Aug. 7, 2015
If you’ve noticed trees turning color already, you are not imagining things. California buckeyes, alders, big-leaf maples and other native deciduous trees – as well as many non-natives – are dropping their leaves early this year due to the drought.
East Bay Regional Park District biologists have noted the phenomenon or fall colors throughout the East Bay parklands. Trees are turning bright yellow, red or orange weeks earlier than usual as a way to conserve energy and nutrients during this extended dry period.
And it’s not just trees: many species of wildlife have also adjusted their schedules to account for the shortage of water.
“Terns, turtles, frogs, newts – they all nested early this year,” said Dave “Doc Quack” Riensche, a wildlife biologist for the District. “They want to get their young out before there’s no water left.”
The East Bay’s native trees have evolved to tolerate drought fairly well, and shedding leaves early is one way they survive during dry spells. Once the rains begin again, assuming they ever do, the trees should rebound nicely, Riensche said.
Non-native trees have a tougher time. Eucalyptus and Monterey pines, when stressed due to lack of water, are more prone to disease and infestations. Other trees, like fruit trees, simply can’t make it without water.
So if you’re hankering for a sneak peak of fall colors, head to just about any East Bay park and consider it a small upside to the drought.
If birds are more your thing, the Park District is offering several upcoming bird-watching outings. Set your alarm and prepare for coffee, though – some of the best avian observations are just after dawn.
On Aug. 18, join a naturalist and other bird enthusiasts for a tranquil walk at Garin/Dry Creek Regional Park in Hayward. Meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Red Barn Visitor Center, 1320 Garin Ave. The 2-hour walk will
A nice afternoon outing is scheduled at Big Break Regional Shoreline on Aug. 16. This will be a great chance to learn about some of the Delta species that one might not see elsewhere in the East Bay. Yopics include: frantic feathers, big beaks, tough talons, whistling wings and exotic eggs. Meet at 2 p.m. at the Big Break Visitor Center, 69 Big Break Road, Oakley.
Contra Loma Regional Park is also hosting a bird excursion. Meet at the main parking lot, 1200 Frederickson Lane, Antioch, at 8 a.m. Aug. 29 to learn about the birds that frequent the park’s reservoir. With its grassy expanses and proximity to Carquinez Strait as well as the freshwater reservoir, Contra Loma is a favorite spot for waterfowl, songbirds and raptors of all types, including peregrine falcons and bald eagles.
“The Chicken or the Egg?” will offer a different sort of bird watching: at a farm. Swing by Little Farm at Tilden Regional Park at 10 a.m. Aug. 23 to learn about chickens, eggs and the eternal mystery of science.
All four of these events are free (although parking fees may apply) and no registration is required. Bring binoculars, water and sunscreen, and have fun!
Contra Loma is hosting another interesting outing on Aug. 22. Anyone who’s been there in the summer can probably guess the topic: reptiles. The Contra Costa park is well known for its abundance of snakes, lizards, salamanders and frogs (all of which are food for its above-mentioned birds). This is a great chance to learn about our cold-blooded friends and maybe help the more skittish among us to overcome their fear of slithery things.
The outing is from 9 to 10:30 a.m.
It’s not too late to buy tickets for the 19th annual Cajun/Zydeco Music Festival on Aug. 15 at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont. The line-up includes four live bands, Cajun and Creole food offerings, specialty vendors, dance lessons and plenty of fun.
Advance tickets are $20, $5 for youth. Same-day tickets are $24 for adults, $7 for youth. Children under 3 are free. Go to www.ebparks.org to purchase tickets.
The festival is from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Ardenwood, 34600 Ardenwood Blvd.
A quick note about fires: Due to the drought, wildfires continue to rage across California, scorching hundreds of thousands of acres. The East Bay Regional Park District’s Fire Department closely monitors our 118,000 acres of open space, especially after lightning storms, and works closely with other fire agencies in the East Bay and statewide. If you see smoke, don’t hesitate to report it, and take precautions when enjoying the outdoors. With everyone’s cooperation, we hope to escape this fire season with relatively little damage. Thanks in advance from the Park District’s fire crews.