Archive for the ‘Friends of Martinez Beavers’ Category

Friends with Cameras

Posted by heidi08 On February - 7 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

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!

Trust me, this is just Peachy

Posted by heidi08 On January - 8 - 2016Comments Off on Trust me, this is just Peachy

Our own retired librarian friend from Georgia provides today’s guest blog. It’s from the Adopt-a-Stream news letter and it packs quite a punch. You’ll remember Bob and his wife Jane came to the beaver festival last year, and we had them over for dinner. He’s a regular reader, finds me articles and the pair are true believers in the cause. Also funny and smart to boot. Since Georgia has the dubious distinction of being the first state (outside Ca) that really riled me about beavers, I think they are doing God’s work from the belly of the beast. And i couldn’t have been prouder of this.Capture

Beavers in Georgia

by Bob Kobres, UGA Libraries (retired) and Volunteer of Blue Heron Nature Preserve

CaptureWhen you see a beaver family’s dam in a Georgia stream, you may want to take a moment to think how fortunate we are that this ancient riparian maintenance crew is returning to resume the work that we ignorantly interrupted. We almost did in this incredibly important keystone species because of the utility of their fine pelts, and in many ways we are still suffering from that unfortunate episode!

Beavers have been an integral part of the riparian system in the northern hemisphere for millions of years. We know this from fossils as well as from the characteristics of trees that co-evolved along with beavers. For instance, trees like willow and cottonwood that grow along waterways will regrow after being cut down. In other words, the tree is not killed by the beaver taking the above-ground part but instead grows deeper roots and puts out shoots from its trunk. This more bush-like form of the tree serves to stabilize the banks of waterways and also provides accessible browse and nesting areas to other wildlife. The only trees killed by beaver activity are those that are flooded, and these low lying dead trees become ideal homes for several types of birds that have evolved with access to beaver created wetlands.

But what about the fish? Don’t those dams mess up their migration? Well, actually there will be more and bigger fish in a beaver-controlled stream than in a free flowing one, as the former is the ancient norm while the latter is a recent human creation. The unobstructed stream is an erosive assault on the health of the land due to several factors, but the most important loss is the groundwater recharge. It is an ample supply of cool water seeping back into a beaver-deepened pond from adjacent earth that keeps conditions ideal for fish throughout the summer. Creeks without beavers behave as drains rather than holders of rains! Actually, some of the sea level rise over the past few centuries is due to our decimating the beaver population during that time period. In general, our efforts to tame the waterways and drain the wetlands have dried the land, so water that used to soak deeply into the ground now flows quickly to the sea.

It has long been understood that beaver dams filter and trap sediments, clearing the water downstream; however, other lost beaver benefits that we are just realizing include carbon capture and denitrification of the water. We need beavers back in our watersheds in greater numbers to better retain rain and allow that intermittent input of fresh water to soak into the ground. This will return many now dry-most-of-the-time creek beds to year-round full streams.

The biggest barrier to fully returning the naturally evolved ecological services beavers once provided is us. We’ve occupied their former habitat and modified it with no consideration for these vital citizens of the wild. In fact, because beavers were mostly trapped out by the time most European settlers had arrived, we have no recent cultural experience of healthy beaver-controlled watersheds; rather, we are accustomed to fast flowing streams that rise and fall due to rainfall amount and frequency. So although beavers have spread throughout Georgia since the wise reintroduction of them in the 1940s, beaver families are often killed when they try to reoccupy waterways we have modified to suit ourselves.

Might we alter our status quo response to beavers that cause us problems? Currently, Georgia law classifies beavers as nuisance animals like rats and simply warns to ‘be careful’ when shooting near water. Certainly these family-oriented social critters deserve better treatment than that from us! Tools to mitigate human/beaver conflict have been developed, and in general the cost of employing them is less than the recurring expense of hiring someone to trap the beavers and destroy their dams. The current process of removal only temporarily alleviates the problem because the next beaver family will find the site just as attractive as the family that was exterminated. The best plan for beavers and us is to use these inexpensive solutions–heavy gage fence material to protect trees we don’t want them to use and drain pipe to control the level of their pond. This way the beaver family’s pond has time to mature and so provide a full suite of ecological services.

