DEAR JOAN: I have lived in the same neighborhood for 40 years and had never seen a Western bluebird until this year. It was bright blue with a red chest; so beautiful.
A pair raised their babies in the backyard and I had to save one of the fledglings from a scrub jay.
My neighbors have seen flocks of these birds up in the hills and there have been sightings all over. We saw some on our walk around Heather Farm Park. They have a unique sound and fly so fast.
Are they passing through or will they stay?
DEAR SUE: California is part of the Western bluebirds' territory, but in the 25 years I've been here, I've only seen two. The first was several years ago; the second was just last week while taking a walk through a wooded area in a business park at my Walnut Creek office.
They are indeed beautiful birds.
The Western bluebird still has plenty of numbers, but the population has been dwindling, especially in their most Western range. Birders attribute it to loss of habitat as forests are harvested and woodlands are converted to development.
On the other hand, fire suppression measures in forests have made it tough on the bluebirds, too. By removing old trees, where bluebirds nest, the birds have no place to live.
Western bluebirds are cavity dwellers, but they lack the anatomical ability to carve out their own nest holes. They use natural holes, woodpecker nests and bird boxes. In this area, volunteers with the California Bluebird Recovery Program is working with the Walnut Creek Open Space foundation to build, install and monitor cavity nest boxes. Apparently, they are doing a great job.
Bluebirds are migratory, but they often stay in the general area year round. In the summer, they feast on flying insects, making them a great partner in your yard.
This past weekend, animal rescue groups and shelters opened their doors to folks looking to adopt new animal companions as part of Maddie's Fund Pet Adoption Days.
The annual event not only benefited those wanting to get a pet and not have to pay the regular adoption fees, but it also helped pets get the forever homes they deserve.
If that wasn't enough of a reason to participate, the Alameda-based Maddie's Fund pledged money to the groups and organizations for each adoption they completed, provided a much-needed source of income to support the care of animals throughout the year.
Volunteers wanted to find new homes for 5,000 pets, but that goal wasn't met -- it was exceeded.
Officials with Maddie's Fund report that almost 8,000 animals were adopted in that one weekend. The Bay Area, as I knew it would be, led the way with 3,800 adoptions, topping last year's numbers by more than 1,000. The numbers are still coming in, so the Bay Area may actually have been even more amazing. Maddie's Fund officials says they expect to give up to $7 million to animal groups who participated, more than they expected, bu tMaddie's Fund founders, Dave and Cheryl Duffield, said they couldn't be more pleased.
Amazing. On behalf of all those animals now waking up in loving homes, thank you to the new parents and the people who helped make it happen.
Eye of Diablo
The drive to restore and preserve the beacon atop Mount Diablo is winding down. Save Mount Diablo, the nonprofit spearheading the drive, is more than halfway to its $100,000 goal.
We still have work to do, so if you've hesitated about sending in your contribution, now is the time to act. Even a few dollars goes a long way.
To help keep the light burning, send your tax-deductible donations to Save Mount Diablo -- Friends of Joan/Beacon, 1901 Olympic Blvd. Suite 320, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.
Contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org.