Great Egret fishing at Breakwater Beach

Photos of a Great Egret foraging for Yellowfin Gobies in the shallow mudflat next to Breakwater Beach at the southeast corner of Alameda Point.  After catching a Goby, the Egret would then have to fling the little fish into the air to maneuver the fish back to its mouth.  Photos are from Friday, February 9, 2018.

Continue reading “Great Egret fishing at Breakwater Beach”

Bird sightings at Alameda Point – Fall 2014

A photo gallery of birds sighted at Alameda Point during the Fall of 2014.  They include:  Black-necked Stilt, Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Flicker, White-crowned Sparrow, Cedar Waxwing, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Northern Shoveler, Black-crowned Night Heron, and Western Bluebird.

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Continue reading “Bird sightings at Alameda Point – Fall 2014”

Bird life on the Nature Reserve at Alameda Point

The Alameda City Council, on March 19, 2013, unanimously approved a resolution affirming support for a nature reserve at Alameda Point.  The resolution calls for a zoning designation of “Nature Reserve” for the runway area formerly proposed for a national wildlife refuge.

Alameda Point Proposed Zoning MapAfter an impasse was reached in negotiations between the Navy and the US Fish & Wildlife Service for creation of a national wildlife refuge in 2004, the property was offered to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  The VA plans to build an outpatient clinic and columbarium on 112 acres of its land, but the remaining 511 acres of VA land will remain undeveloped.  The undeveloped area is where the endangered California Least Terns come to nest from early April to mid-August every year.  

The city’s nature reserve zoning designation will not have any mandatory impact on the VA, but rather is intended to convey the continuing value that the community places on wildlife conservation at Alameda Point.

March and April 2013 bird sightings on the Nature Reserve at Alameda Point.

Black-bellied Plover.  Summer breeding range is the north coast of Alaska and the Canadian Arctic.
Black-bellied Plover. Summer breeding range is the north coast of Alaska and the Canadian Arctic.  Seen here on the margins of seasonal wetland that the VA project will impact.
American Avocets on seasonal wetland that will be covered by VA clinic/columbarium project.  Can be replaced elsewhere on Nature Reserve.
American Avocets on seasonal wetland that will be covered by VA clinic/columbarium project. Can be replaced elsewhere on Nature Reserve.
Caspian Terns next to seasonal wetland that will be impacted by VA project.
Caspian Terns next to seasonal wetland that will be impacted by VA project.
Killdeer mating next to least tern nesting site.  Killdeer often nest inside the least tern area.  Killdeer are attracted to the Nature Reserve in abundance.
Killdeer mating next to least tern nesting site. Killdeer often nest inside the least tern area. Killdeer are attracted to the Nature Reserve in abundance.
Great Blue Heron nesting in a cypress tree in the Runway Wetland.
Great Blue Heron nesting in a cypress tree in the Runway Wetland.
Horned Lark on foraging on grassland, with mate nearby.
Horned Lark foraging on grassland, with mate nearby.
Turkey Vulture soaring over the reserve.  Turkey Vultures feed on animal carcasses, such as rabbits that have been taken by hawks.
Turkey Vulture soaring over the reserve. Turkey Vultures feed on animal carcasses, such as rabbits that have been taken by hawks.

Young osprey at Alameda Point leaving soon

Parent osprey landing with fish as fledgling waits on right, with parent looking on.

This is the third year that a pair of ospreys has nested on the old light stand at the entrance to the Seaplane Lagoon.  This year’s mating effort produced one fledgling. 

As June draws to a close, the fledgling can been seen standing on the nest and going through a series of wing calisthenics as one of the parents looks on.  Occasionally a parent will fly in a circle around the nest as if to say, “Look, this is how it’s done.  It’s easy.”   Spending most of its time hunkered down in the nest, often with brisk winds coming in across the Bay, the fledgling waits patiently for the high points of the day – its parents returning to the nest with a fish.  It won’t be long before this osprey family will be winging their way back to the wild.

Fledgling osprey watching and waiting for its turn as parent eats fish.

Fledgling osprey exercising its wings above, while parent looks on.

Above and below – parent osprey appears to be giving flight demo as it circles nest with fledgling looking on.

Parent osprey lifting off from nest as fledgling sits, with other parent looking on.  Note juvenile colors and wing spots.

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See also 2011 osprey nesting at Alameda Point.

Wetlands, Trails, Natural Habitat Concept Drawings for Alameda Point

Proposed Flight Park and Wetlands

The borderless ecosystem – On September 1, 2011, Golden Gate University’s Center on Environmental Law published their proposal for a unified planning process and expansive view for open space at Alameda Point.  The central theme of their effort is that the true potential for conservation at Alameda Point lies in thinking of the area as one contiguous ecosystem of land and water.  In doing so, not only is there benefit to wildlife and the environment in general, there is also benefit to our efforts at economic development by making Alameda Point a highly desirable location with a signature identity – Flight Park.

Perimeter boardwalk (Bay Trail) through park

Flight Park is their suggested name for a unified open space system that would bring to mind larger-scale landmark open space systems like the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  Bringing together regional, state, and federal agencies to adopt and implement conservation efforts will be far more effective in the long run than waiting for, say, the VA to appropriate money for habitat conservation (not their core mission), or the city of Alameda getting enough attention to secure millions in wetlands monies. 

Moving the VA facilities – Perhaps the most controversial proposal within the Flight Park concept is moving the proposed VA facilities off of the Wildlife Refuge to a spot further east at Alameda Point.  While coming late in the process for transferring land to the VA, it is not without merit.  The Golden Gate Audubon Society has long opposed the sighting of VA buildings on the Wildlife Refuge as an intrusion into the habitat of the endangered California Least Tern.  The Flight Park designers see the VA buildings as a visual obstruction on an otherwise wild and open bay front parcel.

Boardwalk through proposed wetlands

There is good reason for the VA to work with the City of Alameda on moving their buildings, if not their columbarium, closer to the old “Main Gate” on the north side of Alameda Point.  Services will be easier to get to for veterans, and the infrastructure to their site will be less expensive.  There is still time – the VA has not spent their $17 million for this year on design, and therefore they have not requested money for the project in next year’s budget proposal.

The East Bay Regional Park District has been ready and willing to take on the management of regional park facilities at Alameda Point for over a decade.  In 2009 they set aside $6.5 million for Alameda Point shoreline restoration and the Bay Trail.

Existing wetlands on Northwest Territories

Wetlands Mitigation Bank – Professor Paul Kibel, co-director of the Center on Urban and Environmental Law and leader behind the Flight Park concept, argues that there is also funding potential in the creation of a Wetlands Mitigation Bank such as has been created in many California communities to accumulate funds for creating or restoring wetlands.  An experienced environmental lawyer, he has offered to assist the city in any way he can in setting up such a wetlands bank.  One of our first contributions would likely come from the Navy, which will owe us some wetlands due to their coming remediation plans for the Northwest Territories.  Typically, two acres of wetland must be created for each single acre removed.

Seaplane Lagoon grassland promenade with Control Tower converted to nature observation center

In Sum – The Flight Park drawings offer an inspiring look at what could be at Alameda Point.  It is a vision that merges well with recent sustainability presentations that call for diverting storm water to wetlands and marshes at Alameda Point.  Urge our city council to discuss this initiative.  It would build on Alameda’s reputation as a city dedicated to environmental sustainability.

CUEL Booklet on Flight Park at Alameda Point

More images in the Environmental Report’s Flickr gallery.