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Going Coastal!
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    We recently had a flock of turkey vultures hanging out in the field behind our house here in Bodega Bay. Bobcats and herons have been feasting on a seemingly endless supply of moles and gophers in the past weeks. Maybe they drop little bits of their prey and the turkey vultures clean them up?

    Anyway, far from the most beautiful of birds here on the coast, we took photos anyway. I did a little research and found some interesting turkey vulture facts as well. Warning, this is not for the squeamish, some of it's rather gross.

    The turkey vulture is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion (carcass of a dead animal). It finds its meals using its keen vision and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gasses produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals.

    These birds will devour the most putrid of meat and have a natural immunity to toxins that might kill other creatures. Botulism has no effect on the turkey vulture at all. They deposit their own droppings down their legs as these contain an antiseptic coating that protects them from contracting infection through the prey. Their bald heads are also vulnerable to various bacteria, however the sun kills these off before any harm occurs. They are often seen standing in a spread-winged stance. The stance is believed to serve multiple functions: drying the wings, warming the body, and baking off bacteria.

    Even though turkey vultures have an ugly, bare-skinned face, they are beautiful in flight. They gracefully soar over large areas searching for food. In flight, they use thermals to move through the air, flapping their wings infrequently.

    Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses. Turkey vultures nest in caves, hollow trees, or thickets. They generally raising two chicks per year, which they feed by regurgitation. They have very few natural predators.

    Even though they're somewhat unattractive, turkey vultures obviously play an important role in nature. By removing the carcasses of decaying animals, they limit the spread of disease and other health concerns. In the United States of America, the vulture receives legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

    Please note, when leaving a comment, if you get an error message, just click to submit again and it should go through. Weird quirk with Blogger templates. Thank you!

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    Tammi Salas is leading the Bodega Bay fireworks fundraising efforts for the fifth year in a row! This spectacular show is free for the public and paid for entirely by donations.

    Each year Tammi is assisted by Marty Ruddell who handles the permits with the County. "We're a good team," she says. "I'm the head firecracker and she's my lead sparkler!" Tammi works tirelessly for our community here on the coast. She's Chairman of the Bodega Bay Fireworks committee, she volunteers each year for the Fisherman's Festival and other local events, is married to Bodega Bay realtor and blogger Steve Hecht, serves as PTA President of Tomales Elementary School, and she's a very cool mom! "I do it all for my little guy and last year he told me it was the best day of his life EVER when the fireworks started shooting in the sky."

    If you've never seen the fireworks displays over Bodega Harbor, you're in for a treat. They fire them off from Westside Park, behind Doran Beach and the U.S. Coastguard station, and can be viewed from anywhere around the harbor as well as from many of the vacation homes, hotels, and restaurants in town. This year's festivities will be held Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 9:30 pm.

    Bodega Bay is the last Northern California coastal town allowed to have legal fireworks over the Bay. Here's Tammi's 2010 fundraising flyer, click to enlarge.

    Please note, when leaving a comment, if you get an error message, just click to submit again and it should go through. Weird quirk with Blogger templates. Thank you!

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    Image from Terrapin Creek Cafe website.

    What's your favorite restaurant in Bodega Bay, CA? Let me know and you might win a $50.00 gift certificate to your chosen eatery!

    We have a wide variety of dining options here on the coast, from the informal Dog House, Boat House and Spud Point Crab Company, to our award-winning fine dining establishments like Terrapin Creek Cafe, Bluewater Bistro, Bay View and the Duck Club. I've listed them all below, along with links wherever possible. I've written about many of these before, you can type the restaurant name in the Search Box to read the posts.

    Image from the Bay View Restaurant website.

    To enter the contest, please do the following:

    • Click the "Like" button in the Facebook Fan box in the right column on the blog page.
    • Sign up to receive, if you're not already a subscriber. It's free!
    • Leave a comment below voting for your favorite Bodega Bay restaurant, and tell us why.

    Citrus and Goat Cheese Salad from Bluewater Bistro

    You may enter in the comments section once per day. Each time you vote, it will count toward your favorite restaurant and your name will be put into the proverbial hat. Feel free to leave comments on the Facebook fan page as well, but only votes in the comments section on this site will be counted.

    Image from the Sandpiper website.

    On Wednesday, June 9, we'll announce the winning restaurant, and draw a voter's name to win the $50.00 gift certificate! I'll announce the winning voter's name here, and if you choose not to leave contact info on the blog, I'll ask you to email me to work out the details.

    Bay View Restaurant
    Bluewater Bistro
    Brisas Del Mar
    The Boat House
    The Dog House
    The Duck Club
    The Inn at the Tides
    Island Style Deli
    Lucas Wharf Restaurant & Bar
    The Sandpiper
    Spud Point Crab Company
    Terrapin Creek Cafe

    Please note, when leaving a comment, if you get an error message, just click to submit again and it should go through. Weird quirk with Blogger templates. Thank you!

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    I had the best time exploring West County Design in Valley Ford, just 10 minutes west of Bodega Bay on Hwy. 1. I met gallery manager and co-owner Sharon Eager, and just loved her. She’s warm, inviting and authentic.

    West County Design is housed in a converted historic barn with a weathered wood exterior and beautiful old paned windows. The gallery showcases local artisans and quality furnishings, and serves as a showroom for Bohemian Stoneworks and Craig Collins Furniture.

    From their website: “West County Design provides an unexpected center of artistic sophistication in the charming town of Valley Ford in West Sonoma County. Offering nature’s beauty, transformed, fine wood tables, polished concrete vanities counter tops and furniture
glass, ceramic, wood, metal, custom and limited edition art and furniture for home & office.” They're celebrating their four-year anniversary on the Fourth of July.

    The place was bustling with shoppers while I was there, including several tourists from out of state. Sharon said many of her customers are also regulars who stop by on the way to vacation homes along the coast from Bodega Bay up to Sea Ranch and Gualala.

