DEAR JOAN: Our neighborhood in Walnut Creek's Saranap area has many large old oak trees.
These trees and surrounding native landscape support owls, scrub jays, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, woodpeckers and even California quail. Could you let folks in the Bay Area know what we need to do to save our oaks if the drought continues?
Should I water for 24 hours once a month starting in April if we have no rain? Thank you for any advice that can save our oaks that are home to many native creatures.
Mary Dunne Rose
DEAR MARY: Oaks are drought-resistant, but they could probably benefit from some summer water if the drought is a severe one. Watch for early signs of distress -- wilting leaves -- before doing anything.
The problem is that oaks do not like summer water and are susceptible to all sort of diseases if they are overwatered.
Keep water at least 10 feet away from the tree root crowns (the base of the tree). A good soaking once a month should be fine, but just for a few hours.
Valley oaks are expert at surviving in places that are not that hospitable to them. Even a young tree can have a taproot that extends 60 feet down. I'm hoping for some rain before this odd winter ends in April.
DEAR JOAN: While walking on the beach, I noticed a gull settle into the water next to an otter. The otter dove underwater and came back up with some food that required a rock to crack.
The seagull patiently waited while the otter pounded away. Then, the gull suddenly flew up and snatched the food from the otter. The bird brought it to the shore and tried to eat the food, but it couldn't break it open, so it picked it up and flew right back to the otter -- and dropped it right on to the otter's belly.
Once again, the otter started pounding on the shell. It must have been successful this time, as once again the seagull took the food, flew back to shore and was able to eat it all. When finished, the gull flew right back to the otter.
Partnership on the waves or grand larceny? I've never seen that before and the otter didn't seem too upset.
DEAR BETTINA: I vote for grand larceny.
Gulls and fish often hang around otters while they're eating in order to clean up any scraps, but this gull either had a personal relationship with the otter or was just incredibly bold.
The otter must not have minded or it would have dealt with the gull or moved elsewhere.
The Contra Costa Humane Society recently moved into a new storage area and discovered, too late, it had mice visiting. The group has since moved again, but pet food supplies are critically low for the group's "AniMeals" program that provides pet food to more than 450 low-income families.
If you can help out with bags -- new or opened -- of dry pet food, the volunteers and staff would be appreciative. Food can be dropped off at the Humane Society's new location, 171 Mayhew Way Suite 101, Pleasant Hill, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays or in the outside barrels after hours. Food also can be bought or dropped off at any Contra Costa Pet Food Express location. For more information call 925-279-2247.