Baykeeper's Monthly Column

Baykeeper publishes a monthly column on San Francisco Bay cultural, environmental, and maritime issues.
(February 2014) If you’re on the San Francisco Bay shoreline and spot a small, round owl on the ground, it’s probably a burrowing owl. These long-legged birds weigh just 4 to 9 ounces, and are the only owl active on the ground during the day. They have brown spotted feathers and bright yellow eyes. The most likely place to find a burrowing owl is beside a ground squirrel’s abandoned burrow....
(January 2014) The oil industry has big plans for expansion along San Francisco Bay’s shore. If the region’s refineries get their way, millions more barrels of crude oil will be brought to the Bay Area for processing and export to other states and nations. The number of tankers on the Bay will go way up, drastically raising the risk of oil spills—and the risk of massive harm to the Bay’s wildlife...
(December 2013) Dungeness crabs are a Bay Area holiday tradition. But long before these tasty crustaceans grace our dinner plates, they’ve made an amazing journey. They start in the Pacific Ocean, migrate at least 20 miles to San Pablo Bay, and later walk back along the bottom of the San Francisco Bay all the way out the Golden Gate. From now through January, Dungeness crabs will be hatching from...
(November 2013) Will millions of gallons of raw and undertreated sewage get spilled into San Francisco Bay this rainy season? Baykeeper will monitor reports of spills and get that information out to the public in our interactive online map. Rainy-season sewage spills and overflows have contaminated the Bay for years, because many Bay Area sewage collection systems need repair and are prone to...
(October 2013) On autumn nights, flocks of western grebes end their migration by alighting on San Francisco Bay, their seasonal home. These strikingly beautiful birds are about two and half feet long, black on top with white undersides. They have yellow beaks, bright red eyes, and long, swanlike necks. Migrating by night, western grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis) arrive on the Bay between...
(September 2013) Even those of us who commute by ferry may not realize that the Bay Area has more than 1,300 industrial facilities that collectively are responsible for one of the Bay’s greatest pollution problems. The dirty facilities that dot our warehouse districts and frontage roads are largely out of sight of residential areas, though you can see a few from some of the highways that hug the...
(August 2013) Have you walked along the shores of San Francisco Bay and spotted a dark head in the water, with big eyes looking back at you? From the safety of water, a harbor seal will often curiously watch people walking on the beach. Harbor seals can also playfully bump swimmers, although they have been known to bite. Once "hauled out" and resting on a beach or a mudflat, harbor seals are...
(July 2013) Looking for a Bay Area beach with water clean enough for swimming, surfing and playing in the sand? Download San Francisco Baykeeper’s free Swim Guide smartphone app at www.theswimguide.org. The app and the website allow you to see, at a glance, whether it’s safe to go in the water at more than 40 local Bay and ocean beaches. The Swim Guide is updated weekly, using information from...
(June 2013) Fracking—the process of injecting water, sand and toxic chemicals underground at high pressure to extract oil or gas—threatens San Francisco Bay. The technique, officially called hydraulic fracturing, is currently being used in hundreds of California gas and oil wells, with no regulation or protection for the environment or public health. Oil companies in California are...
(May 2013) As we patrolled the southern San Francisco shoreline in the Baykeeper boat, we glided toward a huge facility where paint was being sandblasted off a massive ship towering above us. Paint chips blew onto our deck. Looking down, we saw a swirling film of pinkish-gray dust floating on the Bay’s surface. Geoff Potter, our volunteer skipper that day, maneuvered closer. We rocked slightly on...

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