Friday, 19 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell has announced up to 1,257 grantees will share $32 million in Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) grants.

Among the recipients are several local schools districts, receiving grants totaling more than $27,000.

"These grants help bridge the digital divide between the ‘have’ and ‘have-not’ students," said O’Connell. "All of our students, regardless of where they live or their parents’ income level, need to be prepared for today’s more global and technologically challenging economy. The appropriate use of technology in the classroom can be a critical component in students’ education and all students need access to technology."

The 1,257 grants represent both the formula and competitive portion of EETT that is funded through Title II, Part D of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

EETT is designed to assist every student in becoming technologically literate by the time they finish eighth grade, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, family income, geographic location, or disability.

Local districts receiving funds are Kelseyville Unified, $3,280; Konocti Unified, $12,580; Lake County International Charter, $277; Lake County Office of Education, $598; Lakeport Unified, $4,771; Lucerne Elementary, $718; Middletown Unified, $2,189; Upper Lake Union Elementary, $2,029; and Upper Lake Union High, $696.

In the original application for EETT funding, eligible grantees included those schools with the highest number of students from low-income families and had a substantial need for help in acquiring and using technology in the classroom.

Some of the funding must be used to provide ongoing, intensive, high-quality professional development in the integration of advanced and emerging technologies into curricula and instruction, and in using those technologies to create new learning environments.

All the applicants must have a technology plan approved by the California Department of Education that met the EETT and State Board of Education criteria.

As a result of these conditions, no application was needed for this round of funding and the California Department of Education automatically generated and mailed the grant award documents each year funding was available.

This round of funding represents a 45-percent decrease from the previous year and a 62-percent decrease over two years because of federal funding reductions in the No Child Left Behind program.

The grant awards range from a low of $8 to a high of $4 million, with almost half of the EETT Formula grants under $2,000.

The drastically reduced funding is anticipated to only help school districts maintain their status quo and may fail to help them make progress toward their technology plans. The EETT program is currently slated for elimination from the federal budget in fiscal year 2008-09.

"The possibility that the EETT program could be eliminated is disturbing in light of the obvious need for more technology in the classroom," O’Connell said. "I am urging Congress to reestablish EETT funding to the 2004-05 level.”

He added, “California schools have invested enormous time, energy, and resources into creating an infrastructure and learning environment for our students to use technology as a tool in the classrooms. This progress must be continued to best prepare our students for success in our competitive global economy."


Derik Navarro, 35, of Kelseyville. Photo courtesy


LAKEPORT – A week after his employment ended with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, a former deputy was arrested on felony charges of having sex with an underage girl and a misdemeanor charge involving a second minor female.

Derik Navarro, 35, of Kelseyville, faces a total of 18 felony counts and two misdemeanor counts of criminal wrongdoing, according to District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

In brief statements released Wednesday, Hopkins and Sheriff Rod Mitchell reported that Navarro had just been arrested that morning on charges of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, sodomy with a minor and having sex with a minor under age 16.

Hopkins said the arrest followed a lengthy investigation by his office into allegations of sexual misconduct while Navarro was still a deputy sheriff.

Mitchell reported that his command staff received information on Jan. 23 that led to an internal investigation into “allegations of misconduct” by Navarro.

“The matter was of such consequence that we asked Lake County District Attorney investigators to conduct a separate and independent criminal investigation,” Mitchell stated.

Navarro was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 23, said Mitchell, pending the internal investigation's outcome.

The majority of the charges against Navarro involve a female juvenile, said Hopkins. Navarro is alleged to have had a sexual relationship with the 14-year-old girl from May 2005 through May 2006, after she had turned 15.

The complaint against Navarro also includes one misdemeanor charge stemming from his alleged involvement with a second female juvenile, Hopkins reported.


None of the alleged crimes took place while Navarro was on duty as a sheriff's deputy, Mitchell said.


Navarro joined LCSO in December 2002. Last week, on April 11, Navarro's employment with LCSO ended, Mitchell reported.

Chief DA Investigator Michael Clements arrested Navarro Wednesday on a felony arrest warrant issued by Superior Court Judge Richard Martin.

Navarro was booked into the Lake County Jail, with bail set at $20,000. A court appearance has been scheduled for April 20.

Mitchell thanked the District Attorney's Office for taking the lead in the investigation. “The DA's investigators' willingness to handle the criminal investigation into this matter allowed my staff to promptly focus on their administrative duties,” he said.

Mitchell said his department would release no other information on the matter. Instead, he deferred any other comment on the case to the District Attorney's Office, saying that state law prohibits him from “disclosing details of matters pertaining to personnel investigations and/or employee discipline.”

In an unusual footnote, last year Navarro was honored by the Lake Family Resource Center as Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for his work on domestic violence cases.