    I had recently seen Craig Collins Furniture and West County Design featured on KPIX-TV’s Eye on the Bay. Craig is Sharon’s husband and co-owner of the gallery. She took me back for a quick peek into his enormous workshop where he builds custom furniture in the rear of the building.

    From their website: “Craig Collins Furniture has specialized in designing and building custom furniture for clients in San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma counties for over 18 years. Craig Collins’ award-winning designs are characterized by clean lines, beautiful woods and, above all, attention to detail.”

    The third partner in West County Design is Patrick Miller, owner of Bohemian Stoneworks. This concrete counter and sink is one example of his work. From their website: “Bohemian Stoneworks produces cast concrete of exceptional beauty for applications such as kitchen counters and sinks, fireplace surrounds and furniture. Founder Patrick Miller creates sensuous, warm, unique pieces that delight and surprise those who think of concrete as only industrial."

    Jann Heumann operates Ivy’s Soft Goods in a separate room right off the showroom. Ivy is the four-legged beauty on the floor. You can reach Jann at 707-876-1999.

    Outside, you find The Bird House company, featuring locally made birdhouses, from 100% recycled materials, and all the birdhouses are only twenty bucks! Have you shopped for birdhouses lately? I have and this is a steal. You can reach them at 707-536-3009

    Whether you live here at the coast or are coming out for a visit, consider stopping by this beautiful gallery, and say hello to Sharon!

    West County Design
    14390 Highway One
    Valley Ford, CA 94972

    phone: 707.876.1963

    email: info[at]

    showroom hours: Thursday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and by appointment

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  • 06/05/10--08:04: Bodega Bay Shines in Videos
  • Click link in text below.

    Have you seen the videos on our visitor's center website? has two you can view by clicking here.

    These impressive, professionally produced mini-travelogues feature people, places, and businesses that make our community so special here on the Sonoma coast.

    I heartily agree with their opening description, "The northern California coast has long been a place of beauty and inspiration to vacationers and many consider Bodega Bay to be the crown jewel of this magnificent region." YEAH!

    The other day I was talking to Bob Miller, owner of Bodega Bay Surf Shack and Bodega Bay Kayak, about the videos and we joked that they made us both think "Wow, I want to go there!" And Bob's featured in one of them, lol!

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    Image from Bluewater Bistro
    There's still time to vote for your favorite Bodega Bay restaurant and enter to win a $50 gift certificate. So far Lucas Wharf is in the lead, following closely by Bluewater Bistro. Hurry, our contest ends this Wednesday, June 9! Vote by clicking HERE.

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  • 06/10/10--08:01: And the Winners Are...
  • Photo of Bluewater Bistro.

    We have a winner! Many thanks to everyone who voted in our "Favorite Bodega Bay Restaurant" contest. It was fun to read about your favorites and why you loved them so. We were surprised by how much we learned from your experiences and look forward to revisiting each of our outstanding eateries again. Here are the results:

    First Place: Bluewater Bistro
    Second Place: Lucas Wharf
    Tied for Third:Terrapin Creek Café and The Inn at the Tides

    All of these restaurants are special in their own way and I encourage you to check them out for yourself. I've included links so you can read menus in advance.

    Lucas Wharf doesn't have a menu on their site, but I photographed it for a previous post and you can view it by clicking here. This place is very popular, has great food and views (Jaya loves their Bloody Marys!), and is right on the water. You can usually spot a sea lion or two while enjoying your meal.

    The Bluewater Bistro is currently undergoing a remodel but is still open for business during construction. In fact, they're featuring a few construction themed drink specials, a SCREWDRIVER, BLUEPRINT Martini or a JIGSAW! Each will only be $5 and will start this weekend. This a real happening place, especially on Thursday and Friday nights when they have live music.

    And of course, we have a winner in our drawing as well. Congratulations to "Andrew," who wins a $50 gift certificate to the Bodega Bay restaurant of his choice! Andrew, please send your contact information to me via email so we can work out the details.

    Bon Appetit!

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    I'm really looking forward to this Saturday night! We're going to our first-ever chili cook-off and country western dance here in Bodega Bay, doesn't that sound like fun? It's a community fundraiser at the Bodega Bay Grange and open to everyone, locals and visitors alike.

    The Firehouse Chili Cook-Off will feature mouthwatering recipes from firefighters in Bodega Bay, Bodega, Wilmar, and possibly Tomales. The public gets to taste and vote, and there will be prizes for the winning teams. I hear Bodega has several really good cooks and might bring two or three different chilis. They even had their own chili cook-off to see which one to enter, but then decided they would bring them all!

    I dropped by the Bodega Bay Fire Department to see how they're coming along with their preparations for Saturday night's competition and was greeted warmly by the crew.

    Bodega Bay Firefighters L to R: Justin Fox (Firefighter), Jason Downing (Fire Captain), Brian Means (Firefighter), and Sean Grinnell (Fire Chief).

    Their head cook Justin Fox is still fine-tuning his winning recipe and wouldn't share any of his secrets. Bean or no beans? Hot and spicy, or mellow? I can't wait to find out!

    Bodega Bay Firefighter and Head Chili Chef Justin Fox.

    There's also a Country Western Dance featuring live music by The Lonestar Retrobates. Don't know how to country dance? They're offering lessons at 6:30 for the entire family! Come with your dancing shoes on, there's no excuse to be a wallflower. I can't wait!

    The Lonestar Retrobates.

    Tickets are $8 at the door, $2 for kids 12 and under. Proceeds benefit the Bodega Bay Elementary School, Bodega Bay Firefighters Association, Bodega Bay Grange, and Bodega Volunteer Fire Department.

    This event is the latest in a series of fundraisers organized by coastal community volunteers including Bob Miller, owner of Bodega Bay Surf Shack and Bodega Bay Kayak, and Abby Myers Killey, owner of Organic Cotton Fabric Shop in the nearby town of Bodega.

