Hoping to take advantage of the rainwater in an incoming storm, I was busily repotting outside on Halloween day when I heard an unusual bird call. Kimber Park is a haven for many of our feathered friends, with many species living here. I’ve been practicing recognizing birds just by their calls, but this one was a toughy. Here is what it sounded like:
Finally it dawned on me — it was the bark (yep, that’s what it’s called) of a Golden Eagle! I had heard the same call this summer, when I saw three eagles, two adults and a juvenile, soaring over the Fremont hills, just east of Kimber. I left my yard work and quickly grabbed my camera. I was soon watching as four eagles soared high overhead. I had not seen them since summertime, but the unsettled wind of the incoming storm seemed to be a joy for them to take advantage of, as they wheeled overhead, west of the foothills.
Here is a picture of one of the Goldens as it flies over Kimber Park, near one of the big resident Red-Tailed Hawks.
Golden Eagle and Red-Tailed Hawk Soar Over Kimber Park
Suddenly that Red-Tailed looks a lot smaller!
The best time to see them is early afternoon. They are typically only overhead for a short time, but they seem to linger if storm winds are blowing I have seen as many a four aloft at once.
The Red-Tailed Hawks will sometimes attempt to drive them off, which can lead to some amazing interactions. The Eagles may flip over or quickly turn and flash their talons, which always leads to a quick defensive maneuver by the Red-Tailed. It all happens in a split-second.
I would recommend keeping a pair of binoculars handy if you are in the neighborhood and outside early afternoon, especially over the next month or so. They are so graceful and majestic, and they live in our backyard!
If you do see them, please let me know. Feel free to comment to this post and help get the word out.
They had established themselves on the eastern half of the property, with their nest located in one of the nearby redwood trees. They constantly hunted for prey on the Kimber Park Open Space – one of the pair is shown here after just pouncing on a hapless rodent at the base of the hunting tree they preferred on this land.
Red-Shouldered Hawk on Prey at Kimber Park Open Space
They had been observed copulating in the trees on the property, which would normally lead in short order to eggs being laid and young being raised.
Sadly, their courtship was cut short by ill-timed landscaping on the property.
Below you can see one of the hawks defending their tree by standing its ground and not flying off, faced first with landscapers and then with the destruction of its hunting tree.
The bravery and dedication of the raptor was a bit humbling.
Red-Shouldered Hawk Stands Ground Near Nest
Landscapers complete the destruction of the hawk’s hunting tree.
Was this destruction purposeful? I was quite upset that it took place shortly after that St. Valentine’s Day post. Had I put them in danger by writing about them? To top things off, I clearly saw the property owner drive by in her black Mercedes coupe while the landscapers were destroying the tree.
I am left hoping that the owners are just clueless rather than thinking all this destruction was intentional. Heavy, sad sigh.
Hello, do not do such large-scale habitat destruction during the wildlife breeding season.
When contacted the local game warden was extremely interested but was busy with a more urgent matter. By the time he was free the damage had already been done.
Over the next few days it was clear that the hawks were greatly disturbed. One left, with the other now having moved westward, to the center portion of the property. I was very bummed and felt culpable. Did the publicity lead to the destruction?
The Red-Shouldered Hawk is known to be very resilient and adaptable. Indeed, in spite of pressure from the bigger nearby Red-Tailed Hawks and the radical habitat destruction, they re-established themselves on their breeding site.
Red-Shouldered Hawks Reunite on the Kimber Park Open Space.
They moved their nest slightly, into one of the nearby Eucalyptus trees. The site was above a public space frequented by the locals as they enjoyed the urban forest during their walks and meanderings. However, it was so well hidden and the hawks so secretive that I think I was the only one that knew its location.
In short order a young fledgling was being raised. Here is a picture of the youngster.
Artie the Red-Shouldered Hawk, as a youngster!
So cool! I named him Artie, in honor of Art Kimber.
It was my privilege to watch Artie mature and successfully leave the nest. After fledging, Artie also hunted on the Kimber Park Open Space and grew into a beautiful young adult.
Through an amazing coincidence, Artie was also shown on the local TV station.
On the day that the Fremont City Council adopted the Protect Fremont Open Space Initiative, Christina was interviewed at the Kimber Park Open Space urban forest. At the very end of the broadcast they showed Artie, calling from one of the Kimber pines. Here’s my copy of the broadcast (sorry about the poor audio). Artie shows up around 2:00 in the video.
Beautiful, boisterous, noisy and standing his ground. Just like his Mom and Dad.
