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Archive for April, 2009

Cornell Bird Lab study: Got nest boxes? You can be a citizen scientist!

Screech owl nest box. Photo by Carol Meyer, Galaxy Press, Concord, Calif.
screech nest box1

Your monitoring can help the Cornell Lab of Ornithology study climate change and nesting birds.

Anyone with one or more nest boxes can help scientists learn more about bird families and how they might be affected by climate change. Just register the nest box (or boxes) with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch program at It doesn’t cost anything but yields valuable information needed to better understand breeding birds and how their natural rhythms may be changing.

If you don’t have a nest box, now is the time to set one up.
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Posted on Thursday, April 16th, 2009
Under: Bird nests, Bird Watching, Birds, Conservation, Cornell Lab of Ornithology | No Comments »

Cedar waxwings: They will eat no toyon berry before its time.

Cedar waxwing eating toyon berry. Photo by Bob Brittain, Walnut Creek, Calif.

4/7/09, 11:29 a.m.: I noticed lots of birds flying around the toyons in my yard and grabbed the camera. The photos are a bit dark but they show fine detail of some of the birds’ features. They got spooked by my camera or something else and flew away to a neighboring tree. I would estimate over 100 in the flock. I will try to get shots later with better light.
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Posted on Wednesday, April 15th, 2009
Under: Birds, Cedar waxwings, Toyon berries | 6 Comments »


President Obama and Bo. (AP/White House/Pete Souza)

I Googled “Obama, Bo” at 7 a.m. this morning and received 13,500,000 hits. (Then I Googled “Obama, unemployed” and got 13,000,000 hits.)

I’ve received 18 press releases in the last week from organizations and people who want to advise the Obama family on how to care for Bo, this country’s new First Dog.

And more new press releases on the subject are coming in every day.
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Posted on Tuesday, April 14th, 2009
Under: Dog names, dogs, Obama, Pets, Presidential Pets | No Comments »

First Dog Bo: Obama family picks Portuguese water dog for daughters

The new First Dog, Bo, a Portuguese water dog. (AP Photo/the White House, Pete Souza)
Obama BO

I’d like to congratulate the Obamas on bringing home a new dog, Bo, into their family, and especially to thank them for taking in a “second-chance dog.” Bo is a Portuguese water dog who was apparently returned by the family that originally purchased him.

The puppy didn’t fit in with the first family that adopted it. It is a gift to the Obamas (that other first family) from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who tracked down the puppy. He owns several Portuguese water dogs himself.
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Posted on Monday, April 13th, 2009
Under: dogs, First Dog, Obama, Pets, Presidential Pets | No Comments »

California condors shot: $55,000 reward for shooters

California Condor. Photo courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service/Scott Frier
condor flying

It’s bad enough that California condors are frequently poisoned by lead ammo-killed game, but last month two of the highly endangered birds were themselves found shot full of lead bullets.

The Center for Biological Diversity, determined to bring the perp (perps?) to justice, has established a $30,000 reward … and Santa Barbara’s Wendy P. McCaw Foundation has pledged another $25,000 of the total … after the announcement that biologists found a young female condor with three shotgun pellets lodged in her wing and thigh.

Sadly, this was just three weeks after finding another condor shot full of 15 pellets.
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Posted on Friday, April 10th, 2009
Under: California condors, Endangered species | No Comments »

Bad economy creates animal welfare crisis

A family puppy
golden ret.

A new survey from, a network of more than 12,400 animal adoption organizations, finds that 84 percent of shelters and rescue groups are reporting pet surrenders because of the economic downturn, foreclosures and / or job losses.

And 74 percent said that they have seen an increase in pets being given away or abandoned since this time last year due to these economic trials.
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Posted on Thursday, April 9th, 2009
Under: Animal welfare, Cats, dogs, Economy, Pets | No Comments »

Wild band-tailed pigeons in a local backyard. Where did they come from?

Band-tailed pigeons on backyard feeder. Photo by Herman Koberle, Pleasanton, Calif.

Dear Gary:
We have lived in Pleasanton, in this house, for 28 years and it was 2 months ago that these band-tailed pigeons showed up. We have had bird feeders up for most of that time. Are they new to this area? I have talked to neighbors and people from different areas and no one has seen them or knows where they roost. Any ideas?

We have counted as many as 15 in our backyard.
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Posted on Wednesday, April 8th, 2009
Under: Band-tailed pigeons, Hunting, Pigeons, Rock dove | 7 Comments »

Ducking Foie Gras: Beginning of the end for a cruel practice?

Brutal force-feeding of geese to make foie gras. Photo from The HSUS.

Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, writes a great blog. His April 6 entry is about “Ducking Foie Gras.” Below are the first two paragraphs. You can click on the link that follows to read the rest of Wayne’s blog and view videos and other links on the cruel and abusive practice of making foie gras.

You owe it to yourself to read this before EVER taking another bite of that stuff. /Gary
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Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
Under: Ducks, Foie gras, Food Animal Abuse, Geese | 1 Comment »

Skunk! I saw this black & white “kitty” walking in my backyard

Let’s go hunt snails! Striped skunk in my backyard. Photo by Bogue, Benicia, Calif.

We were cooking dinner Sunday evening when my wife, Lois, looked out the sliding glass door in the kitchen and yelled, “Quick, bring the camera!”

It was the neighborhood skunk, wandering around our patio and looking up on the deck.
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Posted on Monday, April 6th, 2009
Under: My backyard, Skunks | 8 Comments »

Gray fox taking a walk on the back fence (looking for a hen house?)

Fox on the fence by Jack Wall, Livermore, Calif.
fox on fence1

Dear Gary,
My wife and I love to read your column with coffee in the morning. Thank you for all of the good advice and the pleasure you have given us with your animal tales.

During our 10 years in Livermore, we have enjoyed the multitude of birds that have tried to bankrupt us at our six backyard feeds. We are fascinated by the Cooper’s hawks that seem to think our feeders are really smorgasbords for them. We were surprised when the egret and great blue heron stopped by to feast on the fish in our small pond and stayed to pose for great photos. We were delighted when mama quail brought the tiny chicks over for us to see.
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Posted on Friday, April 3rd, 2009
Under: Foxes, Gray foxes | No Comments »