Rude Mockingbird Sings Loudly All Night, Will Not Shut Up

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A male mockingbird has taken up residence in Precita Valley, near the intersection of Precita and Shotwell. And as male mockingbirds are wont to do this time of year, Precitaville’s mockingbird has been singing his little avian heart out during nighttime hours — and he is loud as hell.

Here’s what the damn bird sounded like at approximately 12:37 am last night:

Why? Why do mockingbirds sing at night? What is the purpose of their nocturnal crooning? While prevented from sleep by the singing of this mockingbird last night, Bernalwood found a Los Angeles Times article from 1987 that provides some insight:

Research has shown that mockingbird males, like songbirds everywhere, sing to attract mates and to advertise territorial boundaries–during the day–but unlike most birds, they also sing at night for hours on end during the spring and summer. This piqued my curiosity. I was trained as a biologist, and while no longer doing “official” research, I am not above a speculation or two or even a simple, easy-to-do experiment. The results and the conclusions can be provocative and can also run counter to folklore. Mockingbirds, for instance, are not singing out of joy or pleasure as is commonly believed. Much of the time, they sing out of desperation. [...]

Like most songbirds, [mockingbirds] have evolved a system of parceling up the land, which acts as a kind of natural farm, with the males defending the boundaries. They rarely fight physically, though, presumably because injury is too costly at a time when a bird needs all its strength just to break even in the energy economics of life. But there is usually no need to fight, because the vigor and skill of your song gives a good idea of the vigor and skill of your body–should a little more convincing be necessary.

The odds are that [a mockingbird near the author's home] was locked in musical combat for his family’s survival. And singing was the measure of his substance and grit. If he got sick or injured, or old, that would also come out in his song, and his neighbors would probably start to encroach.

PHOTO: Northern Mockingbird, via Wikipedia

Loudmouth Bernal Heights Frogs Want Sex, Won’t Shut Up

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Everyone knows Bernal Heights is home to lots of dogs. And some cats. And some dissident parrots. But Neighbor Lori is playing host to some really chatty Bernal Heights frogs:

They are Pacific Chorus Frogs, in my backyard pond. It ‘s breeding season, and they are loudmouths! The males make a lot of noise, mostly at night. They stop if I get too close. They are native to the Bernal area and were rescued from behind an industrial shop. I’ve had the pond about five years or so, and every spring during the breeding season they sing. They are hard to see, because they are so tiny. But in the summer when it gets dry I find them camped out around the garden hose.

These frogs are small, but they make a big noise. Here’s Neighbor Lori’s recording of the frog chorus in her back yard:

PHOTO: Frog in Neighbor Lori’s backyard, by Neighbor Lori

BUSTED! Bernal Marmot Captured After Savoring Sweet Taste of Freedom

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Remember the Bernal Marmot? And remember the intensive effort to apprehend him/her in late June?

Well, you may also recall that Bernalwood never reported news of the marmot’s capture… because as far as we know the marmot was never caught.

Now, courtesy of Neighbor Leanne, we have these EXCLUSIVE photographs (shown above) of the Bernal marmot enjoying the sweet taste of freedom yesterday afternoon near Alvarado Elementary School.

Meanwhile, as if to taunt his pursuers, the Bernal Marmot suddenly became active again on Twitter:

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However, there is a late-breaking wrinkle to the story: At 6 am this morning, a comment left on an earlier article about the Bernal Marmot indicated that the creature’s day’s of carefree urban living may have come to an end. Jane told Bernalwood:

He is safely in the custody of animal care and control now. He was captured last night at Alvarado school in Noe Valley.

UPDATE, 9:12 am, Aug 8: The @BernalMarmot has released this statement via Twitter:

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PHOTOS: The Bernal Marmot, as seen by Neighbor Leanne on Aug. 7, 2013

Dissident Parrots Take Refuge in Bernal Heights, Have Little To Say

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It’s been a while since the Dissident Parrots of Bernal Heights dropped by Bernalwood’s Eastern Bureau, but on Tuesday they were seen holding a meeting near a neighbor’s bird feeder.

Normally gregarious and chatty, the video below reveals that the parrots were unusually quiet and mellow.

