Fish and Wildlife

Photo of spawning male Chinook salmon by Steven T. Callan

Splashing Salmon and Giant Sycamores

Spawning male Chinook salmon

Spawning male Chinook salmon. Photo by author.

I’m sometimes asked if I had any favorite places to work during my twenty-one years supervising the warden force in western Shasta County. Lower Battle Creek immediately comes to mind—especially the tree-lined section from the mouth, where Battle Creek flows into the Sacramento River, to the barrier weir at Coleman National Fish Hatchery.

Great egret feeding on small fish and snails in kelp beds off Lovers Point, Pacific Grove, California

Above the Canopy

Great egret feeding on small fish and snails in kelp beds off Lovers Point, Pacific Grove, California

Great egret feeding on small fish and snails in kelp beds off Lovers Point, Pacific Grove, California. Photo by author.

Having had the pleasure and privilege of diving in California’s kelp forests from San Diego to Monterey, I would describe it as a surreal, almost religious experience—witnessing underwater cathedrals rising a hundred feet from the ocean floor to the surface canopy—bathed in dappled sunlight and teeming with life of every shape and color. Giant kelp provides food and shelter for literally thousands of mammal, bird, fish, and invertebrate species. Until recently, I hadn’t realized that it also provides an abundance of wildlife habitat above the canopy.

Steven T. Callan at the helm of the Fish and Game Patrol Boat Marlin

Those Amazing Elephant Seals

Steven T. Callan at the helm of the Fish and Game Patrol Boat Marlin

Author at the helm of the Fish and Game patrol boat Marlin, 1959. Photo by Wallace Callan

My first opportunity to see a northern elephant seal was in October of 1959, as an excited eleven-year-old passenger aboard the Fish and Game Patrol Boat Marlin. My father, California Fish and Game Warden Wally Callan, was the Marlin’s rookie boarding officer, responsible for patrolling California’s offshore waters from the Mexican border to Point Conception. The previous summer, he had returned from a patrol to San Nicolas and Santa Barbara Islands with tales of the massive elephant seals he had seen hauled up on some of the isolated beaches. I hoped to see those amazing creatures for myself on what was to be the ocean adventure of a lifetime.

What’s in Your Yard?

Pileated woodpecker photo by Keith JacksonMy wife and I are fortunate to live on a  patch of oak woodland in the foothills of Northern California.  Several years ago we decided to rid our yard of water-guzzling domestic fescue and replace it with gardens of drought tolerant native plants.  In doing so, you might say we put out the welcome mat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife.  Documenting bird species that visit our yard has provided a special sense of pride and enjoyment.

That Resilient Little Goose From the Aleutian Islands

Aleutian geese Last weekend, Kathy and I drove over to California’s beautiful North Coast. We were biking through the pasturelands, northwest of Eureka, when we began seeing geese—thousands of them. It seemed that every pasture hosted a healthy flock of feeding little cacklers. “Wait a minute,” I said. “Those aren’t cacklers, they’re Aleutian geese.” Every bird displayed the characteristic white ring at the base of its neck.

Tribute to the Giant Sea Bass

My friend Sergio Fainsztein recently posted an underwater photograph of a giant sea bass off La Jolla Cove, San Diego, on his Facebook page. The photograph reminded me of an incident that happened in 1958, when I was ten years old. We were on the beach at Casa Cove, a short distance from where the photo Fainsztein shared was taken.

Great Place for a Nature Walk

The other day, my wife and I took a nature walk on the Battle Creek Wildlife Area.   We headed downstream from the County Line Bridge, along the Tehama County side of Battle Creek.  The sky was overcast and the ground was still wet from the previous day’s rain.  We had the entire 582-acre wildlife area to ourselves. It was so quiet; you could have heard a pine needle drop, except there are no pines along lower Battle Creek.  The riparian zone is vegetated with willows, blackberry thickets, Ailanthus and one of the oldest and tallest remaining stands of old growth cottonwoods and sycamores in California. I really don’t like mentioning Ailanthus (Chinese tree of heaven). Unfortunately, this incredibly invasive exotic is crowding out many of the native plant species.