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.

There are lies, there are dam lies, and there are beaver lies!

   Posted by heidi08 On February - 5 - 2016Comments Off on There are lies, there are dam lies, and there are beaver lies!

Sometimes life in the beaver-biz is very rewarding. And sometimes it just annoys the stuffing out of me. Take this article out of Whinging-ton Ma for starters.

Hopkinton selectmen vote to trap beavers

HOPKINTON — Selectmen have agreed to hire a beaver trapper after flooding became a problem on the recently purchased Pratt Farm and neighboring properties.The board voted 5-0 on Tuesday night to pay for a plan to eliminate the beavers.“We decided we need to protect the town’s land,” Selectmen Chairman Ben Palleiko said in an interview.

Palleiko said the plan will likely cost about $5,500 — $4,000 for the trapping and $1,500 for taking apart seven dams. The board decided on an option known as a kill trap. A live trap would be as twice as expensive and the beavers would be euthanized at a later time, not released elsewhere, officials said.

How surprising! The folk in Hopkinton seemed so darned open-minded and committed to humane solutions! (Not). They have been gunning for those beavers since day one, and they kept promoting their death in the paper until they tipped the argument just enough. I especially admire the duplicity necessary to get this quote from their ‘beaver expert’ printed in the paper.

“Due to the beaver activity, an accurate flagging of wetlands may not be possible at this time, which will stall the work of the team,” she wrote in a letter to the board.The board made its decision after hearing from Malcolm Speicher, a beaver specialist, who has done work in town, including Legacy Farms. The town needs to seek bids for the work.

Speicher said it is only a matter of time before the town’s aquifers feeding to the town’s wells will be contaminated with bacteria from beaver feces.

Palleiko said Speicher believe there could be up to 40 beavers in the area.

Now mayfacepalmbe you’re wondering where they found this illustrious specialist. We are talking about MA, so maybe he’s at Cambridge? Harvard? MIT??? Ohhh no he’s a trapper who happens to specialize in beaver and fisher. So of course he knows all about beaver stools causing bacteria in the water.



And now this. Things  just got real in Mountain House. Now its time to bring out the big guns. Folks were shown Mike’s video about how to solve problems so they tried to think of an unsolvable one. We in Martinez know erosion trumps flooding. That’s why, after Skip’s flow device worked well and no one was worried about drowning anymore, the lawyer sent a letter about the foundation slipping because of unseeable burrows and that’s how Martinez got to buy 350,000 worth of sheetpile.

Obviously, this is deja vu all over again.  Officials are now saying the biggest problem is these.

20150923_145033You can guess how true I think this is. Coal mining beavers?

But I think it’s always good to ask smarter minds than mine. Glynnis Hood says that beavers in her research do cause tunnels that collapse and its possible that a bank lodge this big could exist if the beavers have been around for some time. And Mike Callahan says its theoretically possible if there are tunnels inside leading to the water.

But I think if in 10 years of having beavers in Martinez they ever excavated anything like that, the mayor would have personally thrown me in it. Michael Runtz says a bear could do this, but he doubts beaver.

Stay tuned, I’ll tell you when I hear from more folks.

Apparently beavers are going on Broadway now, with Alan Cummings new musical. This made me howl with laughter – especially the leaping ballet beavers at the end. Enjoy!

A few more gifts arrived yesterday, and I’m thrilled for beavers good fortune. The first was some promised plates from this adorable set at thirdhalfstudios. How fun are these?

And the second is a beyond lovely sterling silver floating necklace that arrived from Winterchild. Like this but with a beaver symbol and on a breathtakingly delicate sterling silver figaro chain. I’m not sure I can keep from bidding on this. You definitely shouldn’t.

Nature in the City Everywhere.

   Posted by heidi08 On February - 4 - 2016Comments Off on Nature in the City Everywhere.

The grand plan in Vancouver is sweeping the media at the moment and there are plenty of follow ups to the story if you want to see them. Try here and here.