    Bob Miller and son.

    "Surfer Bob" is quite an entertainer in his own right, as anyone who has ever taken his Kayak Clinic will tell you. He's a riot as well as an all-around good guy. His popular Surf Shack is located in the Pelican Plaza Shopping Center on Hwy. 1, across the road from the Grange.

    Abby Myers Killey

    Abby's lovely Organic Cotton Fabric Shop sells organic cotton linens, local wool, and Peruvian textiles, as well as yarn, roving, batting and felted toys. Her shop is located in downtown Bodega, on Bodega Highway, behind the dress shop.

    Other local volunteers include Shona Weir, owner of Bodega Bay's Business Services Unlimited (and very nice lady), and artist Janet Moore. Janet designed the bright red flyers for this event and Shona provided the printing. Shona's shop is next door to the Surf Shack in Pelican Plaza and provides much appreciated services for our business community.

    Come join the fun on Saturday night, it should be a blast! Oh I should mention, if the chili samples aren't enough for you, or you're not a chili fan, there will be additional food and drinks for sale.


    Beer and wine will be sold for $3.00 a glass..Desserts for $1 furnished by the Sea Gals (Bodega Harbour)...We will be selling Chili dogs, Chili burgers and chili nachos for $3, $4, $3 respectively...Lemonade for $1.

    We are getting room donations for the band and dance instructor from Bodega Bay Lodge and Spa and Bodega Coast Inn...And Joan Price, Sonoma County's most famous line dance instructor will be teaching line dancing from 6:30 to 7:15.

    ALSO...Yodelers will get in free (they must sign up and yodel on stage for at least 30 seconds) and will be competing for the Golden Uvula Award at 9:15. Chili winners will be announced at 9:00. It is rumored (actually true) that a real cowgirl and horse will be there - for photos and fun!!!

    Saturday, June 19, 2010, 6-11 p.m.
    Bodega Bay Grange Hall
    Hwy. 1 & Bodega Avenue
    Bodega Bay, CA
    Tickets $8, and $2 for kids 12 & under

    Questions? Call Bob at (707) 875-3944, or Abby at (707) 876-3093.

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    Click to enlarge the photos

    A house on Condor Court in the Bodega Harbour subdivision of Bodega Bay was destroyed by fire this morning, and at least one more was seriously damaged. We saw the big clouds of brown and white smoke billowing up at around 8:30 a.m. By the time I arrived, there were about ten fire trucks and dozens of firefighters on the scene.

    It was gut-wrenching to see the charred remains of the home, still on fire, belching smoke and flames. But at the same time I was so incredibly grateful to see the huge response from our firefighting community. There were trucks from Bodega Bay Fire Department, Bodega Volunteer Fire Department, Bloomfield Fire Department, Valley Ford Fire Department, Occidental, Sebastopol, and Nor Cal.

    At the time of this writing, there are still lots of unanswered questions. I asked around to see if anyone was hurt. Some people said no, others said they didn't know yet. One of the firefighters told me they don't know the cause of the fire yet. Lots of neighbors were standing around watching but nobody seemed to know who the homeowners were.

    As you can see from the photos below, the house next door caught on fire too. While I was there, I saw a team of firefighters approaching the house with axes, as though preparing to break in. At the last second, our security guard (in the white shirt) yelled to them and it sounded like he said they were able to determine the house was unoccupied, so they didn't have to break in after all.

    It appeared they were able to save the house on the other side, but I couldn't tell for sure.

    This is a perfect time to encourage everyone to show their support for the Bodega Bay Firefighters’ Association by attending their annual pancake breakfast at the Bodega Bay Grange from 7:30 am - 11 am this Saturday, July 3rd!

    Below is a photo they sent me over the weekend to help promote their fundraiser. Little did anyone know we'd soon have much more compelling images to illustrate the dangerous, heroic work our firefighters perform in the line of duty. Let's give thanks and show our support by attending their pancake breakfast next weekend!

    Bodgea Bay Firefighter Association's Annual Pancake Breakfast
    Saturday, July 3, 7:30-11:00 a.m.
    The Grange Hall
    1370 Bodega Avenue, on the corner of Highway 1
    Bodega Bay, CA
    Adults $7.00
    Child $5.00
    Under 3 yrs Free
    For additional information call the Bodega Bay Firefighters at 875-3001.

    Please note, when leaving a comment, if you get an error message, just click to submit again and it should go through. Weird quirk with Blogger templates. Thank you!

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    Many thanks to our Bodega Bay neighbors Andi and Don Stewart for these photos. Caution, they're not for the squeamish!

    The Stewarts said this Great Blue Heron, who they dubbed "Piggy," comes to visit everyday and they recently watched him eat three gophers in a row. They snapped these pictures while he was dining in their side yard.

    Don later said maybe a better name would be "The Gophernator"!

    Sometimes it's uncomfortable to watch nature take its course like this but as my daughter likes to remind me, it's the circle of life!

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    This weekend, the Marine Mammal Center released eight rehabilitated seal pups at a beach just north of Bodega Bay. I'd like to thank Laurel Carney for these photos, video, and guest post documenting the celebration!

    Since their founding in 1975, the Marine Mammal Center has rescued and treated over 15,000 sea mammals. Roughly three months ago, they took in eight abandoned baby harbor seals from various Northern California coastal areas. Each was only a few days old, young enough to still have its umbilical cord attached. They were malnourished, and a few had even developed umbilical infections. The Center fed them well, nursed them back to health, then made sure they could track and catch live fish on their own before deeming them rehabilitated. They took great care not to get too friendly or treat them as pets. They prevent the pups from becoming tame by keeping contact at a minimum. That means no unnecessary handling such as cuddling or pampering, darn!

