What Tom can teach us


Candlelight vigil for Tom Kettleman, the turkey

Lodi’s outpouring of grief for Tom Kettleman, the wild turkey struck and killed by a car over the weekend, uplifts and upsets me at the same time.

On one hand, I’ve never seen such an intimate bond between the people of San Joaquin County and a wild creature that lives among us. We are surrounded by rich urban wildlife, most of which we take for granted. Tom’s gift to us, during his brief life, is that he compelled us to open our eyes and recognize we are part of something larger.

Then again, some seem to want to turn Tom into something he was not — a human being. How else can you explain the candlelight vigil held in his honor on Monday? Tom was a turkey. I must wonder if a vigil was held for 33-year-old Leticia Vizueth-Marquez, the woman stabbed to death in Lodi last week.

This will sound pompous. But wherever we live, let’s take the community love and support that manifested itself so clearly in Tom’s case, and also apply it to the many human victims of violence — victims who might otherwise be just as invisible to us as critters like Tom often are.

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Fish kill confirmed

It’s hardly news anymore, but Record photographer Craig Sanders has confirmed reports of a fish kill at the head of Smith Canal, at American Legion Park’s Yosemite Lake.

On Saturday Craig found perhaps several hundred shad floating dead in the water, on the north side of the lake near the pipe that pumps much of Stockton’s stormwater into the lake. However, Craig also saw shad swimming in the lake, so the carnage wasn’t absolute.

This is essentially an annual phenomenon after the first fall rains each year. We all share responsibility because we all, to some extent, contribute to stormwater pollution.

If nothing else, these dead fish are a reminder to do what we can by minimizing fertilizer/chemical use on our lawns, keeping our cars in good shape so they’re not leaking fluids everywhere we drive, and generally using common sense by realizing that the liquids that splash off our streets, sidewalks and driveways drain directly to rivers and streams without going through a treatment plant first.

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Delta commission silent on water bond

The Delta Protection Commission decided last week to stay neutral on the upcoming $7.5 billion water bond, a spokeswoman told me.

The decision was reached after a lengthy discussion at the commission’s meeting in Discovery Bay.

The commission’s neutrality on the bond is not surprising. While a majority of members most often agree on policy positions, particularly when it comes to protecting the Delta, they were not likely to agree on the current bond, which is supported by many local elected officials but opposed by Delta farmers.

Both of those groups are represented on the commission.

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What’s on tap — weekend of Sept. 27-28 and beyond

Saturday, Sept. 27: Free admission at Yosemite National Park and other federal parks, including New Hogan and New Melones lakes east of Stockton, and the parks on the Stanislaus River. This is in honor of National Public Lands Day. More details here.

Saturday, Sept. 27: Organic produce stand open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at Boggs Tract Community Farm. Fruits, vegetables, eggs and honey available. 466 S. Ventura Avenue. More details here.

Saturday, Sept. 27: Guided photo walk, Cosumnes River Preserve. One-mile loop trip takes visitors through wetlands and riparian forest. 7 a.m., visitor center. More details here.

Saturday, Sept. 27: Last summer paddle of the season at the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, west of Elk Grove. 9 a.m. This guided float wanders along a historically dredged area that is not normally open to the public. You might see river otters, egrets, herons, hawks, pelicans, beavers and pond turtles. Event is free. You must bring a canoe or kayak and a life jacket. More details here.

Saturday, Sept. 27: Stockton Astronomical Society presents “Astronomy in the Park.” Come to Oak Grove Regional Park and peer through the telescopes of society members. The public is welcome. Event starts after sunset, which is at 6:54 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 30: Stockton East Water District weekly board meeting. Noon, 6767 E. Main St., Stockton. Agenda available here.

Tuesday, Sept. 30: Presentation, “Best Local Fall Hikes.” 7 p.m., Stockton REI. More details here.

Wednesday, Oct. 1: San Joaquin Bike Coalition’s weekly ride. 7 p.m. behind the Empire Theater in Stockton. Anyone with basic bike riding skills welcome. More details here.

Saturday, Oct. 4: Bee expert Julie Serences will present ”Conservation of Native Bees” at Calaveras Big Trees State Park.  Serences will talk about native bees’ role in pollinating native plants. 10 a.m. at Jack Knight Hall. Free with park entrance. More details here.

Saturday, Oct. 4-Sunday, Oct. 5: Woodbridge Wilderness Area open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The area is typically open the first three weekends of each month. Explore a quarter-mile of Mokelumne River frontage. Free. More details here.

Saturday, Oct. 4-Sunday, Oct. 5: The season’s first sandhill crane tour at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve west of Lodi. Tours offered first three weekends of each month from October through February. Registration required. More details here.

Saturday, Oct. 11: Guided walk at the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge west of Elk Grove. 9 a.m. to noon. Two-mile trail leads to wildlife viewing platform overlooking wetlands with sandhill crane,s shorebirds and songbirds. Additional walks planned throughout the fall and winter, including Sat. Oct. 25. More details here.

Saturday, Oct. 11: Electronic waste collection event hosted by Onsite Electronics Recycling. 9 a.m., San Joaquin Delta College Shima 2 parking lot. Other collections also planned elsewhere in San Joaquin County. More details here.

Tuesday, Oct. 14: Presentation, “Giant Sequoias: A Natural and Historic Legacy.” Hosted by the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club. 7:30 p.m., Central United Methodist Church. Author and Northern Arizona University biology professor Nancy Muleady will talk about the largest living things on earth, including the most recent research into these enduring giants. More details here.

