The Swallows of Lake Merritt

One of my little markers of the season is the swallows. Sometime in April (maybe I’ll pin the exact date someday, I first saw them April 9th this year), swallows appear at the lake and begin nesting.

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The channel is where I first noted them: Northern Rough Winged Swallows nest in light fixtures and drains under 280, and now the 10th st bridge. They have a strange and unique chattering call. I watched as one sorted 3 inch sticks to carry up into the darkness of a drain.

Cliff swallows built these amazing little mud nests on Laney College buildings and on the 12th bridge (maybe they’ll start new ones on the 10th as well), this year in 2018 (and maybe previous years, if so I missed it) on the Oakland Auditorium building. Cliff swallows seem to get up high into the sky too, you might see then swirling high above Laney.

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Low tide you can sometimes see them come get the mud for their nests. Rough Wings seem to stick closer to the surface, zooming back and forth over the water, though you’ll see Cliff Swallows doing it as well. In fact, standing on the 12th street bridge (as of mid May) you get a pretty good view of them as they skim across the surface.

Violet Green Swallows also come to the lake but they are on the northside (cliff and northern rough wings can also be found in other places around the lake). If you find a large lawn like the ones over by the Bellevue Club you’ll can find them zooming about.

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Rotary Nature Center cleaning complete

Karis’s Griffin’s weekly email of May 11th, 2018 indicated that “the cleanup of the RNC is finally complete. The boxes [of taxidermy] are expected to be moved out of the building in the next two weeks.”

The next public meeting is confirmed for Saturday, June 2nd 9am to 12:30pm at the Lake Merritt Garden Center.

Attendees should come prepared to:

  • Review the proposals that have been submitted
  • Discuss and share ideas with each presenter

The proposal deadline is still March 21, 2018

Next Community Meeting, June 2, 2018

Karis Griffin, in her May 4th, 2018 update, reported a number of things.

  • The first level of clean up has been completed. Taxidermy has been boxed and stored (until further notice) as per advice from professionals.
  • Additional cleanup continues (with a hoped for opening over the summer).
  • The deadline for program proposals has been extended until May 21st, 2018.
  • The next community meeting has been scheduled for June 2, 2018, 9am-12:30pm to be held at the Lake Merritt Garden Center, 666 Bellevue Avenue, 94610, where programs will be presented by the community.

Let us know if you are coming here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2052327211712955/

The Inside Cleanup Continues

One plus of the clean up, was a chance for a peak into the Nature Center and a look at what’s happening. After months of looking like nothing had happened, there is now a lot of things being moved around inside.

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Karis Griffin of OPRYD said in her last update, that “all taxidermy is being wrapped and boxes as recommended by a professional taxidermist–for safe keeping–except for the mountain lion, eagles, skeleton heads of small mammals and other taxidermy which were sealed under glass.”

There is not currently a date set for the end of cleaning, but she is hopeful she will know by the 27th of April, 2018.

She also provided this general info. There are:

  • 4 tables,
  • 30 chairs (which belong to the beekeeper)
  • 2 desks
  • 1 conference table

The Library is 22’x15′ (with 2 outlets)
The Office is 17’x12′ (with 4 outlets)
The Auditorium is 31′ x 27′ (with 2 outlets)
The Front Entry is 8’x27′
There is also a “modestly appointed” kitchen with 4 outlets. But shouldn’t be counted on as a space for use.
There is no storage available and no restrooms inside. (The restrooms were originally accessible from the inside, but the inner door was closed and the restrooms are only available from the outside).

They also provided a list of taxidermy from 2012, but have not yet tallied that to what they are cleaning up now.

Earthday Clean up – April 21st, 2018

FREE! Join us on Earth Day, Saturday April 21st, to help clean up the area around the Rotary Nature Center.

We’ll be doing weeding, and cleanup of trash and materials around the center. We might plant a little bit, and put down compost and enjoy the day, the birds, and what other nature goodies we come across.

We can share with you plans for the Rotary Nature Center. We hope to see it open soon.

April 7th Community Meeting

The April 7th community meeting brought together about 3 dozen people to meet with Oakland Parks, Recreation & Youth Development about the opening of the Rotary Nature Center and what that could look like. This was led by Alan Briskin, a facilitator hired by the city, Karis Griffin — the representative of OPRYD — and the RNC reopening committee, C.J. Hirschfield of Fairyland, James Robinson of Lake Merritt Institute, and Jennie Gerard of Weed Warriors. Nicholas Williams the director of OPRYD was unfortunately unable to come because of illness.