Now, through a sad turn of events, the turmoil surrounding this land continues. The owners have submitted new plans, calling for a 40,000 plus square foot mini strip mall, directly on the site of the Redwood forest!
While this in itself may not be that surprising, given the history of the owners and their actions, what is surprising is the actions of the Fremont Planning Department. Now under new management, they are supporting the owner’s plans. They have, in fact, quietly reworked the definition of Private Open Space. and have proposed to the Planning Commission the rezoning of our Open Space into a separate Planned District.
Yes, that’s right, the behemoth development, including lodging, a day spa, business center and huge, 100-seat restaurant would be zoned as “General Open Space” if the Planning Department has its way. I don’t suppose that anyone would be surprised to learn that this is absolutely forbidden in the Grant Deed and Purchase Agreement signed by Shapell Homes.
Take a look at this before and after view of the impact to the land. BTW, it is drawn to scale.
Proposed Massive Mall Would Rival Redwoods Towering over Kimber Park
The camera lens belies the size of the mall building. By looking at the many tennis courts, walkways, swimming pool, etc., all of which would be replaced with the multi-story structure, you can get an idea of its scale. The commercial center would tower over the neighborhood and compete in height with the 60-year old Redwoods. This is what the “new” Fremont Planning Department calls open space. Shocking.
They say the plans are great, even though they would put this ginormous multi-businessed minimall into a quiet neighborhood. There is no question that it’s construction would destroy many of the old Redwoods on the property, along with the character of the neighborhood. It would also cut right through the forest canopy on the south side of the property. The figure below shows where the entrance would go. Yet, the developer has stated that all trees will be saved. Apparently they will float over the asphalt. How wide would this entrance be to permit fire trucks to safely enter? I see no way that those Redwoods survive.
Proposed Entrance to Mall Cuts Directly Through Forest Canopy
The fiasco continues. The developer’s materials show that the new plans are over 100 parking spaces short of what is needed, even after they destroy the existing beautiful interior lawn and convert it to a parking lot.The figure shown below includes my estimate at what else would need to be destroyed to fit in all of the needed parking spaces (planned parking in red, guesstimated additional space shown in green).
Proposed Kimber Park Strip Mall Plans Exposed
The figure also points out other misrepresentations. It is as if no opportunity to take from the community and disfigure and destroy it was not taken. A mislocated and unwanted aquatics center replaces more tennis courts. The garden (shown in blue), although described by the developer as a community garden, would be used to grow veggies for the restaurant. Gosh, I sure hope we don’t have any trouble keeping the turkeys and deer out of the restaurant’s garden on the private open space. I suppose that the owner’s solution will be to impose a parcel tax on the neighborhood, should we fall behind.
As crazy and insane as these plans seem, it is all true. We are faced with a newly and uniquely kleptocratic Planning Department. One so uncaring, arrogant and bold that they are openly trying to undo the effect of the Protect Fremont Open Space Initiative. It is so very sad to see Fremont become the poster child of all that is wrong in local governance. Apparently a very small group of city bureaucrats believe that they need to generate business for themselves and simultaneously show up the entirety of the citizens of Fremont and the City Council. I am so happy that my taxes are paying for their salaries and pensions (not).
The Planning Commission will vote on the latest plans. We need to show the continued resolve and unity of the Save Kimber Park movement.
Ultimately the City Council will have their say, but we cannot let up. While I was gathering signatures for the Initiative, on Earth Day no less, a young Asian father signed our petition. He told me that he had just told his two young boys that the beautiful Fremont hills are not scarred with development because of the continued hard work of dedicated Fremont residents. He was doing his part and educating his kids about what is needed to keep Fremont beautiful, with open hills and urban forests. I would not be surprised to see him at tonight’s meeting. I hope you can make it as well.
William and Kate, the beautiful pair of White-Tailed Kites, have once again successfully raised a brood of kites at Kimber Park!
A trio of young were hatched and raised this spring at the Mission Hills Tennis Club. This is the second nest of young kites raised here within about six months. William and Kate previously raised two young in mid-2011 on the Mission Hills Tennis Club property, with their nest in a Monterey Pine that loomed over the clubhouse parking lot. The young successfully fledged last Fall.
In order to give the raptors the best chance of raising their young without incident I chose not to publicize this year’s nesting until now. Raptors are notorious for abandoning nests when disturbed, so I waited until the young had fledged and left to find their own territory before writing this post.
William and Kate returned to Kimber Park in early March, 2012. The first photo was from late in the day on March 5th of this year, as one of the adults takes flight from its perch in the Redwoods on the Mission Hills Tennis Club property, near the entrance.