    Today, Executive Director Dr. Jeff Boehm welcomed over one hundred visitors and volunteers to the coast just north of Portuguese Beach in Bodega Bay to witness the joyful release of these eight adorable harbor seals.

    Keep in mind, these pups had no memories of sand, the ocean or waves. All they'd known for the past three months were swimming pools and concrete decks. Now, their entire universe was changing dramatically right before their eyes! Although hardwired for a life at sea, the adjustment is never predictable.

    The first two seals that emerged from their cages clearly knew what they were supposed to do. They immediately flopped as fast as their little tummies and tails would propel them directly into the ocean. One hung around offshore for a few minutes to check on the remaining six, but I suppose the sea was a-callin', because he soon disappeared under the waves to join his brave buddy.

    The remaining six harbor seal pups needed more time to get the hang of this "real world" thing.

    Huddling together as a group, they shuffled and flopped towards the water. But as soon as they'd gather the courage to go for it, another wave would roll in and scatter them back up onto the beach.

    Here's a video we took of the seals' journey home. I dare you not to go ga-ga over how cute the wiggle-flip-flop walk of a baby seal is. I dare ya! It's kinda long, you can see how long it takes them to get used to their new world.

    Eventually, after dozens of false starts, each seal managed to dive past the breaking waves and glide safely out to sea. It was a totally uplifting, heartwarming experience. We're so grateful to the Marine Mammal Center and their many volunteers for their hard work and tireless devotion to saving the lives of these magnificent creatures.

    You can read more about the Center's work and view lots more photos in a post about last year's Bodega Bay release by clicking here.

    What to do if you see a marine mammal in distress: Click here.

    24 Hour Rescue Lines (to report a stranded marine mammal)
    In the San Francisco Bay Area including San Jose, San Mateo, Marin and Sonoma Counties call: 415.289.SEAL (7325)
    In the Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties call: 831.633.6298.
    In the San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay Counties call: 805.771.8300

    Want to volunteer for the Marine Mammal Center? Click here.

    The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit, supported by donations from folks like us. Learn more about how to support them here.

    The Marine Mammal Center
    Marin Headlands
    2000 Bunker Road
    Fort Cronkhite
    Sausalito, CA 94965
    Main Line: 415.289.7325

    Please note, when leaving a comment, if you get an error message, just click to submit again and it should go through. Weird quirk with Blogger templates. Thank you!

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    Photo credit: Shay Pickton

    I just found out about an inspiring swim program here in Bodega Bay. Now in its 11th year, it's designed to teach swimming and water safety to children, and is put on jointly each summer by Bodega Bay School and Bodega Harbour Homeowners Association. Sandy Horn, wife of our famous coastal lifeguard Brit Horn, is the teacher...and she is phenomenal!

    There were 52 children enrolled this year! Many of the kids' parents worked and couldn't get them to the pool, so volunteers drove them.

    The students had several days of instruction in the Bodega Harbour pool, then a day down at the ocean. We happened to see them all lined up along the shore, and then bravely walking into the chilly surf together.

    On the last day, they had a party with pizza, salad (made from lettuce and carrots grown in the Bodega Bay School garden), and cake. How cool is that? Many thanks to Sandy for volunteering her time, and to BHHA for the use of the pool and facilities. Not only did she give the children valuable swim skills, but also memories to last a lifetime.

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    The Bodega Volunteer Fire Department is holding their 30th annual Big Event on Sunday, August 15, and it looks like a lot of fun!

    Located in the nearby town of Bodega (about 5 miles inland from Bodega Bay), the BVFD is an all-volunteer fire department with no paid staff and operates solely with volunteer firefighters, community support and donations.

    These guys have a lot to celebrate his year, they're in the process of building a new fire station! Their current facility is nearly 60 years old and no longer meets modern requirements for equipment, storage and training. For the past 20 years, they've stored their emergency vehicles either outside or in neighboring barns away from the fire station. Firefighters must carry their safety equipment in their personal vehicles, which lengthens critical response time.

    Last fall, Bodega broke ground on the new building, replaced and realigned a failing storm drain, and completed the building pad. During the winter months, they finalized the building permits and a successful USDA loan. When the sun came out in 2010, they were able to prepare the building pad for the foundation of the new station. On June 14th the prefabricated metal building arrived and after one month, the building shell was almost complete and ready for roofing and siding. They hope to get the building enclosed and functional by the end of summer, and will continue fundraising to complete the interior. The final new facility will include a 100% emergency standby generating capacity as well as a water storage system.

    Here are some photos from Josh Perucchi, firefighter for both Bodega and Bodega Bay Fire Departments, showing the new building under construction. You can check it out for yourself at the Big Event in August!

    BVFD is currently looking for donations for the "big raffle" at their Big Event. They're seeking gift certificates to anywhere or donated items. If you can help, please contact Asst. Chief Gary Watts at!

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  • 08/01/10--10:03: Gorgeous Day at Bodega Head!
  • It was absolutely gorgeous in Bodega Bay yesterday! After endless days of summer fog, the sun finally broke through in the afternoon and we enjoyed some t-shirt weather.

    My husband and I drove over to Bodega Head and hiked up the north trail to the Horseshoe Cove Overlook. I've never seen the trail so overgrown, maybe due to State Parks budget cuts. But it didn't matter, we just made our way gently through the tall blooming vegetation and marched up the hill. The hillsides were filled with a variety of wildflowers, there was hardly any wind, and the visibility was excellent. Here are some photos from the trail, click to enlarge.

    View toward Doran Beach, U.S. Coast Guard and Bodega Harbour.

    View toward downtown Bodega Bay.

    From the top of the trail, you look down on Horseshoe Cove and the UC Davis Bodega Bay Marine Lab. I took their tour recently and will be writing about it soon.

    Here are a couple of videos we shot up on the Head. Not very exciting, but you can kick back and get a feel for what it's like up there.

