Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mammoths in Bodega Bay

Ever wonder who was living in Bodega Bay during prehistoric times? Fortunately our friend Breck Parkman offers fascinating insights. He's a senior archaeologist with the California State Parks, and it's his job to investigate our natural history.

Breck was interviewed for a segment of Quest, a TV program produced by our local PBS station, KQED-TV. The focus was the pleistocene era of the San Francisco Bay Area and included a discussion of the "Sunset Boulders" located here on the coast just north of Bodega Bay. Breck presents evidence that the heavily polished areas of the boulders were caused by the shoulders of huge mammoths. He analyzed the polish with an atomic-force microscope and ruled out wind, water, and other geologic explanations, and explains how thousands of generations of animals created this over time.

It's absolutely amazing to realize that 12-15,000 years ago, this area was populated by an incredible diversity of huge mammals including mammoths, saber-tooth cats, American lions, western camels, sloths, bison and much more, and the evidence is buried right underneath us. They show a few skulls including an especially fierce short-faced bear. Those creatures stood up to 13' tall.

The Quest segment shows that the Bodega Bay coastline was approximately 12 miles out beyond where it is now and the plains in between were teeming with life. They also show that the entire San Francisco Bay was a big valley with a river flowing out what we now call the Golden Gate. The segment is about 11 minutes long and well worth every minute. You've gotta check it out!

QUEST on KQED Public Media.

Monday, May 25, 2009

More on Fawns

Exciting fawn news update! We saw the mother and baby again today, safe and sound. And guess what, she has not one but two fawns! At one point, it looked like one baby was standing up and nursing, while another was sitting in the grass beside them. But we were viewing from quite a distance and couldn't be sure. Then, the doe started walking toward the bushes and two adorable little babies followed along behind her.

According to Fawn Rescue, if a doe has twins, they are never left in the same spot but are separated by hundreds of yards, making it less likely for a predator to get both. That explains why we only saw one in the meadow yesterday.

We still couldn't get close enough for any photos without disturbing them, but we'll keep watching for opportunities.

Fawn Season in Bodega Bay

We saw a doe and her fawn in the meadow behind our house yesterday, here in Bodega Bay. The grasses were so tall, I couldn’t quite see the baby at first. I only saw the mother and noticed that something appeared to be stirring beside her. Then sure enough, the winds blew the vegetation in such a way to reveal a tiny replica of the doe. I saw the little fawn take a few steps alongside its mother, then it shook its head and wiggled its ears. The adults are petite to begin with, so this fawn was really small.

After a little while, the mother started to walk away and the baby disappeared into the tall grass. The doe looked back a few times but continued making her way across the meadow.

A well-intentioned neighbor observed all this and next thing we knew, he was out in that field, scooping up the baby in his arms. He said he “was certain the mother was not coming back” even though she’d only been gone about fifteen minutes.

I explained that this was normal behavior and that he should put the fawn back down in the grass where its mother had left it. A young fawn cannot keep up with its mother while she feeds. Therefore, she has it lie still in the grass or the woods, sometimes up to six hours, until she comes back.

My neighbor looked doubtful, so I called the Wildlife Fawn Rescue of Sonoma County to run it by them. They confirmed that everything we witnessed was absolutely normal behavior and we should not interfere. My neighbor expressed concern that one of our local bobcats had been in that same meadow earlier in the day, but the Fawn Rescue counselor said it’s all part of nature. Fawns don’t have a scent yet and they camouflage well, so they have some protection.

I found out that every year, Wildlife Fawn Rescue takes in about 100 orphaned fawns. Many are brought in by well-meaning but misguided humans trying to save “abandoned” babies. If they are put back where they were found within up to 8 hours, there’s a good chance the mother will return. But after that time, Fawn Rescue needs to take over. They also care for fawns who are genuinely orphaned, usually when their mother is hit by a car, caught in a fence, or mauled by a dog.