The most effective and least expensive way to ensure the health of our riparian systems in Georgia is to welcome the natural maintenance and repair crew whenever and wherever we can!

This brilliant bit of beaver gospel is followed by the following invitation to the seminar and not one but TWO short blurbs saying where beaver colonies are actively welcomed.
Capturebob n janeBOB! You have done a truly grand thing on a grand scale. Putting this article together for AAS was a true stroke of genius. I’m mentally raising a glass and having you for dinner once again and reposting this photo of your visit. It isn’t often I feel my own stubborn efforts at advocacy have been completely dwarfed, but you have dazzled and impressed me. I love this article and love beyond saying that hundreds of folks from your state will glance twice at it and start to consider what it would be like to think something totally new. Maybe they’ll even start reading and follow up with more research of their own. Beavers?

I can almost feel it, can’t you?

It isn’t often I’m tempted to post this song. But honestly you’ve earned the Hoagy Carmichael version and then some. Well done Bob!

The Kids alright

Posted by heidi08 On December - 23 - 2015Comments Off on The Kids alright

Or should I say “Kit’s”?


“Gave proof through the night, that our beavers were still there.”

Picture proves beavers still thriving in Devon

In November the BBC reported the concerns of some local people that they had not had sightings of beavers on the River Otter for some weeks. This ‘disappearance’ was then reported by national newspapers. However, Devon Wildlife Trust has now come forward with evidence which shows that the beavers are still there, although they may have relocated their homes, known as lodges, along the river.

Devon Wildlife Trust is leading the River Otter Beaver Trial – a five year study of what is believed to be the first population of breeding beavers living wild in the English countryside for several centuries. The charity has said that it is currently monitoring four ‘active areas’ along the river where it has seen fresh evidence of the beavers’ presence.

Mark Elliott is the Trial’s manager and said:

“We knew the beavers had not ‘disappeared’ but it’s good to be able to report recent evidence showing that they are still active on the river. Beavers are mobile animals and it’s quite common for them to shift their lodges and feeding grounds. There’s lots of room for beavers on this river so it’s unsurprising that they have relocated from the places that we saw them last spring and summer.”

Whooo hoo! I’m a sucker for any story that has a chapter about missing beavers that suddenly show themselves to be doing just fine, thank you very much. Winter is a notoriously hard time to see beavers, whether they’re in Martinez or Napa or Devon. But it’s good to see sign, and it’s not very often that the media prints a photo of a beaver chewed tree with such joy. What a pleasure!

“As we move into the New Year and the daylight hours lengthen beavers will be active at dusk and dawn. If people do see them then it’s important they let us know so that we can get a clearer picture of the beavers’ numbers and locations.”

People with information can let the charity know if they see a beaver via email on with details of the date, time, exact location and whether the beaver has a coloured ear tag.

The River Otter Beaver Trial receives no government funding. Devon Wildlife Trust is urging people to offer their support via its website

I’m pretty sure it’s good luck to drop a little coin in their beaver fountain and make a wish for Martinez beavers to show up too. In the mean time let’s just remember that beavers show themselves in mysterious ways and have a merry christmas!

1935860_782891731821604_3506532428881655280_nMeanwhile the New Jersey whiners are still complaining about beavers. Apparently the free help they received from BWW and Beaver Solutions just wasn’t help-y enough. And they need more deadly assistance right away.

Beavers’ Dams Flood Toms River Neighborhood

“Killing animals because we find them inconvenient should not be an option. Beavers are clever, industrious, family-oriented animals and necessary to the ecosystem and we now know it is possible to live beside them without conflict,” said Veronica Van Hof, executive director of Unexpected Wildlife Refuge.

The two most widely-used trapping methods are inefficient and inhuman, she said. As a result of the meeting with officials, she learned the township will likely use a trap that drowns the beaver or another that crushes the animal, snapping its neck.