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  • 08/14/10--07:20: Bodega Marine Lab
  • The UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab offers free docent-led tours for the public on Fridays 2:00-4:00 p.m. so I went over to check it out.

    I remember visiting the lab with my Drake High School marine biology class in the 1970's but it has expanded considerably since then.

    Bodega Marine Laboratory (BML), perched above Horseshoe Cove on Bodega Head, is one of the oldest academic marine laboratories in the U.S. Bodega Head has been a field site for researchers and students since the 1920s. The Laboratory was founded in 1960 by UC Berkeley and the first building was completed in 1966. The second building was completed in 1977. BML was transferred to UC Davis in 1983.

    Rather than re-word their story myself, I've pasted some copy from their website.

    A rare combination of natural and academic assets makes BML a unique marine laboratory. The facility sits on wind-swept headlands in Sonoma County on California's north coast, where a 362-acre coastal reserve meets a state-protected marine reserve. This stretch of ocean is also one of a handful of places in the world where "upwelling," caused by a combination of geography and physics, brings nutrient-rich deep waters to the surface and nurtures a vast array of sea life. This phenomenon makes this coastline among the most biologically productive in North America.

    In addition to these remarkable "living laboratories" the Bodega Marine Laboratory is equipped with sophisticated technology, an instrument and sensor network and long term data set, the Cadet Hand Library, teaching classrooms and lecture hall, wetlabs, greenhouses, Dive Training facility, seawater system and vessel fleet. BML is administered by UC Davis, one of the nation's top public universities and a leader in both the marine and life sciences.

    I was fascinated to learn that their location on Bodega Head is unique because it includes a rich mix of eight protected coastal habitats to study: rocky intertidal areas, protected and exposed sandy beaches, extensive lagoon mudflats and sandflats, and tidal saltmarsh, sand dunes, coastal bluffs, coastal prairie/coastal scrub and freshwater wetlands. Plus, plant communities, soils and microclimates vary sharply over relatively small distances due to geological factors associated with the Pacific Ocean and the San Andreas Fault Zone.

    The Marine Lab is located in the Bodega State Marine Reserve, a fully protected no-take reserve extending 1000 feet offshore, managed by the California Department of Fish and Game and BML. The Bodega State Marine Reserve is contiguous with NOAA's Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, providing additional research sites and opportunities.

    But back to the tours, if you go over expecting something like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you'll be disappointed. The Bodega Marine Lab is primarily an education and research facility with a few displays for the public.

    They had a nice "tidal mesocosm" out front with various marine life including sea stars, bat stars, anemones, and my favorites, purple sea urchins. I asked our docent why I haven't been able to find any sea urchins in the tidepools along the Bodega Bay coast for several years, I used to see them all the time. He said he had no idea and in fact, had never visited a tidepool in the Bodega Bay area. Oh well...

    I enjoyed the beautiful displays in their expansive lobby and actually learned more there than on the tour itself.

    They also had two large tanks displaying local fish.

    I would have liked to hear more about some of their current local studies. We were shown a lobster study in progress, although there aren't any lobsters in the Bodega Bay area at all.

    We were also shown these tanks, where they're conducting an algae study.

    You can read more about the Bodega Marine Lab tours here. For a more complete Bodega Bay marine life experience, I'd suggest visiting some real tidepools during low tide before or after your tour. You can see some of our tidepool photos here. Also, during the months of January-May, you can go whale watching up on Bodega Head, with knowledgeable volunteer docents answering questions and providing a wealth of educational materials. You can read more about whale watching here. Although as a side note, some people spotted whales offshore just this past week!

    Have fun!

    Bodega Marine Laboratory
    2099 Westside Rd.
    Bodega Bay, CA 94923-0247
    (707) 875-2211

    Please note, when leaving a comment, if you get an error message, just click to submit again and it should go through. Weird quirk with Blogger templates. Thank you!

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  • 08/23/10--11:08: New Bodega Bay Sign

  • We have a newly refurbished sign at the south entrance to Bodega Bay!

    Many thanks to Shona Weir, of Business Services Unlimited for sending me this information and photos. She said local artist Jody Shipp, Local Color Gallery co-owner, cleaned and repainted it. It took her more than eight hours to complete the job, plus she paid for the paint and new bolts to rehang it. Jody made the signs at the north and south entrances to town many years ago, and plans to refurbish the north sign soon, as well. It's a little more damaged. The poles holding the sign up need to be straightened and more securely put in the ground, but Jody is willing to repair it and repaint it too.

    Eric Crumley, of Pipecleaners Chimney and Fireplace, volunteered to take care of the removal, transportation and replacement of the sign for Jody. A local surfer friend named John Lowry helped Eric put the sign up.

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    I recently spoke with former Bodega resident Merritt Clifton, editor of ANIMAL PEOPLE magazine, and he had some fascinating stories to share about his time growing up in this area. I roared with laughter over his tales about being an extra in the famous Hitchcock movie, "The Birds." Merritt’s a gifted writer so I’m posting everything in his own words. Take it away Merritt:

    I started school at Potter School in Bodega in 1958, and attended it most of the time until it was closed & moved temporarily into the fire hall at the beginning of 1962.

    My father was the last principal of Potter School. My younger brother & I were among the four Potter students who were selected to be extras in The Birds.

    The meeting hall that formed the top floor of the schoolhouse was converted into the interior of the house where the bird attacks were supposed to have occurred. The exterior shell of the house was set up on the baseball diamond beside Potter School.

    The running scenes were filmed at Bodega Bay. The film was edited so as to move Potter School from Bodega to the location of the much less picturesque Grange Hall in Bodega Bay.

    Although I was actually in only the classroom and running scenes, I was on the set for the filming of almost every scene involving bird attacks--which was accomplished in just four days of actual shooting time. (The set-up took much longer.)

    Suzanne Pleshette was a natural teacher, off set as well as on, and spent a lot of time with the extras just because she liked children. She had an authoritative presence, but in a quite warm & gentle way.

    Tippi Hedren was a constantly frightened nervous wreck--and the least visibly interested in animals, of anyone involved, other than Rod Taylor, who was terribly ill and spent most of the time when on the set in his chair, exhausted and apparently in pain. Some of the crew might have played mean tricks on Tippi, as she was not well-liked. Hitchcock and Pleshette were looking out for her, though Hitchcock also scolded her at times, more harshly than he ever scolded anyone else. Once she stuck her hand in a bird cage, was nipped by one of the normally quite well-behaved mynahs, and Hitchcock went ballistic.

    The only live birds used by deliberate intent were several very highly trained mynahs, who were quite carefully handled at all times. Alfred Hitchcock was extremely strict about what was done with them. Presumably there was an American Humane Association set rep present, but even if there wasn't, neither Hitchcock nor Suzanne Pleshette would have put up with any animal abuse.

    Hitchcock was very pro-animal anyway, liked to have the young extras following him around, and took many opportunities to explain things, including his intention of improving human treatment of birds. He asked if any of us had BB guns (none did), and vigorously denounced boys who shot birds with BB guns for fun.

    Most of the birds used were:

    a) Mechanical crows, dozens of them, that clipped to a person's clothing or hair like a bow tie.

    b) Papier mache birds -- by the hundreds. The crew left some behind. My father gathered some of them up for souvenirs, and still has them.

    c) Masonite silhouettes. There were hundreds of these, too. They were still visible, nailed to fences and rooftops, until many years later. They disappeared, I believe, during the hippie influx into the region of 1968-1973.

    d) Wild volunteers. Birds frequently visited Potter School anyway, including gulls from Bodega Bay and all sorts of birds who fed along the banks of nearby Salmon Creek, but the bogus birds had the effect of decoys, bringing thousands of additional wild birds into the vicinity to see what was going on.

    At that point, I had attended Potter School for three years, but had never before seen so many wild birds, there or anywhere. Hitchcock kept interrupting his own staged scenes to make sure the wild birds were captured on camera.

    The other Potter school children who were in The Birds were my younger brother Ted Clifton; Debby Chenowyth, a gorgeous blonde whose father owned the sawmill just northeast of Bodega, & had two glamorous older sisters; and Vickie Lynn Nichols, a very hefty girl whose younger brother, Jerry Wayne Nichols, inherited & for some years operated the family dairy farm just west of Bodega, about halfway between Potter School and the Watson Valley schoolhouse.

    There are only a couple of kids I can identify: me, twice; my brother Ted, who is the little guy at the extreme left of the classroom photo; and Vicky Lynn Nichols, who is running more or less beside me.

    The running scenes were organized in two different ways: with all the Hollywood kids in front, and with all the Hollywood kids in back. Us locals were just to fill out the crowd.

    The Hollywood kids were all an obnoxiously bratty lot, in my recollection. Bodega was a very warm, friendly little place where everyone knew everyone else & almost everyone was related, at least by marriage, so at first we were very taken aback by the sheer nastiness we encounted from the Hollywood kids. Even Debby, to them, was trash, several socio-economic levels below them, & they did not let her forget it.

    But they were playing ball in our park. What the Hollywood kids learned in a hurry was that while they were all cut-throat rivals of each other for parts & hopes of future stardom, we were a team, including all the kids who were not part of the filming. Mess with one Bodega kid & you were messing with all.

    Some of the Hollywood kids also may have seen that Alfred Hitchcock & Suzanne Pleshette, in particular, were warming up to us in a way that they didn't with the Hollywood brats.

    Meanwhile back at the ranch -- well, in front of the Mantua Ranch, which included the hillside behind the school in this scene, that's me in front and my brother Ted right behind me, almost dead center in this scene, with Veronica Cartwright to the left, Morgan Brittany in front of me, and Tippi Hedren to the right, with another lad directly beside me. I believe the third girl from the left in the row of five, ending with Suzanne Pleshette, was Debbie Chenowyth. The girl directly beside Suzanne Pleshette may be Vicky Lynn Nichols. I can't identify the four blurred kids in front, except that they were all from Hollywood.

    This is part 1 of a 3-part series. Stay tuned for my next post in which Merritt recounts how they threw one of the Hollywood child stars into the creek behind Potter Schoolhouse!

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    This is part 3 in a series of my conversations with former Bodega resident Merritt Clifton. He’s now editor of ANIMAL PEOPLE magazine, and was surprised by the abundant wildlife photos featured thoughout Here are his words:

    "Your world is unimaginably different from that of the rural working poor community that I remember -- no one there then could ever have imagined it.

    "But along with the affluence has come recovery of the local wildlife population, whose habitat was destroyed by logging, grazing, and hunting during the 20th century.

    "Your site offers many wonderful photos of wildlife we never saw. Turkey vultures & sheep, yes. We had those. We sometimes saw deer, though they were mostly represented by heads on the walls of the Casino bar & grill in Bodega and The Tides, which was then the only restaurant in Bodega Bay. No one had seen a bobcat in 30 years.

    "Our world would have been much richer with the wildlife. Instead, what I had was a 1900 edition of True Bear Stories, by Joaquin Miller, describing the wildlife that used to be there & was no more, even then.

    "Looks as if you have the critters again, all except the extinct California golden bear. The last one, Monarch, was captured and ended his life in the original San Francisco Zoo, in Golden Gate Park, before the present zoo was built. Miller covered the capture as a newspaper correspondent, & included the story of the bear's subsequent life in his book."

    This was all news to me and it makes me even more grateful for the abundant wildlife here on the coast today. And there's more good news--Merritt will dig this recent article in the Press Democrat,
    Birds of Prey Thrive at Jenner Headlands.

    Here are a couple of our more recent bobcat photos. Maybe we can get some raptor shots soon...

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    I love it when blog readers share their wildlife photos with me, and I recently received some whale shots from Dr. Michael Trapani, veterinary practitioner & surgeon. After chatting back and forth, I found out that he is opening a new veterinary hospital here in Bodega Bay! I'm so excited, BB can really use a vet. He's setting up his full service pet hospital in the old laundromat, in the Pelican Plaza shopping center, and hopes to be open by March 1, 2011.

    I read more about him on his Facebook page "Bodega Bay Veterinary Hospital." Look through their photos, you'll love the story about the Pied-Billed Grebe that he rescued at Salmon Creek Beach. And check out the video of the deer and kitten---sooo cute!

    But back to the whale photos. As you may have heard, it's been a banner year for whale watching here along the Sonoma coast due to an unusually high amount of krill in the water. Here are some images Dr. Trapani took from Bodega Head this fall. He saw four California Grey Whales that day, feeding in the near shore channel northwest of Bodega Rock.

    This whale seemed to pay absolutely no attention when fishing boats came through the channel. He'd been underwater when the New Sea Angler approached, then surfaced within ten yards of the craft, which came to a dead stop. The whale took his time moving away, still feeding. (This picture has been adjusted to bring out boat details.)

    Whale watching season out here is traditionally January through May, when thousands of California Gray Whales pass right by Bodega Head. I wrote a little about it here. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods are looking for docents to help out every weekend for the five months to help the public spot the whales and to answer questions about them. For more information, please contact Ruby Herrick, Programs Manager, at or (707) 869-9177 ext. 1# or visit Stewards of the Redwood Coast.

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    An abandoned sailboat that had become something of a tourist attraction was finally removed from Bodega Bay harbor this week.

    “Hapi” had been stuck at a tilt in the mudflats since fall 2007, when her owner fell behind in mooring fees at nearby Spud Point Marina and was evicted. The owner tried to move the boat, but the Coast Guard intercepted him and said the boat was not seaworthy. He then anchored it in the channel, and a storm blew it onto the tidelands.

    The boat was too badly damaged to save. The keel, which has a ferroconcrete hull, became firmly lodged in the mud; the sail was shredded and flapping in the wind.

    Hapi became a great conversation starter and in fact, our local wine bar Gourmet au Bay produced a private wine label in her honor called Tilted Cellars. We enjoyed kayaking around Hapi, people told tales of her being haunted, or a pirate ship.

    But while some found the abandoned boat charming, others said it was a hazard that should be removed. A spokesman from Sonoma County said “In reality they blow around, they can be come potential hazards to navigation, they leak toxics into the water, kids go out and play on them, they can get hurt."

    This week, according to a press release, Hapi was among five abandoned commercial vessels that state and local agencies removed from the Bodega Bay area. The coordinated effort involved the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Marine Services Unit, and the Department of Fish and Game.

    They said, “Abandoned and derelict vessels along California’s coastal and inland waterways are a threat to public health and safety and the environment. They can harm water quality due to the hazardous pollutants they contain, including oil, PCBs, antifreeze, gasoline, diesel, asbestos, paints, and sewage. As vessels deteriorate, they become sources of debris that wash onto the shore or remain a water hazard. In addition, vessels are typically abandoned on or very near shorelines where they present ‘attractive nuisances’ for additional dumping from the shore.

    “The five commercial vessels--the Elizabeth Ann, Ocean Star, Loretta G, Bonnie, and Hapi--were designated for removal because they have no identifiable responsible parties and they pose environmental and navigational hazards to the public. Measures have been taken to prevent a release of hazardous materials during the salvage operations. As a precaution, spill cleanup equipment has been pre-deployed in the event of a release. Fish and Game’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response is overseeing operations to ensure there are no impacts to state waters.

    “Funding for this project was provided through CalRecycle’s Solid Waste Disposal and Co-disposal Site Cleanup Program. CalRecycle, which manages the project on-site, contracted with Pacific States Environmental to remove, dismantle, and recycle or dispose of non-hazardous solid waste and hazardous materials from the vessels.”

    Surprisingly, no locals seem to have seen or heard a thing during the removal process. Knowing it was controversial, did they quietly haul Hapi out in the black of night? If you saw anything, or took photos or video, please share in the comments section!

    Please note, when leaving a comment, if you get an error message, just click to submit again and it should go through. Weird quirk with Blogger templates. Thank you!

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    Many thanks to CalRecycle for solving the mystery of the vanishing boat!

    As you may recall from my last post, "Hapi," a boat abandoned in the Bodega Bay harbor mudflats, mysteriously disappeared from last month. We couldn't figure out why nobody saw a thing, and I received this reply from CalRecycle:

    Hapi was removed from the Bay in the wee hours for a very good reason! The salvage company used low tide to pump the vessel out and attach flotation and then took advantage of the high tide to help float it so it could be pulled off the mud flat. The highest tide in the window the crew had to remove the vessel occurred at 3 AM. After she was released from the mudflat, Hapi was tied up at Spud Point Marina, and deconstructed the following day. --CalRecycle

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  • 03/24/11--17:05: Home Cooked Meal Delivery

  • I just received a colorful postcard announcing a new meal delivery service. Melissa Freeman, owner of the soon-to-open new Bodega Bay restaurant The Birds Cafe, is now delivering fresh, home-cooked meals on a weekly basis.

    Melissa has lived in Bodega Bay her entire life. She was a real estate broker for many years, but says her real love is cooking. Her family owns Compass Rose Gardens, where she spent a significant part of her life catering events. Melissa is going through the steps to open The Birds Cafe across from Pelican Plaza, overlooking the bay. Meanwhile she's providing a service that family, friends, and locals have told her is much needed in our community - fresh home cooked meal delivery. Meals will be prepared in a rented, fully equipped commercial kitchen under her catering license from Sonoma County. Far out, I wish her great success!