If a fawn has been wandering around, crying, or has been continuously seen in one area for more than eight hours, or appears injured, please call Wildlife Fawn Rescue at 707-931-4550. They’ll ask a series of questions over the phone to determine if a volunteer should come pick up the fawn and take it to one of their rehabilitation facilities.

As an aside, I noticed Fawn Rescue says these are black-tailed deer, but other websites say they are the closely related California coast mule deer.

I did not take a photo of the fawn we saw, instead I opted to post a public domain image from the Web. After our neighbor picked the little guy up, I did not want to further traumatize it by approaching it with a camera. The human touch, voice, and odors are stressors to wildlife.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Diekmann’s Bay Store in Bodega Bay

We love pizza from Diekmann’s in Bodega Bay. Our kids always order plain cheese with garlic sauce instead of tomato, and my husband and I get their garlic chicken. They make them from scratch with all fresh ingredients and you can really taste the difference. We’re not alone, their pizzas are wildly popular here in town.

No, Diekmann’s is not a pizza parlor, it’s actually an old-fashioned market and deli with a rich history here in Bodega Bay. In fact, it’s kind of like what they used to call a general store. Here you’ll find a wide assortment of groceries, fishing tackle, camping supplies, hardware, gifts, beer, wine, deli sandwiches, burgers, and of course, fresh baked pizza!

Historical photos reveal earlier incarnations of this establishment perched above the harbor. In the 1920’s, it was two stories tall and was known as Hellwigs market, and they had salt water baths! The remnants from the old swimming tank are still visible in the bay below the parking lot. (You can click on the photos to enlarge them.)

This photo is dated 1939-1943 and shows that the building housed Hellwigs market, the Bay Hotel, a gas station and the Bodega Bay Post Office. Our town was known as “Bay” until 1939 when they changed it to “Bodega Bay.” Sometime in the late 1940s, the name of the market changed to Diekmann’s Bay Store.

In 1963, Diekmann’s Bay Store was pictured at the bottom of Taylor Street in one of the famous attack scenes in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movie The Birds.

Sometime after that, in the 1960’s Diekmann’s burned down in a fire and was rebuilt as the one-story structure we see today. Current owners Gary and Balli Atwal purchased the store nearly two years ago and are carrying on the tradition by providing warm, friendly and helpful service to locals and visitors alike.

And to top it off, the view from their parking lot is still one of the most beautiful in town.

Diekmann's Bay Store
1275 Highway 1
Bodega Bay, CA 94923
Store: (707) 875.3517 / Deli: 707.875.9250

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother’s Day in Bodega Bay

It was a lovely Mother’s Day in Bodega Bay. We went for a walk early this morning at low tide. There was no wind and it was actually warm. ☺ The sand on the beach was perfectly smooth, not a single footprint—that is until our dogs began racing around. We spent time exploring the tidepools and saw starfish, mussels, anemones, barnacles, crabs and more.

The action wasn't limited to the shore. Some birds were tending to babies in their nests up above on a steep cliff. They were black with white patches on their shoulders and red on their tails. (I couldn’t find these birds in my Audubon book or by googling.) The parents would swoop down and fly really fast over the water, pick up food, and blast back up to feed the little cheeping babies. There appeared to be two or three nests up there as well as several sets of parents or other adults.

At one point, some ravens (about twice their size) started soaring around above the nests while the adults were out on these food runs. Before the ravens could attack, the parents and other adults came racing back and staked out various guard positions in the cliff surrounding the nests. The babies were cheeping away wanting more food but the parents wouldn’t budge until the ravens eventually gave up and flew away. What a timely display of serious mothering! Unfortunately we couldn't get any good shots without a telephoto lens.

We also came across a marine biologist who had a permit to collect some of the tidepool life for a classroom tank. He said there will be a very special low tide on Memorial Day weekend. Apparently the tide will recede much further than usual and marine life that rarely sees the light of day will be exposed. He said some rocks that are normally under water may have as many as 30 starfish on them, it should be quite a sight.

