Caspian and Elegant Terns join Least Terns to nest at Alameda Point

Naval Air Station-Alameda gained notoriety as a refuge for the endangered California Least Tern when the base closed in 1997.  Over 500 acres were dedicated to protecting the terns’ adopted nesting site next to a runway formerly used by jet aircraft. 

This unlikely bird habitat for the Least Terns some 400 miles north of their historic breeding grounds along the southern California coast offered the birds something they had lost, which drove them to the brink of extinction – nesting sites free of human disturbance near a source of small fish to feed their chicks. 

Surprisingly, two other tern species have recently begun nesting in the vicinity.  Elegant and Caspian Terns seem to be thriving there, while the endangered Least Terns are struggling.

Continue reading “Caspian and Elegant Terns join Least Terns to nest at Alameda Point”

Alameda Point harbor seals attract educational groups

About 240 students from Eldorado Middle School in Concord visited Alameda Point to make observations of the harbor seals on March 22.  The school participates in an educational program sponsored by the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito called Ocean Ambassadors. 

The students arrived in two groups.  While the first group was at the trailside viewing site, a second group was on a ferry ride around San Francisco Bay to view marine wildlife. The second group arrived in the afternoon, while the first group went on the ferry excursion.

Alameda Point was chosen for viewing harbor seals because it is the only place on the Bay that is easily accessible for viewing seals.

Continue reading “Alameda Point harbor seals attract educational groups”

Guns and Traps Used to Protect Least Terns at Alameda Point

The endangered California least terns that nest on the old airfield at Alameda Point are well protected during their April to August nesting season.  Fencing keeps people away from the 10-acre sandy nesting site, but it won’t stop other birds and mammals from getting to the eggs and the helpless chicks.  Only a well-armed and outfitted predator management officer can effectively deter other animals.

Every year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hires a wildlife biologist from Wildlife Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Typically used for protecting crops and livestock, the agency is also hired to protect dozens of endangered species every year.  The most recent field report available for Alameda Point is for 2019, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The report describes a variety of methods used to deter or eliminate threats to the nesting terns.  First, loud noises and bright flashes of light are fired from a gun to frighten away an avian predator, called hazing.  Second, the wildlife biologist drives a vehicle toward an avian predator, another form of hazing.  Third, predators are trapped.  And fourth, as a last resort, the biologist is left with no other choice than shooting the predator with a shotgun or rifle or euthanizing. 

Continue reading “Guns and Traps Used to Protect Least Terns at Alameda Point”

Marine Conservation, Wildlife, and Recreation Area proposed for General Plan

The City of Alameda is in the process of updating its General Plan.  The current draft of the updated plan draws attention to wildlife habitat, a welcome addition.  However, it misses the largest contiguous wildlife habitat in all of Alameda – that is, the waterway on the south side of Alameda Point.  

To address this oversight, a proposal supported by stakeholders listed below has been submitted to the City recommending a policy that brings together both the habitat values and the recreational values of this area.  The proposal calls for designating the area as the Alameda Point Marine Conservation, Wildlife, and Recreation Area.  This area includes the deepwater ship channel, the ship harbor, the harbor extending to the mudflat and beach, and the rock walls and rocky shoreline.

This waterway hosts a complex web of life, from the creatures and vegetation living in the seabed sediment and on the rock walls and rocky shoreline, to the fish, marine mammals and birds that depend on it for food, resting, reproducing and raising offspring.  This waterway also is popular with non-motorized water sports enthusiasts.  It is unique among the open space areas of Alameda and deserves special recognition not only because of its multiple values to the community, but also because “water” is part of Alameda’s identity. Continue reading “Marine Conservation, Wildlife, and Recreation Area proposed for General Plan”

New generation of Great Blue Herons born in cypress rookery

The cypress trees in the wetland near the proposed DePave Park at Alameda Point have served as a safe and secure nesting site for Great Blue Herons for many years.  This year is no exception, despite the trees having died and barely standing.  On May 7, Audubon Society bird observer Dawn Lemoine counted 13 juveniles in the nests.

The wetland around the cypress trees provides the ideal landing spot for the young herons’ first flight and subsequent adaptation to life outside the nest.  They can be seen for the first week or so after leaving the nest hanging out in the wetland preening and sunning themselves. Continue reading “New generation of Great Blue Herons born in cypress rookery”

Western Bluebird chicks raised on smorgasbord of bugs

The brightly colored male and its grayer colored mate were spotted briefly landing on top of an old light pole, as if to show off their insect catch.  More likely it was a precautionary stop to ensure that no predators were lurking nearby before springing into air and entering the nest cavity in the pole just below the top.

This was the only clue in early May 2020 that a pair of Western Bluebirds had a nest at the old campground at Alameda Point.  The chicks were silent and unseen for weeks until they began peering out of the hole a few days before flying away.

Continue reading “Western Bluebird chicks raised on smorgasbord of bugs”