Politicians Discussing Climate Change: Isaac Cordal

Sometimes when you throw the drowning man a rope he says, no not THAT rope. I want the other one. To tell the truth, I’m not really hopeful for Tom’s River. They’re just going to keep pushing headlines that say “beavers are flooding us” until the day after Christmas when they can start trapping.  But it’s good that Veronica is cutting her teeth so to speak. Now she needs to learn to stop saying nice things and start saying THIS WILL SAVE YOU MONEY. Which is also true and slightly harder to ignore.

Not that cities can’t choose to ignore anything they wish, of course.

This new short film will answer a lot of questions about what’s been going on near highway 37, it’s 5 days old and nicely made. We’re hoping they’re kind to beavers that show up. But the SLT  has lots of beaver friends  in their ranks. So I’m optimistic.


The Epic Tail

Posted by heidi08 On December - 14 - 2015Comments Off on The Epic Tail

This weekend acclaimed wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas posted about her work with the Martinez Beavers on her facebook page. She told the story of their arrival, protection and untimely death, and checked with me first to see if she had gotten everything correct, accompanying the post with my June video of her working.

June was so complicated because we were bursting with joy to have four kits, but Suzi asked me not to post about them or her so there would be more time for undisturbed photos. She has A LOT of photographers who follow her in the hopes of taking pictures of whatever she’s taking pictures of. And she wanted them not to be summoned. So I kept my mouth closed for a month which was really hard to do.

And then in July they started dying, which is a very unjust cosmic reward for my patience.

Not surprisingly, there have been a lot of responses to the story on her much-trafficked facebook page, and it has been surprising to me to see so many people react to the story with “How sad” or “That’s awful”. “What a tragedy.” Which has been unsettling not becauset I’m UNSAD about this turn of events -(I’m sure I wept more tears than anyone) – but I just don’t think of the Martinez Beaver story with “How sad!” Its a joyous, fierce, dynamic, hopeful, tragic, EPIC story. It’s the story of civic pride and a big money battle leading to David beating Goliath. It’s the story of urban renewal and a polluted creek awakened from the dead. And I’m not sure we’ve reached the final chapter yet.

It made me think of this iconic scene from Northern Exposure which I loved when it was on a million years ago. The technology is sooo old I can’t embed it, so you will have to click on the photo to see Ed and Marilyn discuss our beavers’ fate this summer at the laundry mat. She tells the perfect tribal story for our situation. You’ll have to watch a short silly ad, I can’t help that,  but I believe it will be worth it.

Fascine party!

Posted by heidi08 On November - 21 - 2015Comments Off on Fascine party!

restoring the creekWorth A Dam got a grand lesson on urban creek stewardship yesterday, from the woman who literally wrote the book on the subject (New books coming out in January). Ann Riley of the SF Waterboard came out for a workshop and planting with some interns from the Watershed Steward Program of the California Conservation Core, and many friends who wanted to learn her techniques. Our eager city engineer showed up as well, and Worth A Dam was there with boots (er, sandals in Jon’s case) on the ground to make it all happen. Check out the grand photos by Ron Bruno.making fascines First off they took a field trip of the standing willow by the corp yard, then did many cuttings of the nearly dormant trees, then fastened the bundles into “FASCINES” that they planted into trenches around and above the beaver habitat. Meanwhile Jon got Cottonwood stakes from a friendly stand on pacheco and they pounded them into the moist soil. trenchThere were nearly 20 helpers in all, and the major work was done by midday, when Riley was headed to lunch with local Flood Control . Theoretically the bank should be stabilized and covered with new growth by March, because things will be dormant and rooting undergound as they should be for a while. It was a good feeling day, and everyone was cheerful and excited about the project. Here’s what it should look like when it grows. Wouldn’t that be tempting if you were a beaver?

In lots of places, school groups are used to fashion the fascines. How would this day be if you were a second grader in Quebec? Never mind the French, this is easy to understand.

And the winner is – UTAH!

Posted by heidi08 On October - 13 - 2015Comments Off on And the winner is – UTAH!

The states of Washington and Utah have been running a neck-to-neck competition to be the beaver Mecca of America. They are both brilliant at beaver management in so many ways and light years ahead of their border cousins. For a while it looked like Washington, (with heavy weights like NOAA, Michael Pollock and the Methow project) was in the lead. But now Utah, (with beaver Shamans Mary Obrien of GLCT and Joe Wheaton at Utah State), has just made a giant leap forward.