When we got home, we checked the tide tables and it looks like those low tides will be between 5:00–6:00 in the morning, yikes! We’re having a ton of family in that weekend, but we’ll see if any of them want to get up at dark o-clock and trek down to the beach.

I also fell in love with a different type of sea creature this weekend. This gorgeous necklace was on display at Local Color, a gallery here in Bodega Bay that features work by local artists.

Jane Garibaldi created this necklace as well as many other pieces featuring “sea creatures” as she calls them. Some include sea horse clasps like these. They’re so cool you’ll want to be sure to wear them down in front near the pendant.

In addition to jewelry, Local Color also carries coastal paintings, sculpture, notecards, and other art objects. They're located next door to Terrapin Creek Cafe, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.
Local Color
1580 Eastshore Rd.
Bodega Bay, CA 94923
Open Wed-Mon 10am - 5pm

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Wild Flour Bread, Perfect for a Rainy Weekend

What could be better on a foggy, drizzly Saturday morning than a trip over to Wild Flour Bread for fresh, steaming hot scones? Located in Freestone, which is just a quick 10-minute drive from Bodega Bay, this bakery is famous for its organic sourdough breads, scones, sticky buns (they’re huge!) and biscotti, all baked in a wood-fired brick oven.

Bakery owner Jed Wallach

The selection of fabulous organic whipping cream scones changes all the time and this morning they had blueberry/white chocolate/ginger, double-chocolate/cranberry/orange, strawberry/rhubarb/lemon, and almond/coconut/marzipan/apricot.

Strawberry rhubarb scone with lemon icing

They usually offer 10-12 varieties of mouthwatering breads. Our favorites are the goat flat bread and the cheese fougasse. The fougasse changes daily. We love the one with red bell peppers, they also make one with wild mushrooms, and today we bought one with potato, garlic, rosemary, jack, cheddar and swiss cheeses. Their breads are crunchy on the outside and soft, moist, and bursting with flavor on the inside. Apparently the brick oven makes the crust so nice and thick. Heavenly!

Click on the blackboard to enlarge

Goat flat bread


Sticky buns

They generously offer free samples and encourage everyone to taste before buying. Even if you have favorites, the flavors can vary subtly each day, depending on the sourdough starter and other factors.

Wild Flour Bread is often packed with people and they sell up to 900 loaves a day. Surprisingly they’re only open Friday-Monday and sell only from this one location.

We spoke with Sally Smith, who has worked at Wild Flour for six years, and asked her why these amazing breads aren’t more widely available. She said they’re not interested in expanding to add a delivery service to local markets and restaurants, but several local restaurants do come and purchase breads to serve in their own establishments.

They also have a beautiful garden out back and picnic tables beyond that. The garden is tended by Wild Flour Bread owner Jed Wallach and Sally Smith, and they encourage visitors to explore their bounty of flowers, vegetables and fruits.

Wild Flour Bread is wildly popular and has been featured on CNN and Backroads of California, in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Press Democrat and more.

I found out about it from my friend and client Christina Lasich, M.D., pain specialist and award-winning author of High Heels to Hormones: A Woman’s Guide to Spine Care. She’s based in Grass Valley, CA, but comes out to Bodega Bay often. Last year, she said “How can you live in Bodega Bay and not know about Wild Flour Bread?” Thank you Christy, we tried it and we’re hooked. So much for my low-carb diet.

Wild Flour Bread is located at 140 Bohemian Hwy, in Freestone, just off Bodega Hwy. It’s less than 10 minutes inland from Bodega Bay, or if you’re coming from the other direction, it’s just west of Sebastopol.
Hours: 8:30am to 6:00pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday
Telephone: (707) 874-2938

Many thanks to Wild Flour Bread for allowing us to use some of their photos in this post.

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