The Loma Prietan - July/August 2010


by John Maybury

Octopus's Garden

California's "underwater" state park system has expanded to include north-central coastal hot spots such as Point Reyes Headlands, Bodega Head, the Farallon Islands, and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. The marine protected area network, which extends from Point Arena to Pigeon Point, is designed to restore sea life and protect habitat while leaving almost 90% of the coast open for fishing. Info:

Last Chance for Nature Plate

July 31 is your last chance to order a Nature Within Reach license plate showing the Golden Gate Bridge. Fees go to the San Francisco Bay Area Conservancy Program (under the auspices of the California Coastal Commission). Info:

Speedy Songbirds

Biologists have placed tiny light sensors on the backs of migratory songbirds to track their movements between the two hemispheres. One purple martin they tracked flew from Brazil to the northern United States in only 13 days, at an average of 300 miles a day. (

Protect Marine Life

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary advises beachgoers not to interact with seal pups they may find. Newborn pups could suffer permanent harm if mistaken for orphans and separated from their mothers. Mother harbor seals sometimes leave their pups on the beach while they forage at sea, and return to reclaim and nurse their pups if left alone. Report suspected orphan pups to a park ranger or call The Marine Mammal Center at 415-289-7325. Seals are federally protected animals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and to interfere with one could incur penalties.

The Sanctuary also advises boaters and kayakers to steer clear of whales, which migrate into the San Francisco Bay Area in large numbers. Gray whales are at particularly high risk for collisions with vessels, as they often travel near shore and may even wander into the bay itself. San Francisco Bay and Tomales Bay always have a few gray whale visitors. Whales are in the area year-round. Watch for their blow as they surface, which looks like a puff of smoke, low and bushy. Maintain at least 300 feet of distance while paralleling them. Never cut across their path of travel or separate a whale cow from her calf. Info:

Go Green to Giants

Caltrain goes direct to San Francisco Giants home games. The railroad depot is one block away from the ballpark. Info:, 1-800-660-4287 (TTY 650.508.6448).

Ban Butts on Beaches

Cigarette filters are a menace to marine life and the ocean. A San Diego State University study found that "just one filtered cigarette butt had the ability to kill half the fish living in a one-liter container of water" ( Cigarette filters are made with cellulose-acetate, a type of plastic that never fully decomposes. Because cigarette butts float, they are taken out to sea by tide, wind, and rain. Like Styrofoam take-out containers, the plastic filters tend to accumulate in giant garbage gyres, such as the Pacific Garbage Patch 1,000 miles off our coast. Info:

Oceans Movie

Disneynature, the studio that presented the film Earth, now brings Oceans to the big screen. Info:

Scat, Cat!

Outdoorsman Tom Stienstra (San Francisco Chronicle) says you can tell if a mountain lion has been lurking near your favorite hiking spot if you see scat in the middle of the trail. It's the big cat's way of marking territory, and the deposit most likely will have hair in it from the prey animal that the feline predator recently ingested.

Free Garden Guide

Online help for backyard gardeners:

Save Humboldt Redwoods

Caltrans's controversial highway-widening project along 101 in Humboldt County threatens to degrade the ancient redwood grove at Richardson Grove State Park. The Environmental Protection Information Center and the Center for Biological Diversity vow an all-out legal challenge of the project. Info:

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