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Aug 25
2010

Ship Sewage Rules

Posted by Bruce Robinson in water , transportation , tourism , public safety , policy , ocean , news , international , Health , government , garbage , fish , environment , corporate responsibiliyt , coast , California , business , animals

Bruce Robinson

Land-based sewage discharges into the ocean are illegal. Soon that ban will apply to big ships, too, under new EPA rules being announced today.

Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was Environmental Director for the City and County of San Francisco before he was appointed his new job by the Obama administration last January. He would prefer that the ship sewage discharge ban reached at least twice as far offshore, but says three miles is all his agency can cover.

 Even these new rules will only restrict about 4/5ths of the sewage discharges into the state’s bays and other coastal waters; most of the remaining 20% comes from smaller vessels not governed by the new rules. Blumenfeld would like to see an eventual system of controlled dockside flushes into regional treatment facilities, but acknowledges that’s little more than a vision right now.

While the new EPA rules are welcomed, some environmental groups are pushing for more stringent standards. There is also a separate  move underway to impose a full ban on sewage discharges from all vessels on Tomales Bay.

Aug 04
2010

Carnivorous Plants

Posted by Bruce Robinson in wildlife , Sebastopol , preservation , medicine , events , environment , education , drugs , animals , agriculture

Bruce Robinson

Horror movies and popular musicals notwithstanding, carnivorous plants do not eat people, nor do they grow to tower over us. Without that far-fetched scare factor, they are strangely beautiful…and decidedly weird.

Peter D’Amato was just a boy when he first sent for a mail-order Venus Flytrap. It didn’t last long, but his interest in these strange plants did, especially after he was introduced to some that were growing in the wild not far from his home.

D’Amato’s California Carnivores nurserypropagates and breeds many of the plants they display and sell, such as sundews and pitcher plants. They need to be kept wet, he explains, but they don’t need to be fed.

Aside from the loss of habitat that threatens them, carnivorous plants are naturally long-lived.

Many of D'Amato's specimens are currently on display in San Francisco, at the exhibit called Chomp 2 at the Conservatory of Flowers.

Jul 15
2010

Cattle Brands of the North Bay

Posted by Bruce Robinson in speaker , Sonoma County , research , Marin , law enforcement , history , farms , author , animals , agriculture

Bruce Robinson

Branding cattle may evoke images of the old west a century ago, but it’s a still-active part of agriculture in the North Bay, with a lengthy history here, too.

Just as they were a century again, brands are used today to identify the legal owners of not just cattle, but horses, mules, burros, sheep and swine.

 

Ernie Ongaro (right) grew up on his family’s ranch along San Anselmo Creek, and began helping with the livestock branding at the age of 10. These days, he lives and raises beef cattle southwest of Sebastopol. Over the years he’s seen many familiar local brands go inactive (but his book includes both active and inactive brands from Marin and Sonoma counties). He’s also seen the shady practice of “overbranding” employed all the way into the present day.

 

You can see an array of sample brands below.

Jul 02
2010

Bat Lady Remembered

Posted by Bruce Robinson in wildlife , trees , toxic , nonprofit orgs , farms , environment , chemicals , California , animals , agriculture

Bruce Robinson

More than 50 years ago, Patricia Winters got her first bat, and promptly fell in love with it. As an advocate for the small nocturnal flying mammals, she was known throughout the North Bay and beyond as the Bat Lady. She died of cancer at age 70 recently, but shared her enthusiasm and knowledge in an early North Bay Report from January 2006. This is a repeat of that report.

How does someone become “the Bat Lady”?  In her case, recalls Patricia Winters, it started almost half a century ago.

Bats are moderately common in North America, but far more prevalent in the tropics, where they play an essential role in propagating fruits and other crops.

 

This is a Mexican free-tailed bat in flight, one of the more common species in northern California. Because of their echolocation sounds, bats actually make a lot of noise as they fly at night, but those sounds are at pitches to high for human hearing.You can listen to the echo-location sounds of a Mexican free-tailed bat, transposed into the rage of human hearing, in this audio clip.

For contrast's sake, here is the sound of what Patricia Winters calls a microwave popcorn echo. This bat send out its sounds between a gap in ins front teeth, so that the echo will no reverberate inside its mouth.

 

The Statewide Integrated Pest Management program at UC Davis offers this online resource to guide homeowners in dealing with bats generally and  on their property.

 

Pallid bat with fresh-caught grasshopper.


There are places where thousands of bats live together in caves or underground, and emerge in great clouds as the day turns dark. Here's a video of such an emergence.

 

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