White-Tailed Kite at Kimber Park
Nest construction began right away, in a pine tree not far from the tree they nested in in 2011. Here’s a twig being brought over to the nest a few days after the first picture was taken.
White-Tailed Kite Building Nest
The adults were very vigilant and aware as they prepared to raise their young. Here one gives an interested observer a careful once-over.
White-Tailed Kite Warily Eyes Observer
The translucence of their backlit feathers give them an angelic glow as they gracefully soar. It does not accurately portray their demeanor, however. They are quite fierce when challenged. Last year one of the adults aggressively dove at and drove away a Golden Eagle, which was soaring over the nearby Fremont foothills just to the east of Kimber Park! Impressive behavior for a bird roughly the size of a large crow.
Although located in a suburban setting, their nest was well hidden. Here is one of the adults sitting on the nest in early May, 2012.
By the end of May three young were in the nest.
Three White-Tailed Kite Fledglings
While shown sitting peacefully here, they were very noisy and demanding. Even though the nest was nearly un-viewable from the ground, they were so loud that many members of the neighborhood took notice.
Whenever a parent showed up with food, which seemed to consist entirely of small rodents, all heck broke loose on the nest! The incoming parent was immediately surrounded by all three young whenever they returned with food.
Here a parent has just landed with food. At this point the babies are maturing at a tremendous rate.
White-Tailed Kite Feeding Young
The 60-year old Redwood forest at Kimber Park is prime breeding ground for many local birds. This year a pair of American Crows was nesting very near the White-Tailed Kites. The crows, previously discussed here, had been aggressively defending their turf. One kite fledgling made one of its first flights directly over the breeding crow pair, which caused quite a ruckus. One of the crows attacked the juvenile. As shown below, the crow made it difficult for the young kite to defend itself, but the kite was up for the task.
White-Tailed Kite Fledgling Defends Itself Against Attacking Crow
By early June the young were flying in and out of the nest. They have the typical rusty breast color of immature young. The parents now fed the young without landing, as they encouraged the juveniles to hone their flying and hunting skills by making them grab their food from the extended talons of the parents. An amazing sight to see in the early morning skies above Kimber Park!
Young White-Tailed Kite Flies Over Kimber Park
The young stayed in the Mission Hills Tennis Club Redwoods all through June and early July. They had become quieter and more secretive, but their occasional harpy-like shrieks would reveal their presence. Here is a late morning view of one of the juveniles flying among the Redwoods over the Mission Hills tennis courts in July, 2012.
Juvenile White-Tailed Kite Flies Over Mission Hills Tennis Courts
All three of the fledglings grew into beautiful young White-Tailed Kites. Here is one of the last views of them in the Mission Hills Tennis Club Redwoods, perched calmly together just after July Fourth, 2012. This tree is very near that shown at the top of this post. Over these months the young stayed on the western half of the tennis club.
The Three White-Tailed Kites Raised at Kimber Park in the Spring of 2012
Shortly afterwards William and Kate were seen flying with the young to the hills to the east, which is the most likely hunting ground for the kites.I have been missing them, but it is nevertheless fun and exciting to see and share the diversity and concentration of wildlife that call the Mission Hills Tennis Club and surrounding Open Space home.
This is just one example of the wildlife that lives here. This amazing wildlife hotspot demands continued preservation. I have had the privilege of seeing firsthand the many example of different animals on the site over the first half of 2012 and hope to reveal more facets of this hidden gem in Fremont. Bewick’s Wrens, Nuttal’s Woodpeckers, Western Bluebirds, Wild Turkeys, and Bullock’s Orioles are just some of those observed breeding or raising young on the Mission Hills Tennis Club property this Spring. Hopefully life will permit further posts on these and others, including several raptors.
Thanks to all of Fremont for helping us get over 9,000 valid voter signatures on the Protect Fremont Open Space initiative. An immense task for a grassroots organization to take on, given the constraints of severely limited time and financing. We were successful because of the overwhelming desire of Fremont’s residents to protect our open space. Initiative signers literally sought us out, brought over friends and family, and would line up to sign on to help protect Fremont’s open space. Their purposeful participation was often quite humbling.
This will not only save the city money, it will also give those proactive City Council members an opportunity to show genuine leadership on behalf of the voters of Fremont and a leg up in the upcoming elections. The people of Fremont overwhelmingly supported this Initiative and now look to see their City Council support them in their efforts to better Fremont.