Hopkins asks anyone with information about the case to contact Chief DA Investigator Michael Clements or Deputy District Attorney John R. DeChaine, 263-2251.

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Cal Fire crews clear brush near the Black Forest. Photo by Joel Witherell.


BLACK FOREST – On Monday two Cal Fire work crews arrived to begin clearing dead trees and limbs along Soda Bay Road between Golf and Little Borax Road in preparation for a Bureau of Land Management-sponsored community participation on Earth Day, Saturday, April 21.

According to Pat Beedle, a nearby resident, volunteer for the Kelseyville Kids garden, avid golfer, and general advocate of the environment, "It is a about time.”

Beedle, who doesn't mince words, is loaning her golf cart to help distribute water and supplies. "That is the least I can do," Beedle said.

Rich Burns of BLM's Ukiah field office, who lives in Upper Lake, said the activities in the Black Forest this week are part of a fire prevention project. Brush, fallen trees and low limbs will be removed along a one-mile section of the forest bordering Soda Bay Road. That, he said, is meant to reduce the fuel load, or materials likely to burn in the event of a forest fire.

Burns is bringing his family and some staff members to help on Saturday.


On Wednesday and Thursday, Carle High School students along with their principal, Bill MacDougall, will arrive to move the materials cut by Cal Fire to a staging area, prepared by volunteer Bob Braito, at Golf Road and Soda Bay.

Local pastor Wayne Scott will hook up a trailer and will help the Carle students bring branches to be chipped (and logs to be given away) to the Golf Road "staging area."

On Saturday Ray Mostin and Adam Nichols will bring their chippers to begin reducing the limbs to chips. The chips will be available to the public at the Golf Road staging area. Logs for next year's winter fires also will be stacked there for anyone interested.


Soda Bay Road will be closed from 7 a.m. to noon Saturday, from Little Borax to Crystal. Volunteers will gather at 8 a.m. at Soda Bay and Little Borax Road or near Madrone and Soda Bay to clear fuel back 100 feet from the road. Small trees will be removed and limbs trimmed up to 10 feet high.

These materials will be placed next to Soda Bay Road for the chipper operators to collect. The chips will be stored at the Golf Road staging area for the community to use in their gardens. Students from both Kelseyville High, Clear Lake High as well as Kelseyville Kids Garden and Riviera Elementary plan to help.


When the volunteers are exhausted, they will be treated to a pizza, salad and dessert lunch, at the Buckingham Clubhouse organized by Julie Berry, Buckingham Homes Association manager. The pizzas are being donated by DJ's piazza and Bruno's Market is providing drinks and desserts. Alhambra water is donating bottled water.

The estimated participation is between 75 and 100 on Saturday.

Volunteers can still join by calling Julie Berry at 279-0829 or Joel Witherell at 279-1124.

Volunteer, the pay is great.


Cal Fire trucks parked along Soda Bay Road on Monday. Photo by Joel Witherell.



LAKE PILLSBURY – Small earthquakes have continued to shake the Lake Pillsbury area in the wake of a 4.8 quake that hit the area early Wednesday morning.

The US Geological Survey reported that eight more small earthquakes occurred throughout the day Thursday, the largest a 2.2 magnitude.

The microquakes were centered 8 to 9 nine miles west northwest of Lake Pillsbury, the location of the 4.8 quake, the US Geological Survey reported.

Late Wednesday, a 3.3 and a 2.9 hit Pillsbury along the same epicenter, according to US Geological Survey records.

In total, there have been 49 quakes at the Pillsbury area since Wednesday.

Seismologist David Oppenheimer of the US Geological Survey said the fault along which the large quakes are occurring does not have a name and not much is known about it.

Until faults break to the surface, it's hard to study them or know their exact locations and sizes, Oppenheimer said. A fault's length helps determine the size of its earthquakes, he added.

He said this week it's unlikely the unnamed fault would produce the kinds of quakes found along larger faults, like the San Andreas and Calaveras.

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LAKE PILLSBURY On the 101st anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake, a 4.8 quake shook the Lake Pillsbury area.

The quake hit at 1:42 a.m. on Wednesday morning with 17 aftershocks ranging up to 2.0 as of 6:45 a.m., according to the US Geological Survey.


Nine more aftershocks bringing the total to 26 – hit throughout the early afternoon, the USGS reported.

Originally, USGS had ranked the quake as a 5.0, but scaled it back to a 4.8 by mid-morning.

The epicenter of the quake occurred in the increasing seismic area of between the Maacama fault zone and the Bartlett Springs fault 9 miles west of Lake Pillsbury in Northern Lake County.

The depth of the temblor was 3.8 miles.

Lake County News reported earlier this week that a 3.1 quake had hit the Pillsbury area Sunday morning, near the epicenter of Wednesday's quake.

Lake and Mendocino county residents from Covelo to Ft. Bragg, Clear Lake Oaks to Cloverdale reported feeling a light to moderate shaking.

