For The Love Of Birds

Ever since childhood, I have loved birds. And I think the feeling is mutual. Once a hummingbird landed on my red shirt and tried to sip nectar from my cheek. Just recently, I had a long and loud conversation with a Stellar’s Jay. So when a reader told me that one of the best birding spots in the country was just south of Oakland, I perked right up.
The Elkhorn Slough doesn’t sound very sexy, but it’s now on my top 10 list of California places to see. And the best way to see it is on the Elkhorn Slough Safari, a two-hour boat trip hosted by Capt. Yohn Gideon, a naturalist, and equipped with binoculars so you can spy on everything from pelicans fishing to otters feasting on juicy innkeeper worms.
It’s the Nature Channel come alive and the subjects seem unaware that a pontoon of wide-eyed Homo sapiens is sleuthing through the slough. If birds of a feather flock together, than this place is like a giant avian festival with a round-the-clock worm and fish buffet.
Never again will I pass by Moss Landing on my way to Monterey. I’m going back to this little fishing village to whale watch, bike ride and study the wildlife. Because the next time a bird calls me, I want to be able to answer.

PET PROTECTION: Thirty bucks doesn’t buy much these days, but it’ll pay for some piece of mind when it comes to your pet. That’s how much Oakland Animal Services charges for inserting a microchip in your cat or dog. The chip is injected with a needle behind the scruff of the neck and yes — some animals freak out. But it takes only five minutes and may someday save their life. If your pet ever gets lost and ends up in a shelter, the chip can be scanned to find the animal’s owner. Kirsten Park with the East Bay SPCA says that’s what happened with the rust-colored retriever they found in their parking lot this summer. When they scanned the dog’s chip, it led them to Matthew Quick of Euclid Avenue, who was ecstatic to get the call.
“And the dog was insanely happy to see him,” says Park, who adds that because collars fall off, microchips are a great way of ensuring that pets always has identification.

THWARTING THIEVES: It’s no secret that cars are constantly being stolen in Oakland. In fact, Robbie Neely with the Montclair Safety Improvement Council says she’s aware of an alarming increase in auto thefts and break-ins in the past 12 months and her group has a solution. The MSIC is selling The Club (the well-known wheel locking device) for $15 dollars.
Pardon my pun but that price is a steal, and Neely says they’ll be selling The Club at the Lion’s Club flea market in Montclair Park this Sunday.
At least one reader says she’ll be locking her steering wheel from now on. Her stolen car was just found last week and a suspect arrested.
“There are always shady characters out late at night around the corner of Park and El Centro,” she writes, and she says at least one of her older neighbors was mugged, recently, in her own front yard.

LUCKY GUY: Does anyone ever win those big chain store contests, with prizes like cars and trips and cash? Just ask hills dad Lynn Beckwith, who without thinking, put in an entry for Comp USA’s free ride contest last month. The drawing was the next day and his co-worker even told him he didn’t have a chance. But one chance is all you need, sometimes, and Beckwith got the call — he’d won the 2005 Honda Element. The irony is, he’s somewhat of a car buff — already owning three vehicles that his wife, Claire Weber, says he washes and waxes each week. If she gets her way, this new “free ride” will turn into some free cash.


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