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Creek Running North

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June 07, 2003

Breaking eggs

Walked the creek this morning with Matthew Bettelheim. The fog hung in late, until about two pm. Matthew found a bit of egg shell along the path, picked it up. "Someone met their early end here."

The mockingbirds have only recently started to scale down their yearly Homeland Security campaign. It was fairly intense this spring: I don't think I saw one crow in the entire month of April that wasn't being harassed by a mocker. One morning, looking out the front window with my view of the sky blocked by our roof, I saw the shadow of a crow making its way up the street. I waited. Three seconds later appeared the shadow of the pursuing mocker.

They even chased the Steller's jays this year, a risky undertaking. Crows and jays are enthusiastic predators of eggs and nestlings, so the all-out assault against corvids makes some sense.

Like other Homeland Security programs I could mention, this campaign is testament to the eventual perseverance of the determined and stupid. With occasional innocent victims, as in the case of Zeke, who gets strafed by a mocker now and then despite never having raided a nest in his life.

Near creekmouth, freshly bladed dirt: construction for the Bay Trail. The bulldozers have been at work. The path atop the levee, two days ago honeycombed with burrows of ground squirrels and pocket mice and the gopher snakes that ate them, has been scraped flat.

Someone managed to dig himself out of his burrow afterward; a spatter cone of excavated soil surrounds a new entrance. Like people in the Mississippi flood zone, I suspect the occupant is determined to rebuild rather than relocate. I hope I'm wrong. The paving crew will be there soon. The clean dirt path that was was evidently not developed enough for the East Bay Regional Park District. A ribbon of asphalt will soon cap the berm where I met the gopher snake two weeks ago. Sleeping ground squirrels may awake to find themselves entombed beneath what might as well be a street.

I think of the gentle poetry of the vacated snake skin I saw the other day, curled around a stem of red dock, and see a black stripe of sun-baked tar in its place. This week? Next week? Soon, and inevitably. I find myself wondering whether EBRPD did a census of the wildlife in the area, or gauged the harm of what will certainly leach out of the tar into the saltmarsh beyond.

Which, I am forced to admit, would be a fraction of what one Santa Fe tanker car sweats on an average day, and there are dozens of them parked there now. And the sewage treatment plant sends organic aromatics into the airshed on a constant basis, and the soil beneath the RV storage lot astride the creek no doubt oozes with transmission oil. This ain't wilderness, and the paved trail will probably make little long-term difference to anything except the animals it kills directly on Paving Day.

Still, I find myself wanting to fly into a mocker rage, to harass the graders and the tar trucks until they leave, to entomb some other place in black boiled petroleum sludge.

Posted by Chris Clarke at June 7, 2003 04:27 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:
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decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs