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From table salt to salt marsh

Birds are in the news again, but this time the news is good. In 2003, state and federal agencies purchased approximately 15,000 acres of South Bay salt ponds from Cargill Salt Company. One of the company's products is table salt. (In 1979, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established on active salt ponds owned by Cargill.) In contrast to the significantly negative effects of last month's oil spill on waterfowl in the Bay, the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project will provide expanded wildlife habitat in addition to wildlife viewing and recreational trails and flood protection. Recently, SF Chronicle reporter, Jane Kay, highlighted some of the restoration project actions. The map below provides an overview of pond property ownership; blue indicates California Fish and Game, green indicates US Fish and Wildlife, yellow indicates sale to local agencies, the remaining colors represent Cargill property rights. Visit the project web site for more comprehensive information. SOURCE: SOUTH BAY RESTORATION PROJECT WEB SITE One interesting feature of the web site is the interactive map. Using the map's thematic feature, you can view the nest and habitat areas of endangered/threatened species like the snowy plover and the clapper rail as well as colony sites of non-endangered species like Caspian tern, heron, and egret. This map is only one way to "see" the salt ponds. Other ways include walking around the salt ponds (you might need a permit), driving slowly across the Dumbarton Bridge, or chartering a small plane to fly over the ponds. Yet another way is to view the kite aerial photographs (KAP) of UC Berkeley professor of architecture, Charles C. Benton. I attended his talk titled "California's Wetlands from a Bird's Perspective" and was impressed by his equipment, the sites he has visited, and his photographs. If you are interested in building a KAP camera, Charles submitted instructions to Make magazine. As part of his wetland project, Charles has taken serial photographs of Meeker Creek, Pinole Creek, Baxter Creek, Hoffman Marsh, Cordonices Creek, Heron's Head Park, and the South Bay Salt Ponds. Charles' kite aerial photographs (KAP) can be viewed on Flickr. My favorite are wading bird tracks, harvesting salt, bush past prime, and shoreline detail. For more of Charles Benton's photographs, view the gallery hosted by the UC architecture department.