This eye-opening learning experience at the Coastal Conservancy is only a couple days away from ending. I have acquired so much knowledge regarding coastal watersheds, partnering agencies and so much more. One of the perks of working at the Conservancy is the opportunity to go out in the field and monitor previous projects that project managers have worked on. By the way, that’s what the Conservancy does. They work on projects, so there is always something new and exciting in the works. Folks over here are also pretty busy which usually means good things are happening in California. As a result, I got a chance to visit some former projects to make sure things were still functioning properly.
One of the sites included Pier 94 in the Bayview/Hunters Point area of San Francisco. I was familiar enough with that part of the City, but had absolutely no idea that tucked away, down a dusty road occupied by a concrete company is a viable bird refuge. After parking at the end of the road, I went to see if I could find some birds taking advantage of this project. At first I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t see any and would have to report back some sad results. Then I noticed the plethora of bird droppings. A good sign when looking for birds! And sure enough, in a small tide pool at the far end of this marsh was an auklet. I had gone with my partner and we realized that we were not the only ones enjoying the peacefulness this site was offering; there were four other people at the far end of the park. I ran into a woman from the Golden Gate Audubon Society who pointed out some turkey vultures circling above. She makes it a point to come out once a month to monitor the site as well. At the Conservancy once every five years is sufficient, so I considered myself lucky to have been able to come out and view the birds, the Bay and the beautiful day. As we said goodbye to an egret, I was planning the next monitoring assignment.
I was instructed to assess the beautification work that had taken place along the Guadalupe River in San Jose. I decided to do it on a Sunday for the ride and company my partner provided. Along the way we stopped at Redwood Shores in Redwood City to see if the portion of the Bay trail the Conservancy funded was still functioning. I found it behind some hotels: a tranquil escape from the freeway. The path was definitely up to par: a view of the Bay and cyclists whipping by. I took a moment to travel along the trail and found myself surrounded on either side by tall stalks of fennel. I would have loved to walk the whole trail but the Guadalupe was waiting. After a few inhales, I was ready to depart south toward San Jose.
On a hot day in the Bay, San Jose can be quite hot. This was no exception. As we walked along a dry river bed, we were reminded of the seriousness of the drought. The Guadalupe is not just any river, as with many coastal watersheds throughout California, it is a habitat for threatened steelhead trout. Unfortunately, with flowing water absent, the steelhead were nowhere to be found. On the bright side, it did give me an opportunity to view the structure of the riverbed. There were blocks put in place so greenery could grow through the cracks and crevices. This makes for a much better experience for the steelhead when they are utilizing this river. Aside from the river, my job was to observe the small tide pool funded by the Conservancy, as well as other structures aiding in the celebration of cultural diversity in San Jose. It was a bit of a treasure hunt to find these items using copies of photos I found in the office, but finally I found everything I needed to and was able to report success.
To end the day, I wanted to swing by San Jose’s Japantown. I spent a year teaching English in Japan and have always been curious to see how San Jose’s J town is in comparison with the City’s. As luck would have it, there was an O-bon festival taking place! I found this slightly early as O-bon takes place in August and it was July, but hey, I’d take it!
Monitoring for the Conservancy has been full of moments of discovery for me and I will miss this delightful responsibility, but it has also reminded me that even though it is sometimes easy to spot the human impacts around the Bay, beauty is usually right around the corner.