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”

Harbor seal pup grows up at Alameda Point

A harbor seal pup is being raised by its mom at Alameda Point.  It is the fourth year in a row that a pup has been observed utilizing the harbor seal float.  It is unknown where any of the pups were born.

Here is a gallery of photos from April showing the pup nursing, resting on the float, and riding on its mother’s back in the harbor.  The pup can be identified when on the float as the one with the light gray coat.  Continue reading “Harbor seal pup grows up at Alameda Point”

Harbor seals max out their float in December

On December 23, the number of harbor seals on the float at Alameda Point reached 80, a new record for a single day.  The number of seals on the float exceeded 70 on 10 days during December, a new record for the month.

Seals were packed so tightly that some were barely hanging onto the edge.  The cramped conditions when the float reaches 70 seals in December and January can lead to bouts of slapping and shoving, as harbor seals prefer to have some space when resting. Continue reading “Harbor seals max out their float in December”

Bottlenose dolphins visit Breakwater at Alameda Point

Bottlenose dolphins do not usually come to mind when thinking of wildlife at Alameda Point.  In fact, only three have been observed there in recent years, and those sightings were from canoes and kayaks.  But on July 24, two more dolphins were observed with two regulars meandering around next to Breakwater Island.  The standalone rock wall, or breakwater, is visible from Pier 3 where the USS Hornet Museum is berthed.

The first-time visitors were from Monterey Bay and identified by researchers with Golden Gate Cetacean Research (GGCR).  The group tracks the dolphins using a catalog of 91 dolphins showing individual markings, some with names. Continue reading “Bottlenose dolphins visit Breakwater at Alameda Point”

Harbor seal numbers spike during herring spawning

Alameda Point’s harbor seal population fluctuates between single digits and 50 during most of the year on the specially-built harbor seal float.  But when the Pacific herring arrive in the winter to lay their eggs, many more seals arrive to feast on the herring, causing a sudden spike.  Last winter, a spike in seal numbers to a record 70 came on January 5, 2017, in the midst of the herring run.  This winter, the herring arrived sooner, in December, and so did more harbor seals, causing a spike to a new record of 73 on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

In the brief time span since the new harbor seal float was set in place, local monitors have assumed that it was simply the colder water temperatures that enticed greater numbers of seals to use the float in the winter.  But in fact, they discovered it’s not the full story.

It turns out that dropping water temperature indeed has an effect, but the effect is on the herring.  Ideal water temperature for herring spawning is between 50 and 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit.  The water temperature at Alameda Point dropped below 54 degrees the afternoon of December 16 and continued dropping another 2.3 degrees, according to data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  This brought on the herring run and, in turn, the voracious seals.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration graph of water temperatures at Alameda Point between December 15, 2017, and January 5, 2018, with harbor seal graph added by Alameda Point Harbor Seal Monitors. Click on image to enlarge.

Continue reading “Harbor seal numbers spike during herring spawning”

New ferry to begin service

~More bike space, faster boarding, quieter ride, lower emissions

Ferry riders at the Alameda Main Street Terminal will soon be boarding the MV Hydrus, the cleanest running 400 passenger ferry in the world.  The state-of-the-art ferry is designed for quicker on-boarding and off-boarding, faster speeds, low noise and vibration, and low emissions.  The bicycle storage capacity will be more than doubled to 50 from the current capacity of 20 on the MV Encinal, which it will replace.

Captain Al Lewis and the Hydrus crew were running through training exercises in the Oakland Estuary on March 28.  They stopped at the Main Street Terminal just after the Encinal departed with passengers.  The Encinal was built in 1985 and was owned by the City of Alameda during the period when the city operated the ferry service to San Francisco.  At 27 meters in length, the Encinal looked small by comparison to the 41-foot-long Hydrus.

Continue reading “New ferry to begin service”

Transportation agency calls for more housing in Alameda

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) issued a new regional planning document on August 30, 2016, suggesting the amount of housing needed in Alameda to meet state goals. MTC is requesting input from local jurisdictions.

Alameda City Planner Andrew Thomas slammed the commission’s recommendations as being woefully out of touch with Alameda’s existing land uses and its limited regional transit connections.

Approved plan for Priority Development Area (PDA) at Alameda Point.
Approved plan for Priority Development Area (PDA) at Alameda Point.

MTC’s forecast calls for adding roughly 10,000 new homes in Alameda by 2040, with the majority to be added in existing neighborhoods, outside of so-called Priority Development Areas (PDAs) like Alameda Point and the Northern Waterfront. This could only be accomplished if a host of improbable and unrealistic events were to occur, according to Thomas. Continue reading “Transportation agency calls for more housing in Alameda”