The agenda was as follows:

  • Introduction and Orientation by Alan Briskin
  • A few minutes talking to someone we didn’t know at the meeting
  • (The longest session) Initial framework, priorities, and big questions
    • These were items (retyped below – under creating a shared vision) that the committee brought, read to us, and were discussed by us
    • There was a lot of discussion around these items, in particular budget, and what is currently present at the center, the possibilities of reaching out beyond the walls of the center and engaging with younger people, kids, and their parents, and schools being an important piece of that.
  • Small team breakouts
    • Talking about who we are our vision, and concerns
  • Expectations for proposal submissions
  • Closing hand shaking ceremony

Attendees included: Community for Lake Merritt, LMI, Pollinator Posse, Insect Sciences Museum of CA, Wholly H20, Golden Gate Audubon, Fairyland, Rotary Club, Alameda Beekeepers, Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, Weed Warriors, Oakland Walking Tours, Feather River Camp, OPRYD, Public Works, OMCA, the OMCA Green Team, and a number of interested neighbors (and probably some others I missed)

Outcome – Program Proposals due 4/30/18

I’ve typed up details about the proposals and priorities, proposals are due April 30th, 2018 and should follow the RNC Template.

This is not a competition – OPRYD seeks to reinforce the value of cooperation and services as a means to achieve a greater good.

Some unknowns/Follow up

Karis Griffin said she would provide some insight on the following:

  • What budget exists for staffing and maintenance. There is no budget for programs, but the City has indicated there will be a naturalist on staff.
  • The current state of the Rotary Nature Center and its contents, particularly the taxidermy.

Meeting Documents

(The below statements and questions are retyped from handouts provided on the day of the meeting. They provided the guidance for the conversations we had through the morning)

Creating a shared vision for the Rotary Nature Center

Beauty * Wonder * A Jewel * Attractor * Incubator * Hub * Portal

“When a group is clear about a shared vision, an almost magnetic field develops that draws people in” — a comment shared during the core meeting.

An initial vision for a shared vision

  • We have the opportunity to re-connect the Rotary Nature Center to people, organizations, and agencies throughout the Bay Area and beyond.
  • We can be a learning center, information center, and hub for programs and activities that reach out to
    • Youth
    • Adults
    • Seniors
  • Our potential lies in how we reach beyond the Rotary Nature Center’s walls.
  • We should have the mindset of “connecting the dots:” being inclusive, always learning and evolving.

Initial priorities & opportunities

  • Developing programs and activities that reach out to all ages (youth, adults, seniors) and all areas of Oakland.
  • Developing synergies among various individuals, agencies, and institutions that serve Lake Merritt and the Rotary Nature Center (there is a treasure house of people, volunteers, institutions, community groups, funding agencies. etc, that can contribute to our success).
  • To become a symbol and attractor for what it means to become a good environmental citizen.
  • To become stewards & educators of Lake Merritt, the Wildlife Refuge, and the Pacific Flyway, a natural portal into the wonders of nature, wildlife, and science.
  • To be constructive partners with agencies supporting the health & vitality of Lake Merritt and advocates for the beauty, value, utility, and wonders of water & wildlife.
  • A resource to nurture STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) for all ages and demographic groups.
  • A hub for encouraging the relationships of art, music, and creativity alongside nature wildlife, and the outdoors.

Big Questions to Guide the Journey

  • How can the lake itself be a center for learning and education?
  • What are exceptional practices for exhibits, outreach, and nature education in the Bay Area and beyond.
  • How can we increasingly coordinate and communicate among all the agencies and community partners that are for and make use of Lake Merritt
  • How do we best connect and partner with universities, museums, schools, and other nature centers?
  • How do we ensure that we develop programs that reach our to all parts of Oakland and beyond?
  • How do we establish ourselves as an access point for children (and their families) to the joys and wonder of wildlife and nature?
  • How can we best showcase the beauty, science, and value of water, wildlife, birds, bugs, bees, etc?
  • What kinds of permanent or temporary exhibits might best enhance our mission of being a center that is welcoming, accessible, and educational?
  • How can we be a partner and incubator for funding worthwhile programs and initiatives?
  • What kind of field trips, curriculum, art, and science can we promote through the nature center?
  • What kinds of revenue generating initiatives are possible?
  • How can we keep learning and evolving as a nature center?

Things to keep in mind

  • There is currently no dedicated funding for programming. We believe it is possible to invite individuals, volunteers, and organizations to sponsor programs based on cost recovery, voluntary service, and creative funding initiatives.
  • We are fortunate to have an incredible network of people, organizations, and agencies committed to nature, conservation, wildlife, and the beauty and wonder of our environment. Let’s use these resources wisely and in the spirit of cooperation and respect.
  • Initial decisions on programming will be inspired by community input and vetted by the core team in consultation with relevant parties.

Key Cautions

  • We are respectful but not rigidly wed to what has been done in the past.
  • We remain vigilant that the variety of our programs and the geographical reach of our programs extend out to the diverse populations and all areas of Oakland.
  • We do not “overprogram” within the center itself — leaving open space and time for leisure, spontaneity, and emergence.
  • We respect that everyone is beyond busy — we must cultivate the quality of relationships and strategies that motivate us to stay connected and committed.