Utah: Even their WALMARTs are smarter than yours.

Project helps protect Logan beavers, reduce threat of flooding

LOGAN — A project in Logan may be a lifesaver for beavers, and it may help Wal-Mart get along better with its furry neighbors. Workers have installed a system intended to reduce the threat of flooding caused by beaver dams.

“Killing beaver just didn’t seem like the right way to go,” said Dan Miller, chairman of the Bear River Watershed Council. “There was a better solution, and this is definitely it.”

The new system regulates the level of a beaver pond, functioning more or less like the overflow drain on a bathtub. It prevents the beaver pond from rising too high and overfilling.

Beaver dams store water in the springtime and allow it to trickle downstream in the late summer, a process that benefits downstream water users, he said.
“They help with the water quality,” Bouwes said, “by capturing a lot of sediment and other materials that we would have to clean up otherwise.”

Okay, Utah has some crazy ideas about women and minority rights and wants to sell back their national parks, but HEY they install flow devices at WALMART, so watch out America. This is what visionary looks like! Now Walmart needs to donate a field cam and install it on sight so they can see some photos of the wild creatures they just saved. (Better photos = more media = and more advertising of their good deed.)

I would send a thank you note to the good folk who approved this project, but I can’t find any details about management. Guess we better send our thanks to Nick Bouwes at Utah State and Dan Miller of the massive Bear River Watershed group. That should keep us busy.


Forestry Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On October - 11 - 2015Comments Off on Forestry Beavers

Our Georgia-based beaver friend BK sends this 1906 forestry text on beavers. He is looking for reference on the amount of water stored by beaver ponds, so send anything you have my way. I love reading this lost wisdom. It has so much hope for the future and a mistaken faith in our recognition of doing the right thing. Here’s the awesome conclusion:

How touching the author wants a closed season for beaver. Ahem. Let me be the first to tell you that’s never going to happen. Actually, I don’t worry about beaver trappers. I worry about depredation. At least recreational trappers have to  COUNT the number of beaver they kill. Property owners and cities don’t.

All I want is for the number of inconvenient beavers killed every year to be COUNTED. Is that so much to ask?

In honor of the flow device removal and our 3000th post, I finally got around to making a video about this year’s kits. It was hard work editing through all that weeping. But I’m glad the monument to their brief lives is done. A few folks sent comments and were willing to share them, so I thought I’d pass them along. If you want to add some email me or post them directly to the website. I guess the lesson of all this is that loving anything means you let yourself risk the pain of losing it. I’m sure there’s wisdom to be gleaned from that somewhere.

At the moment I pretty much just think it sucks.

Oohh, just beautiful, Heidi. Can’t speak, can’t type. Wishing you lots of pennies from heaven. Oooh those sweet babies…If I could wave a magic wand and bring them back, I would. I don’t know how you have made it through, Heidi, but that is the sweetest little film ever. RE of Napa

Thank you so much for making this for all of us. Many tears fell but I agree it needed to be done. LB Martinez

Yes, thank you, too ….you do such great work for both man & animals! Tears tears tears. CB Martinez

That was very beautiful, Heidi. Thank you. Please, let’s hope Alhambra Creek becomes home to more beaver families in the near future. Once this drought is over and the creek flows normally again, the willows grow, and the tullies flourish, and the homeless have homes, we will sit together again at the creek side and marvel at how magnificent the beavers are. I know this isn’t the end, even though it feels like it might be for awhile. Because of your initial interest and attention those many years ago on our wonderful Martinez beaver family; and subsequently, your stewardship and your educating the world about them, more beavers everywhere are being appreciated and saved. I’m so sad as I know you and Jon are too. But what a beautiful tribute you made to them, and for us all. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Know I love and appreciate you and Jon, and all your hard work for our Martinez beavers, and beavers everywhere. I will educate anyone, anywhere about the beaver, and their incredible engineering for the environment. Yes, they are definitely Worth A Dam, and much much more.
JO Martinez