I was wrongly accused. Jeered. In short order a mob of 15 or so individuals had formed, seemingly from nowhere. They gathered in groups around me. The more aggressive of them would wait for my back to be turned and then rush at me, only to retreat as I turned toward them.
Now, wrongly marked, I’m yelled at whenever I’m seen in the neighborhood.
Yep, all true, and it started a few days ago in Kimber Park.
It began shortly after I noticed a pair of wrens chasing away a fox squirrel on the Kimber Park open space. They were definitely defending their space. Quick, small, frenetic, they were tough to photograph. Here they are (click on any photo to enlarge it):
Bewick’s Wren on the Kimber Park Open Space
Another hungry Kimber Park Bewick’s Wren
This was a new bird for me to find on the open space, a Bewick’s Wren. These two were ravenous, grabbing bug after bug. Odds are very good that they have a nest nearby — I hope to locate it soon.
After finding the wrens I went to check on the White-Tailed Kite nest in Kimber Park. The kites have built a nest near the Mission Hills Tennis Club entrance. This is the second kite nest here in about 6 months, with the new nest a short distance from their previous nest. I’ve seen the kites sitting on the nest and wanted to check on their progress.
Once I was nearby, though, I heard another Bewick’s Wren, this one calling from the top of a tall Redwood. As I walked near the base of the Redwood, a pair of American Crows stealthily flew into the Redwood. They were at first interested in the singing wren, but then they noticed me.
That’s when things went wrong. A hidden Western Scrub Jay suddenly appeared among the Redwood branches behind the lower crow and fiercely jabbed it in the back with its beak.
Crafty Western Scrub Jay keeps a wary eye out.
The crow gave out a squawk, but apparently thought I had somehow hurt it from a distance. Guilt by association! Here he is, glaring at me.
Yikes! I noticed that one of the White-Tailed Kites was now airborne, apparently concerned about the many crows, a natural enemy of the kites.
Kimber Park White-Tailed Kite soars over heckling crows
I now became worried that the many crows formed a danger to the nearby nesting kites. 😦
It was time to go. I was going to have to check the kite nest another time. Unfortunately, I seem to have been falsely accused and now remain a marked man among the local crow populance. If you know anything about crow intelligence, it could be some time before that is changed around. Check out this NY Times article discussing how crows can identify and remember individual people: Friend or Foe?
Another day, another wildlife adventure in Kimber Park.
Are you a Fremont resident and registered voter? If so, you can help preserve Fremont’s open spaces for future generations by signing the Protect Fremont Open Space petition. Stop by one of the fixed signature collecting sites, found at Where to Sign. Hurry, time is short!
This past winter Northern California received significantly less than normal rainfall. In spite of this and perhaps due to some unusually late rains, the local wildflowers were doing well. In Kimber Park the neighborhood Open Space wildflowers were unusually fantastic this year.
Here’s a video of the meadow, taken on April 16th, 2012:
The meadow was teeming with wildlife, as the deer, birds, squirrels, raptors, butterflies and local bees enjoyed the buffet placed before them.
Take a look:
Kimber Park morning sunrise.
Spring 2012 Wildflowers on the Kimber Park Open Space
Another view of the Kimber Park wildflowers
Here’s a neighborhood mule deer enjoying a juicy snack:
Kimber Park mule deer enjoys juicy wildflowers
Some local insects nourishing themselves:
An early season Monarch Butterfly enjoys breakfast in the Kimber Park wildflower meadow.
A Kimber Park honeybee gathers nectar and pollen from the wildflowers.
As mentioned in a previous post, the wildflowers met with an untimely and unwanted demise.
Why would they be destroyed when in their full springtime glory? People in the neighborhood and from other areas in Fremont were walking nearby, having come to see the local flora and fauna in their springtime splendor. The flowers presented no fire hazard, and would have remained green for months. They were in their natural role, providing a food source for the local wildlife and reseeding the area for next year’s display.
One strong possibility is that the natural beauty provided a dissonance with the current owner’s publicly stated intentions: they want to build houses on the open space in the middle of this Planned Community. The property has no development rights and is the site of a 60-year old Redwood forest. This beautiful meadow certainly seems to lend credence to the use that Shapell Homes deeded to the property during the original development (see this post for more info) – this land must be left natural.
That problem was solved by cutting the meadow to the ground. Here is the sad view left for the neighborhood, where wildflowers were just flourishing:
This looks more like a place for houses, now that the wildflowers are being taken out.
The Kimber Park Open Space, shown with the wildflowers in the foreground razed. The remaining wildflowers were cut shortly afterwards.