Saturday, Oct. 18: Tall forest bird survey, Cosumnes River Preserve. This four- to five-mile hike wanders through the kind of riparian woodland that was once widespread in the Central Valley. Meet at 6:30 a.m. at the farm center gate. Other events planned most weekends. More details here.

Sunday, Oct. 19: Ranger-led Mormon Creek Paddle at New Melones Lake east of Stockton. Launch from Tuttletown at 10 a.m. and hug the shoreline past the campgrounds up the creek. Watch for river otters, bald eagles, osprey and other wildlife.  Bring your own boat. Call (209) 536-9094 ext. 236 to reserve a spot.

Thursday, Oct. 23: Presentation, “Almost Somewhere: Twenty-eight Days on the John Muir Trail.” 7 p.m., Stockton REI. Author Suzanne Roberts will talk about her experience hiking the Muir trail from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney, encountering bears, snowy passes, strange men, injuries, broken equipment and each other. More details here.

Saturday, Oct. 25: Sandhill cranes tour, 3:30 p.m., Cosumnes River Preserve.  Hear a brief presentation about crane behavior, biology and status, then walk the boardwalk in the Lost Slough Wetlands, enjoying views of cranes and other wintering waterfowl. More details here.

Saturday, Oct. 25: Hike, “Creepy Crawlies of Natural Bridges.” 10 a.m., New Melones Lake Natural Bridges Trailhead.  Find our about the importance of some of the “scary” critters at New Melones. 10 a.m. at trailhead off Parrotts Ferry Road. No dogs.

Tuesday, Oct. 28: Presentation, “Zombie Preparedness — Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse.” 7 p.m., Stockton REI.  Learn valuable surivval techniques that could save your life in any urban disaster or in the unlikely event of an attack from the undead. More details here.

Saturday, Nov. 1: Eagles and osprey kayaking tour. 10 a.m., New Melones Lake Visitor Center. Paddle across the lake and up Coyote Creek to observe year-round raptors in the area. This is a four- to five-hour strenuous trip.  Call (209) 536-9094 ext. 236 to register.

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Another story behind the skull

Turns out last weekend’s discovery of a fake skull along the River of Skulls wasn’t such a surprise.

Calaveras River advocate Jim Marsh tells me he first discovered the skull last June beneath the Pacific Avenue bridge.

Marsh named the skull “Cal.”

“When I first stumbled across it I was a wee bit fearful thinking it might be for real until I dug it out of the muck it was partially concealed in,” Marsh wrote in an email.

“When it turned out to be somebody’s discarded Halloween decoration I placed it in the grass near an often-walked area and waited to see how long it would be before it disappeared again.”

Knowing Coastal Cleanup Day was coming soon, Marsh suspected Cal would be “discovered.”

“Little did I think he’d make the front page,” Marsh wrote.

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The ‘first flush’ is on

Photo by Craig Sanders

At the risk of becoming one of Spiro Agnew’s nattering nabobs of negativism, I wonder what impact runoff from this morning’s rain will have on our creeks and streams, and the living things therein.

I know. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

But check out the oil pouring down the drain in Craig’s photo. Stockton often suffers a fish kill or two when the first rains of the season wash a summer’s worth of gunk and ooze into the storm drains, and from there, into the Delta.

The last time we had significant rain here was April 25.

It seems plausible that,  because of the drought, the stormwater that is splashing into our rivers as we speak might be more toxic than usual.

Keep an eye out for fish going belly-up. And if you see any, please take a picture and send it my way.

But hey, it was lovely waking up to the sound of rain on the roof this morning. We need a lot more.

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Backpackers beware

We shot this video last Tuesday at Billy-be-Damned Lake in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, west of Redding.

Bottom line: Above 5,000 feet, creeks and streams are not reliable late in this drought year. Even some natural lakes are declining significantly. If you’re planning a late-season backpacking trip, be very careful about the route you choose, lest you find yourself parched and thirsty.

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Water: We want it all

The recent L.A. Times poll about water and the drought suggests the public is unwilling to make the tough choices that accompany times of shortage.

While likely voters were supportive of voluntary water conservation efforts (77 percent), they were considerably less enthusiastic about mandatory conservation (49 percent) and the possibility of increasing water rates (42 percent).

Asked if farmers should be required to reduce their water use, 56 percent were opposed and 37 percent were supportive.

Asked if environmental protections for fish should be suspended, 58 percent were opposed and 36 percent were supportive.

To recap: We’re all in favor of conservation, as long as it’s not forced upon us, and as long as we don’t have to pay more for water.

And we don’t want to withhold water from farms OR the environment.

No, we want the drought to resolve itself without any pain or sacrifice on our part. We don’t want to pick winners and losers. We want it both ways.

Better put: We want it all ways.

Let’s pray for rain. That might be the only publicly palatable course of action.

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Ode to odor

Social media poet Kevin Hicks shares his latest work, inspired by that gooey, gummy mess at the downtown waterfront:

“The algae in Stockton’s marina

The most rancid smell you could ever know

Reminds me of crissing S#&$ River

While at port in Olongapo

Is this what the tunnels will do

By staunching the Delta water flow?”

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Pigs, at sunset

This blog will be silent until Sept. 22, while I do a little adventuring.

In the meantime, for an adventure of your own, check out “Evening Flight With Piggies,” by Adam Farrow. It’s a side of the Delta that most people never see.

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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