Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Karin's reflections on CGF's first 2013 event...

  Turning the Tide
 How ordinary people can save our baylands through citizen science and advocacy

Part of the reason I joined CGF as the Program Assistant was to learn about local issues and expand my knowledge about various environmental efforts. This past weekend’s event was perfect for someone like me. As a child, my grandparents used to drag me out to Rancho San Antonio at 8AM to go hiking; they would pay me $1 for every phone tower I could hike to. Yes, sadly I was a child who had to be bribed to wake up early on the weekends and go explore the outdoors. I always ended up enjoying the time I spent with my grandparents and spotting deer or quails during our hikes was always a treat. But, without that extra little nudge from them, I don’t know if I would have dragged myself out of bed and I now know that I would have missed out on something special.
View from EcoCenter's front door
Fast forward to today. During the week, I’m often in the office behind my computer screen sifting through emails and working away and on the weekends I tend to veg out in front of the TV. Planning fun educational events for CGF has encouraged me to learn about the wonderful open space treasures in my backyard and try new things. This past Saturday was gorgeous, we were fortunate to get perfect weather for a great day out on the Baylands.

Of course no event would be complete without a wonderful venue and a little coffee and breakfast snacks to start off the day. I always make an effort to ensure that all the things I would love to see at an event are included in the events I develop. If you haven’t visited the EcoCenter, go check it out for yourself, it's a great building. I would like to thank the EVs for opening their doors to us and thank our local Starbucks and Trader Joe’s for their in-kind donations!

We kicked off the event with a great presentation by Donna Ball, Save the Bay’s Habitat Restoration Director, as she emphasized the need for citizen based monitoring to help protect crucial transition zone habitat. Transition zones are often overlooked as habitat in need of protection, but they often have a higher diversity of species than neighboring ecosystems, and they provide vital refugia for tidal zone species to retreat to during storms or high tides.

Next, CGF’s Legislative Advocate, Alice Kaufman gave folks a rundown of how important it is for ordinary citizens to voice their opinions at City Council meetings and how that bears more weight than representatives from environmental organizations that council members hear from all the time. She also gave a quick overview of how additional inappropriate development can heavily impact not only the environment, but traffic conditions and costs to building city-run infrastructure. As always, in order to stay in the loop, sign up for and read CGF’s action alerts! 

One thing I love about CGF events, are the folks who show up. No matter the turnout, we always have a wonderfully engaged audience, interested in learning more. I also appreciate that everyone comes with a positive attitude, bringing great energy to the event. So if you haven’t met our CGF members, come on out and spend a day with us. You’ll be glad you did!

Time to enjoy the beautiful day, we packed up and headed out with Doug Serrill, Save the Bay’s Nursery Manager, to check out their new green house and work shed just across the street by the bird sanctuary. 

Image by Matthew Burrows
He gave us a fascinating rundown of some of the differences between a greenhouse growing plants for commercial use and one for habitat restoration. One of Save the Bay’s primary goals is to build a robust web-like root system for their plants. I have a feeling we could have spent all day peppering him with questions about the numerous plants at the greenhouse.

To cap off the day, we broke out into small groups led by expert birders. This was my first time going out birding, so I was glad that my group was nice and small so that I could ask a million questions. The Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society was kind enough to lend us some binoculars, but to tell the truth, most of our members already had their own, so they really benefited a novice like me. My goal was to be able to name five birds by the end of the trip that I didn’t know before. So here goes… we saw great egrets, black-legged stilts, golden crowned sparrows, canvasbacks and a flycatcher (I think my docent, Lee, will be proud) among other birds. 

The highlight of my first birding adventure was having a front row seat to some courtship displays courtesy of two male snowy egrets. I also saw a jack rabbit leaping through the grass. I was grateful for some tips on how to use binoculars properly and appreciated that my birding docent brought along his top notch scope to enhance the experience. For me, the difference between seeing a bird through my binoculars versus seeing it through his scope was like seeing two different birds -- through the scope unique markings and the texture of the birds' feathers really jumped out at me. I’m glad I got to try something new and I look forward to a future opportunity to go birding again!

Great people, free food, educational programming, and doing something fun and new, what’s not to like? 

Throughout the morning, I found myself pausing and thinking what a wonderful way it was to spend a beautiful day. 

I look forward to seeing you at the next CGF event

-Karin Lin

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