It is also possible that the owners are just not competent enough to know that the flowers should not be cut down after until after they have finished blooming and died back. It’s possible that not everyone likes flowers (OK, I’ve actually never met anyone who admitted to this, but they must be out there somewhere. There are, after all, more than 6.8 billion of us on the planet).
In either case I feel bad for the landscape workers, put in an impossible position. Something tells me that they might have a clue here and on their own would have handled the situation appropriately. But that’s just my opinion.
But a recent turn of events left me wondering if someone is getting the message after all. I took these pictures of California Poppies on a different part of the property. Other blooming poppies elsewhere on the property were already cut to the ground. It looked like these guys would go next, as the landscapers made their way across the acreage.
California Poppies growing on the Kimber Park Open Space for the first time in recent years.
The local native bees seem to really enjoy them.
A native bee gathers pollen from a California Poppy at Kimber Park.
For the time being, this patch of poppies was not cut to the ground when the surrounding weeds were. Here they are, left standing after all.
A few poppies still survive.
Is the word getting out to the owners that the residents of Fremont are being informed about what is going on here?
Hundreds of volunteers are spread out across the city, working diligently to make their fellow Fremont residents aware of the lengths being taken to try to force dense residential housing on the mitigating open space of a wonderful Planned Community in Fremont. In these tough times, it is heartwarming to see cynicism and skepticism about local governance erased and replaced with resolve, determination and joy, as thousands of Fremont voters participate in the democratic process and help get the Protect Fremont Open Space Petition on the ballot.
Are the Mission Hills Tennis Club owners even aware of the untenable position they are making for themselves in Fremont?
Do you agree, disagree or have other thoughts to add? If so, please add your comments.
As always, opinions presented here are those of the author.
If you ever want to see the Kimber Park wild turkeys in their full glory, make a visit on a Thursday morning in the wintertime. Who knew that they had a schedule? 🙂
Here’s one of the Kimber gobblers, caught mid-gobble this Spring, in the Kimber Park area (click on any image to see it at full resolution).
Kimber Park Wild Turkey, mid-gobble
I have to admit that I normally have mixed feelings about the turkeys’ appearance. They have some tough competition, especially in the Kimber Park area. The hawks, kites and jays, seen every day here, are simply more appealing to my sensibilities (I don’t think I’m alone here. ;-> )
However I cannot help but find this guy’s looks amazing! The iridescence of his many feathers, the incongruity of the huge brown tail feathers and beautiful white and black striped wing feathers – a wild amalgamation. Just when you’re sure that nothing else could be added, he has a huge wattle, blue, orange and red skin colors on his head and neck, and a huge beard!
Are we done? Not yet. We need to add a crazy voice. Listen to the Kimber gobblers here:
So on a Thursday morning in February, 2012, I came across the following outlandish turkey promenades:
Here they are, making their way from their nighttime roosts to the Kimber Park Open Space:
What I find fun, beyond the audacity of the wildlife event itself, is their sense of urgency. What is the rush all about?
A short time later they are on the walking path, part of the shared open space of the Kimber Park neighborhood. Well, Thursday is the day that the trash is collected in this neighborhood, which leads to this striking verbal confrontation between the noisy truck and the boisterous turkeys!
That video just brings a smile to my face whenever I think about it!
Later this Spring we were treated to a tremendous field of wildflowers on the Kimber Park Open Space, which the turkeys reveled in. Since they use this property as a breeding area, they can be seen on it year round. Here’s a Kimber gobbler on his way into the wildflower field earlier this year.
Kimber Park Turkey struts on the Kimber Park Open Space
He went with a couple of his gal pals, escorting them about the meadow. He did keep an eye out for danger, as shown below.
Kimber Park Turkey Amongst Wildflowers
It looks like the turkeys are having a great 2012 in Kimber Park. 🙂
Sadly this is not true for the wildflower meadow, doomed to a short life this year. The owners of the property chopped them down and reduced the meadow to a field of dead brown stubble. In my opinion this is due to combination of causes: 1) a lack of management competence, which we see in general concerning all aspects of this property and 2) a desire to keep the property as visually uncompelling as possible, in an effort to justify development plans. This will be further explored in a future post.
If you don’t live in the neighborhood, you’re probably wondering what that cyclone fence and wildflower obliteration is all about. Real-estate speculators bought the property, fenced it and submitted plans to the City for houses to be built exactly where these videos and photos were taken. All this, even though the Property Title specifically prohibits any building on the property. The fence, which was illegal, was finally taken down with pressure from the City, but the battle by the neighbors to protect their community continues.