Like a massive boulder I had been cheerfully pushing up a bumpy hill for seven years had just reached the top. I felt like beaver momentum was finally turning and it felt both relieving and weirdly a little sad – almost as if I was  missing something.

I think now that what I was missing was the naive me  of 7 years ago that foolishly started this journey in the first place. Without any of these companions, she felt like every part of this job was up to her thinking,  planning and execution. I remember her as passionate and fearless, and I learned so much from her commitment. I am so glad she was (is) a part of my life. But I’m glad she’s not alone any more and really glad that dam rock is up the hill.

I know there will be other hills and valleys. But today I will sit in the sun and rest.

JMA Conservationists of the year

Posted by heidi08 On March - 11 - 2014Comments Off

sonomabirdingGuess who won for the John Muir Association Conservationists of the year? Tom Rusert and Darren Peterie that’s who! If their faces look familiar they should. They’ve come to our last three beaver festivals and started their own nature event in Sonoma. Tom has been a beaver supporter since the early days, and recommended us to be a project of ISI, our new fiscal sponsor. This year they say they have a new display for the festival called “Binocular boot camp” with practice targets set up in the park. Their CBC4 kids has gone international and remains one of the most popular wildlife events in the hemisphere. Here’s something about their achievements from JMA.

Tom and Darren’s accomplishments are many. Tom and Darren co-founded Sonoma Birding based in Sonoma Valley, California in 2004 as a volunteer “citizen science” based conservation organization that established sustainable bird and nature-related activities and programs for all ages through a variety of partnerships in the United States and Canada. Tom and Darren went on to establish the first Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for Sonoma Valley, the Wine Country Nature Lecture Series, and the “Spring Bird Count” for Sonoma Valley. In 2007 they founded CBC for Kids, a half-day “kid-size” event based on the traditional Audubon CBC but geared to youngsters (ages 8-16) and their families and developed other science activities and bird-related programs for kids.

1544324_797127326980046_652087774_nIn 2009, they founded the Arbor Day Celebration for the City of Sonoma and mapped the self-directed tree and bird walk of the 8-acre historic Sonoma Plaza in cooperation with the Sonoma Valley Visitor’s Bureau and the City of Sonoma. In 2010 they hosted the California Western Burrowing Owl Consortium and later teamed with the Sonoma Land Trust, AmeriCorps and private ranchers to establish 16 Burrowing Owl artificial habitats. Most recently, they established the Wine County Optics and Nature Festival, hosting major optics and binocular companies along with 30 nature nonprofits and astronomical societies attracting over 1,000 people in 2012 and 2013. They also created the North Bay Science Fair, a day-long “binocular boot camp”, and the Pt. Reyes Bird Festival Birdathon for Kids, and partnered with Wine Country Adventure Guide to highlight twenty-nine “hot” birding spots. Tom and Darren have received numerous awards for their efforts as well as media recognition.

When California became un-insane in 2013, Tom and Darren got married, so this is great timing to recognize their joint accomplishment on behalf of birds. I have a very distinct memory of my first meeting with Tom. He and Darren came to the beaver dam to talk about the possibility of beavers being included in their lecture series. We hadn’t met before but he knew Cheryl because he sometimes helped with releases for International Bird Rescue. He asked a series of very good questions and listened intently. I remember being short of breath and trying to hide that I was actually nervous, which by then almost never happened talking about beavers. When I finished with Martinez story he nodded and stepped back calmly, saying,

Oh, I know who you are now. You’re someone who gets things done.

In 7 years of beaver management and advocacy, I’ve never received higher praise. Congratulations Darren and Tom! We’re enormously proud and happy for you both and know John Muir would be proud of you too!


Could Fish Victory become Beaver Victory?

Posted by heidi08 On March - 9 - 2014Comments Off

Salmon win court ruling that ‘sets aside’ Marin countywide plan

In a sharply critical decision that leaves Marin’s planning document in legal limbo, an appellate court ordered more analysis of how development affects San Geronimo Valley’s endangered coho salmon.

 The ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco reversed a Marin Superior Court decision, “sets aside” the 2007 countywide plan and its environmental report pending study of the impact of creekside building on salmon, and declared that a building ban was improperly imposed in San Geronimo.

Did you read about the Marin appellate decision protecting salmon? Our friends at SPAWN took the powers that be to court with the backing of some 22 conservation organizations and won a decision that is making no friends among the developers. Capture1

Fishery activists at the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network of Forest Knolls, which contested county compliance with state environmental law and sued to get tougher creekside building rules, hailed the ruling as a triumph. “We hope that after this decision, county supervisors are ready to work together so we can save these species from extinction,” said Todd Steiner, head of the salmon network.

 ”The judges agreed with Spawn that the county acted unlawfully because the environmental impact report provides no help to decision-makers or the public to understand the likely consequences of allowable build out,” said Deborah Sivas of Stanford Law School’s Environmental Clinic, which represented the salmon network along with attorney Michael Graf.