    You can reach her at 707-875-2900 or through

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    Great news, Bodega Bay is hosting film festival in May! Here's the official press release:

    The Sonoma, California coast promises to be lively this Memorial weekend (May 28th-29th) where the inaugural Bodega Bay International Short Film Festival is launching a celebration of independent filmmaking from Santa Rosa, California to Hamilton, New Zealand. Whether filmmakers and audience members are attracted by the spectacular seaside location of the festival at UCD Bodega Marine Lab*, or the draw is from the growing Hollywood panel of film judges, Bodega Bay is quickly becoming a cultural focal point for film.

    Ever since Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was shot there in 1963, the town’s cinematic glory has been relatively dormant. But the sleepy, crab fishing town of Bodega Bay has the necessary characteristics to rival Park City, Utah (where the Sundance Film Festival takes place). It’s a little over an hour’s drive from the robust cultural powerhouse, San Francisco, and the Bodega Bay region is an established destination for wine tours, honeymoons, coastal retreats, and excursions.

    Local filmmaker, Dan Schieberl of Santa Rosa, is thrilled to have his very short first film take the stage as an official selection of the festival. His film, a family comedy called “Bathroom Drawer” is story of sibling rivalry that was based on a true story. Schieberl remarked “I’d give up my contracting job in a second if I could make films for a living. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by movies.” At the other end of the emotional spectrum comes a grim drama from India called “Wind,” (created by Manikandan Mathiyazhagan). It’s the uncomfortable story of a policeman who is the first person dispatched to a grisly crime scene, when suddenly, a cell phone rings in the corpse’s pocket and the caller really wants to speak with the policeman. And among other international selections for the festival, comes “Lily White” a touching drama by New Zealand directors Scott Granville and Ben Woolen, who plan on traveling to the event. Other countries represented at the festival include South Korea, Israel, Argentina, Switzerland, France, Spain, & Australia. Even Hollywood filmmakers are making a show at the festival. Regionally, San Francisco-based director Richard Levien’s film “Immersion” will pull at heartstrings while posing important questions about our education system.

    The festival’s growing panel of film judges includes actor Jack McGee, who most recently starred alongside Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, and Amy Adams in the Academy Award nominated “The Fighter.” Also on the jury is Ed Begley, Jr., (Six Feet Under, The New Adventures of Old Christine, St. Elsewhere) who, apart from appearing in over 200 television and motion picture productions, is an activist for environmental issues. Representing strong women in film on the jury is Hollywood producer Share Stallings, who recently produced “Death At A Funeral” starring Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, James Marsden, and Danny Glover. Due to their jam-packed schedules making movies, it is unclear if any of the judges will be attending the event itself. But they will definitely be watching and judging the finalists and sending in their votes.

    The festival takes place on Memorial Weekend May 28th-29th at the UCD Bodega Marine Lab, at Bodega Bay, California. The festival is expected to sell out as the facility only has about 100 seats per screening. For ticket ordering information, along with more details or high definition press photos, please visit the official website:

    *The UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory (BML) is one of the oldest academic marine laboratories in the U.S., and its long history of research and training students has contributed invaluably to our knowledge of coastal systems and the policy that protects them. Throughout the years, BML has led the way in multidisciplinary scientific inquiry required to solve complex environmental problems on the marine and terrestrial sides of the tideline, and BML-trained students have become leaders in the field of marine science and policy.

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    The 38th Annual Bodega Bay Fish Fest is happening this weekend, April 30 and May 1, 2011. Here are some details from their website:

    The Bodega Bay community will celebrate its 38th annual Fisherman’s Festival packed with music, food, and entertainment. A favorite attraction is the wine tasting booth, featuring more than 25 Sonoma County wines. Food booths have something for every pallet from lamb or oyster barbeque to local fish and chips, to vegi burders, salads, and sandwiches. Live music and entertainers perform on the band stage all day Saturday and Sunday. Artisans and vendors from all over California and beyond offer a wide selection of arts and crafts.

    The festival has its origin as a celebration of the start of the Salmon fishing season and the annual Blessing of the Fleet. Saturday will feature a golf tournament at Bodega Harbour (707-875-3538) and at the Festival site itself a wooden boat challenge where participating teams build a vessel and then compete in a boat race.

    Sunday morning will feature the blessing of the fishing fleet, when decorated boats parade out of the harbor to receive a blessing from local clergy. A flower wreath is cast upon the waters honoring the fishermen lost at sea. The festival is a great venue for kids, with a play area for face painting, spin paintings, games, free kit lessons, pony rides and llamas (and guest pets) on parade. There will be a drawing for raffle prizes from local merchants.

    The Bodega Bay Fisherman’s Festival is a nonprofit organization run by local community volunteers under the leadership of chair Ginny Bassi. All proceeds of the festival benefit local service and volunteer organizations. For more information call the Bodega Bay Visitors’ Center at 707-875-3866.

    Our family has really enjoyed going to this community event over the last couple of years. You can view our previous reports and photos here and here. And the weather this weekend is supposed to be spectacular!

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  • 05/03/11--08:27: We're Moving...
  • This is a hard post to write, our family is leaving Bodega Bay. We've absolutely loved our three years of living in paradise here on the beautiful California coast, but due to job opportunities, we've decided to move inland. We'll only be an hour away and of course we'll be back frequently to visit. We've been coastal people our entire lives and have never been able to stay away for long.

    Many thanks to those of you who have followed our blog and given us such positive feedback and encouragement over the years. We have always appreciated the support of our friends and neighbors.

    I just discovered another mom who blogs here in Bodega Bay and I encourage you to check her out at Mama Loves the Beach. Darris recently moved to Bodega Bay with her family, and she writes about her coastal adventures with an environmental twist.

    So long, but not goodbye. We'll see you at the beach!