Yesterday I was contacted by a member of the Grosse Ille Nature and Land Conservancy about the beavers in the Detroit River. She was very happy about what the return meant, and wanted to pull together some advocates to keep things headed in the right direction. The funny thing was, I remembered writing about this back in 2012 and saying: sure they’re happy now, but wait until those beavers start chewing trees of blocking culverts.

Beavers: marginally better than pollution!

Ahhh how Nice. Okay, mark your calendars and set your clocks, because as encouraging as this article is I predict it will be a matter of months before we start reading stories about neighborhoods with blocked culverts and chopped trees. Folks are excited when beavers come BACK to an area because they assume it means they did very good things to make it possible. Hughlet Hornbeck once explained to me that the beavers coming back to Alhambra Creek was proof that EBRP had been doing the right thing for 50 years, for example.

Then industrial pollution in the mid-20th Century made the Detroit River too toxic for beaver and many other species to return. The cleanup of the river in recent decades has seen many species making a comeback.

“This is one piece of evidence,” Hartig said of the latest beaver sighting. “But if you add in there the return of lake sturgeon, the return of lake whitefish, the return of walleye, the return of bald eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, beaver, wild celery, it’s one of the most dramatic ecological recovery stories in North America.”

Beavers are still exciting enough along the Detroit River that the reporter does an excellent job researching their history and providing context.. Enjoy it while it lasts though, because in the blink of an eye they’ll be reporting that gangs of four foot tall beavers cut down all the trees and caused tularemia.

So it’s been three years and its time for folks to get worried about their challenging handiwork, I’m glad friends are starting to get ready for an argument. We of course will help any way we can.

Speaking of helping, I got these fun photos from the Mountain House beavers in CA, and will be working with a supporter to help her put together a beaver article for the local paper. How cool are these photos for thinking about urban beaver!


mountain house lodge

Mountain House Beaver Lodge: Caitlin McCombs

And this fine example of dam building with reeds. You see beavers use material on hand.

mountain house dam

Mountain House Dam of mostly reeds: Caitlin McComb

Yesterday I learned that the city’s primary concern is that they believe the beavers are digging tunnels under the road. The city has already filled some with concrete. For the life of me I can’t think of any reason a beaver would do THAT, so I’m guessing this story is about to get very interesting!

New donation yesterday for the silent auction from Mink Works, by animator and Illustrator Marielle Rousseau of New York. How adorable is this? I ask you honestly. Go check out all her stuff. It’s delightful and she’s a self-professed wildlife lover in addition to being a real talent,

Beaver Impressive

   Posted by heidi08 On February - 3 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Impressive

Too much good news. Some days there is almost nothing to cover, and other days everything good seems to happen at once. Yesterday I found out for the first time that Patti Smith keeps a blog about her observations of wildlife. You might remember she was the gentle soul keeping an eye on the beavers of Popples Pond in Vermont. She brought some helpers to the snowy stream to reinforce their food supply yesterday.Capture

This afternoon, Margaretta and Isabelle arrived to help the stranded beavers with an offering of poplar boughs from their home in Dummerston. Once at the pond, I call to Willow and then we all sit quietly on the upside-down sled hoping that Willow won’t think it too early to come out to visit. After a few minutes, David, the lucky dad of these two great girls, spots Willow hauling herself onto the ice at one of the upstream holes.

girls&willHow much do you envy that child? Willow is such a good sport. If you’d like to read more of Patti’s adventures you should check out her blog and pick up a copy of “The beavers of Popples Pond“. You won’t be disappointed.

Now onto more good news and a fine article from Vancouver. Just in time for our urban beaver chapter, too.

Vancouver’s urban-beaver plan focuses on enhancing habitats

Several dozen beavers are thought to be living in Vancouver, some of them making themselves at home in restored marshland near the Olympic Village, and now the city’s park’s board has approved a strategy that will give them some company.

The Vancouver Park Board has approved a detailed strategy to enhance and expand coastlines, forests and wetlands across the city. The Biodiversity Strategy aims to restore 25 hectares of natural land by 2020 – much of it spread across various shorelines – as well as tackle forest restoration near the Fraser River.