If that name sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Michael Graf was the attorney who represented Worth A Dam in the failed effort to stop the sheet pile from going through the beaver lodge. Remember? He generously charged us very little and got his friend the geomorphologist to walk our creek and do the same. The city didn’t mind breaking the law anyway, but that’s blood under the bridge now. Seems like eons ago that I was worried the sheet pile would kill the beavers or drive them away. Congratulations Michael and SPAWN for a fight well won!


All this lays the foundation for the NEXT lawsuit to appear in Marin. One where trapping ‘nuisance’ beavers is considered a threat to the  salmon population. What’s that you say, beavers weren’t native to Marin? (Or Alameda? Or San Jose?) Guess what was published and went online yesterday?

CaptureHere’s the abstract, but you really need to go read the whole thing. Eli’s graphs are stunning.

The North American beaver (Castor canadensis ) has not been considered native to the watersheds of coastal California or the San Francisco Bay Area. These assertions form the basis of current wildlife management policies regarding that aquatic mammal, and they date to the first half of the 20th century. This review challenges those long-held assumptions based on verifiable (physical) and documented (reliable observational) records. Novel findings are facilitated by recently digitized information largely inaccessible prior to the 21st century. Understanding that beaver are native to California’s coastal watersheds is important, as their role in groundwater recharge, repair of stream channel incision, and restoration of wetlands may be critically important to the conservation of threatened salmonids, as well as endangered amphibians and riparian-dependent birds,

The timing on this could NOT be better, as we head off to the Salmonid Restoration Conference this week. It ends with a piercing reminder of how important beavers are to salmon, which I’m hoping the timing of the Marin decision bumps into the news cycle. There are a lot of parts I love about this paper, and Rick’s son did a stunning job of pulling the whole thing together, but you’ll pardon me if this is my very favorite part:

Today California’s coastal beaver are widely regarded as the non-native survivors of twentieth century translocations, and when they cause flooding problems or fell trees, depredation permits are often provided. Understanding beaver as native to coastal ecosystems may impact this decision-making.

Of course, I would have phrased less subtly, like STOP PRETENDING YOU’RE KILLING BEAVERS BECAUSE THEY AREN’T NATIVE, IDIOTS, but this paper and the sierra ones should permanently bury the myths about beaver absence from most of California.

49 other states never believed it anyway. I’m glad we finally tackled the 50th.

Corrected beaver range map

Mr. Settell to the rescue

Posted by heidi08 On February - 22 - 2014Comments Off

idahoA few years ago I read an article about Mike Settell getting a grant from Audubon to do a local beaver count – because beavers have such an impact on bird life. I immediately tracked him down and invited him to the beaver conference where we were able to get him a presentation time so he could talk about his work. Last year Mike installed his first pond leveler’s using Mike Callahan’s DVDs. Now there’s a great article about his work.

Pond leveler: Ecologically friendly device seeks to control flooding, protect beaver habitat

 About 10 feet onto the creek, he pulls some frozen brush and snow away to reveal that he is standing on top of a large beaver dam. Further examination of the area shows a large pipe protruding off the top of the dam, with a steady flow of clear, cold water spilling out downstream. He then points towards the top of a wire cage bulging above the snow that is covering the pond, like the top of a sunken ship poking through the Arctic ice shelf.

 “The Pond Leveler allows the water from the pond to easily flow past the dam and lower the pond level while maintaining some water in the pond,” he explains. “The cage prevents beavers from plugging the pipe and blocking the water flow completely. If a beaver has a stick in his mouth, he’s not going to pass through the cage and plug the pipe.”

 According to Settell, flooding roads is among the main reasons beavers are trapped or killed in a stream.

 “What myself and others are demonstrating are ways to keep the benefits of beavers without having to kill the beavers,” says Settell, pointing to the healthy willow stand. “We’ve also found that these devices are very cost-effective to reduce localized flooding.”

 Hurray for Mike! Taking on Idaho with his bare hands! It’s getting to the point that we have at least one beaver advocate in every state, and many more in some. Can the tipping place be far behind?

 “The solution in the old days would be just to destroy the dams and get rid of the entire colony of beavers,” he says, pointing towards the expanse of Rapid Creek. “FEMA has already designated this area a flood zone, so beaver or no beaver, an area like this will flood. It’s just a question of when. What we are trying to do is to retain the beaver pond’s ability to create enhanced habitat and reduce the effects of peak flooding.”

Oh you mean like we did in Martinez 6+ years ago? Yep, our flow device has been doing its job since 2008, and doesn’t show any signs of giving up. Our beavers have been doing a bit of work on both dams and you should go check them out if you can. It’s good to see flow devices going into other creeks!

This morning’s donation comes from Eagle Optics which is a supply side haven for wildlife lovers everywhere. They offer a life time warranty and the best prices on everything they sell. I first learned about them when I was involved with the group watching the San Francisco Peregrines on the PGE building. I asked a trusted biologist about buying Jon a spotting scope for his birthday, and she pointed me straight to what I needed at Eagle. For the festival Eagle Optics graciously donated a 8×25 monocular which is a great way to augment your bird and wildlife watching. It requires less visual control than binoculars so is great for kids and is so small you can slip it into your pocket easily when lugging binoculars isn’t an option.  Thanks Eagle Optics for your support! I know your donation will be appreciated.