Category Archives: Essays
Cavity-nesting birds in East Portal Park
The drought has killed several trees in East Portal Park and I now see that many of them have been marked with an orange ring, presumably so that they can be taken down. While I recognize the need to remove any which pose a safety risk, it is also important for the city to consider the wildlife value of these very trees.
Our city is home to a wide variety of bird species, many of which breed right in town. Among those birds, some nest only in cavities in trees. For the most part the trees, which provide the best cavities for these birds, are ones which are dead or dying. I walk East Portal Park nearly every morning and have noted that at least three bird species have nested each year in cavities in trees in this park: Nuttall’s Woodpecker (a woodpecker found only along the west coast in California and Oregon), Western Bluebird, and Oak Titmouse. In particular, all three species are using cavities in some of the marked trees. (Zelkova species, I believe.) I am hopeful that the city will consider saving at least one or two of these trees.
Our once verdant lawns crisp under the sun. Brown is the new green, we say bravely, and we comply with the latest regulations. On our block we can water twice a day, twice a week, Wednesdays and Sundays, before 10 a.m. and after 7 p.m. We’re all in this together, I think, as I dig a little dam around my poor, thirsty blue hydrangea which sits on a slope, and like a certain unfortunate relative, never gets enough to drink. Some suggest I replace the hydrangea with a drought-tolerant plant. But I know drought-tolerant is a euphemism for cactus, and a cactus is a dry, spikey, over-cooked thing that puts you in mind of scorpions and desiccated cow skulls.