“There’s lots of evidence that there are physical and mental benefits for those who access nature in their daily lives,” biologist Nick Page, of the parks board, said in an interview. “Compared to rural populations, there are few points of access to nature in the city.”

How wonderful is THAT. Of course wildlife is good for our physical and mental health. So good in fact that they might have lifted that sentence EXACTLY from my section of the chapter. I’m so envious of the beaver plan in Vancouver. The impressive thing is that they even have the chops to stand up to pressure like this.

“The problem comes when beavers start working on natural water courses,” said Wayne Goodey, a University of British Columbia lecturer with a background in animal psychology. “In general ecological principles, even a couple of animals can do a large amount of damage to the landscaping.”

Mr. Page, however, is confident that adaptation, not relocation, is the best strategy for these local beavers.

“There’s not really an opportunity for them to dam anything, and if they do, there’s very little chance of them flooding important infrastructure,” he said. “Relocation is very expensive, $10,000 each beaver. You can protect a lot of trees and clean out a lot of culverts for that price.”

 My mind is reeling from this article. What a WONDEFUL response to beavers appearing in an urban environment, and to a pompus know nothing who pretends to understand that beavers are bad for creeks. Hrmph. Think of how much our chapter will help them justify this bold decision. I am so impressed with Mr. Page. He gets a letter.

And silly Mr. Goodey does too. He apparently understands neither animals nor psychology.

Finally, I came across this yesterday and feel so irresponsible I hadn’t seen it months ago. Dietland is THE author on beavers and kind enough to donate two copies of his book to the silent auction at this year’s beaver festival. He also has done head-turning research on scent mounds, and if you ever wondered about this unique beaver behavior, you really should watch this all the way through. His video footage is fascinating.

Thank you Dr. Muller-Swarze for your lifetime of beaver research and for sharing it with us!


Find beaver help near you

   Posted by heidi08 On February - 2 - 2016Comments Off on Find beaver help near you

My vision is to have a beaver resource page with clickable links that can take you to help in your area. I just tried out a new toy to make this work. My goal is to make it clickable with lots of links embedded, but apparently only the premium version of the toy uses links, so I’ll do the scrappy version too. There are lots of empty states, but I’m sure it’s better than it was.

I’m so frustrated the links don’t work on the new toy, but at least it gives me an excuse to post this.

Shaken not Stirred

   Posted by heidi08 On February - 1 - 2016Comments Off on Shaken not Stirred

Okay. Remember how I told you that the BBC article about farmers shooting pregnant beavers was going to get folks plenty upset? Well now they’re REALLY UPSET and it’s all over the news. I will spare you the outrage, but they’ve published the email correspondence with autopsy reports and I assure you that roar isn’t going to die down anytime soon. Hopefully by the time it does, beaver will be a protected species.


CaptureIn the meantime, let’s have some good news. Saturday was the sold out BEAVER SUMMIT in Georgia, a state whose beaver policies have made me cry on more than one occasion,  and I thought I’d share a little from our friends about it. I think more updates will come, but for now let’s hear  from Jane Kobres. Her husband Bob presented and yesterday she sent these remarks.

Things went really well yesterday. Bob was the first speaker and he mostly did historical background of beaver in N. America plus talking about how he got interested in beaver. They only allotted 15 minutes for each speaker, which was not enough. All but one of them needed more like 25 minutes, but they all ended up speaking at least 20 minutes except for one person. The attendance was good–about 40 people counting speakers. There were people from the City of Atlanta, Parks and Recreation, and some local environmental groups. Everyone seemed pretty engaged and glad to be learning about beaver. Importantly, the discussions at the end involved “what can we do” type questions.

And so it begins. Forty people in Georgia will think about responding differently the next time a pond appears in their creek. I want to call it the first informed dialogue about beavers in the state, but the inventor of the Clemson pond leveler was from Georgia so there must have been more folks who knew they were worth keeping once upon a time.  I can’t believe how far BHNP has come in such a short time, and I’m SO happy to think we encouraged and informed them along the way!

Now we need a beaver summit in EVERY state! Who wants to go next?


Don’t you think Amelia Hansen should write me back and donate something to the auction? Yeah, I do too.