Bernalwood has been unable to ascertain whether political tensions may have been weighing on the minds of these dissident parrots, or if perhaps they were just chilling out after a visit to the Bernal Heights Collective on the other side of the hill.

Developing…

Have Fruit, Will Can It: Bernal Neighbor Will Transform Your Surplus Produce Into Tasty Treats

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This is so great. If you have fruit trees on your Bernal Heights property, Neighbor Deborah from Montcalm Street is prepared to make an offer that’s hard to refuse: She will turn surplus produce from your fruit trees into tasty treats… and share the bounty with you.

Neighbor Deborah tells Bernalwood:

Summer is almost here! Or at least what passes for summer in San Francisco. Ripening fruit is hiding in plain sight on sidewalk trees, and I suspect much more is tucked away in back yards; more than the owners can eat.

I’ve decided to try a new project. I’ve been a home canner and bread baker for years, mainly for gifts and charitable fundraising. I’ve started to notice the fruit trees in our neighborhood, on the streets and in people’s back yards. I have a hunch much of that fruit is likely going to waste, so I thought I’d contact neighbors to see if people are interested in giving away some of their fruit in exchange for a few jars of whatever I can produce from it.

If you have a fruit tree that’s giving more than you know what to do with, I’m happy to take the produce and turn it into jam, sauce, or some other treat-in-a-jar and return a few jars to you in exchange. What better way to eat locally?

If you have fruit to share, please contact me at sfbernaljam *AT* gmail *DOT* com.

PHOTOS: Some of Neighbor Deborah’s fruity handiwork, via Neighbor Deborah

Attention Dog-Owners: How to Protect Your Pet from Foxtails

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Neighbor Nicolette Zarday is a Bernal west-sider and a veterinarian whose name is often followed by the letters DVM and MPH. (She practices at the Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos.) She brings a special caution for Bernal canines, and the humans who love them: Beware of foxtails!

If you own a dog, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. If you have a dog and you don’t know about foxtails, keep reading.

Foxtails are small plant awns or seed-bearing structures, usually of the genus Hordeum. Starting in the Spring and continuing through the Summer, plants shed them indiscriminately. We started to see a steady flow of foxtail cases in our veterinary practice mid-April, right after several days of heavy winds which helped yank the awns from their plants and spread them far and wide.

Foxtails are shaped like a badminton birdie, but with a pointy instead of a round end. They also have tiny barbs along their shafts. All this adds up to a unidirectional migration pattern; they go in but they don’t come out. The most common problems we see with foxtails are wounds in the paws. Often the owner will just notice a swelling between the toes and think it is a growth or a tumor. After piercing the skin and entering the body, foxtails can actually migrate up the leg, if left untreated. We also see foxtails in noses, ears, and eyes very often.

The most dangerous exposure occurs when dogs inhale them. This typically happens if a dog is porpoising through a field of foxtail plants and inhales one, mouth wide open. As the dog takes a deep breath, the foxtail bypasses all the normal barriers, so they can end up in the lower airways of the lungs. These can be difficult to find, require extensive and expensive treatment and surgery, and are often fatal. Other places foxtails have been found, in many cases post-mortem, include the brain, spinal cord, urinary tract, and abdomen.

Fortunately for dog owners, foxtails usually represent a minor health hazard, although the expense of having the foxtail removed by a veterinarian (usually under sedation or anesthesia) can be considerable. For us vets in northern California, foxtails are simultaneously the bane of our existence and a significant source of income during the spring and summer. I even heard about one veterinarian who owned a boat named “Foxtail.”

So, what can you do to protect your dog?

  • If it is a long-haired dog, keep the coat short during the Summer, especially the feet. There are groomers who will do a “foxtail cut” if requested.
  • After each walk, check your pet thoroughly and remove any plant material.
  • If your dog suddenly starts sneezing uncontrollably, squinting, or shaking its head during or immediately after a walk, there is an excellent chance a foxtail is involved. Call your veterinarian’s office.
  • Do not allow your dog to run through fields of tall grass that contain these plant awns. (This is what I worry about most.)
  • Check your backyard for plants that shed foxtails, and remove the plants completely.

There are plenty of these nasty little dudes on Bernal Hill, so keep an eye out!

PHOTOS: Tabletop samples, Nicole Zarday. Wild foxtail from UCSC