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LAKE PILLSBURY – A 3.1 earthquake shook the Lake Pillsbury area Sunday morning.

The US Geological Survey reported the quake took place at 7:27 a.m.

The temblor's epicenter was 9 miles west north west of Lake Pillsbury at a depth of 2 miles.

A second quake occurred at 7:53 a.m., its epicenter in the same location as the first, with its depth at 2.5 miles, the US Geological Survey reported.

There has appeared to be an increase in seismic activity in the Lake Pillsbury area in recent weeks, according to US Geological Survey records.

On April 11, two microearthquakes were recorded at the same epicenter as Sunday's quakes. The first, measuring 2.4, occurred at 6:20 p.m. at a depth of 2.1 miles. The second, smaller quake, measuring 1.7, took place at 7:28 p.m. at a depth of 1.6 miles. A small quake registering 1.6 was recorded in the same area near Pillsbury on April 6.

Much of the county's seismic activity remains centered around The Geysers, Anderson Springs and Cobb.

In the past week, 30 small earthquakes have been recorded in those areas, the largest – a 2.7 quake four miles west north west of The Geysers – occurring at 5:23 p.m. Sunday, the US Geological Survey reported.

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LAKE PILLSBURY – A 4.8 quake that shook residents of the Lake Pillsbury area awake early Wednesday morning was the area's largest quake since 1977, according to a seismologist.

The earthquake was recorded at 1:42 a.m. by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The series of almost 40 aftershocks that followed the quake included a sizable 3.3 magnitude temblor that occurred at 8:52 p.m. Wednesday.

David Oppenheimer, a seismologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, said the last time there was an earthquake above magnitude 4.5 in the Lake Pillsbury area was Nov. 22, 1977.

That quake, he said, happened nine miles southwest of the lake, rather than nine miles west northwest, the area where Wednesday's quake was centered.

Area residents said they definitely felt it when it happened.

“It just about knocked us out of bed,” said Soda Creek Store owner Nick Uram.

Despite the early morning shaker's magnitude, Uram said items weren't knocked off the shelves at his store, although his home on Lake Pillsbury Ranch was shaken up “pretty good.”

No one coming into his store Wednesday reported any damage, Uram said.

Dixie Offt of Lake Pillsbury Resort & Marina said the resort's full-time caretaker was awakened moments before the quake by his cat.

The caretaker checked the water lines, cabins and marina for the resort – which will open for the season on Memorial Day – and found everything to be all right, said Offt. “We sustained no damage.”

As for the lake and its dams, they also escaped damage, according to David Eisenhauer, a spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric, which oversees Lake Pillsbury.

As soon as the earthquake occurred, Eisenhauer said, PG&E staff inspected both Cape Horn and Scotts dams and found no problems.

“We're keeping a close eye on all of our facilities up there, but so far everything is looking sturdy,” said Eisenhauer.

Oppenheimer said there is a “persistent band of seismicity” that goes through Lake Pillsbury.

“It's a bit unusual to see behavior like what's happened with this earthquake,” he said.

Particularly unusual, said Oppenheimer, was the quake's aftershock sequence, with nearly 40 smaller quakes occurring throughout the day.

“We don't know exactly why some earthquakes have robust aftershock sequences and others don't,” he said.

An earthquake's behavior is influenced by a variety of factors, said Oppenheimer, including rock type or fluid pressure in the fault zone.

Serpentine, a common rock found in the state's coastal ranges, tends to be associated with faults that creep a lot and have larges number of small earthquakes, said Oppenheimer. “So maybe there's some serpentine in this fault zone.”

Oppenheimer explained that strain in the earth's crush is released through the state's larger faults – such as the San Andreas and Calaveras. The larger faults account for up to 90 percent of overall plate motion. Oppenheimer said the size of an earthquake tends to correlate to the total length of the fault.

Along with those major quakes, there are secondary and tertiary faults, and there are enough of them that seismologists don't even know where they all are because the smaller faults don't break through to the surface.

Such is the case with the fault along which Wednesday's quake took place. There are no mapped faults for the quake's epicenter, Oppenheimer said. “We don't know about these faults until they pop off.”

It's also hard to guess just how big of a quake could ultimately occur there, although this week's quake could be at the fault's upper limits, he added.

“It's not a major player in releasing strain in California,” Oppenheimer said. “Those are the ones that do come to the surface, like the San Andreas fault.”

There are other named faults in that area, said Oppenheimer, such as the Maacama fault. As to concerns about the aftershocks triggering a quake from that fault, Oppenheimer said the probability is “exceedingly low.”

For people worrying about “the big one,” Oppenheimer says it's doubtful that it would occur on the unnamed fault.

“The big one, if you're a seismologist, is a repeat of the 1906 earthquake,” he said, referring to the massive 7.8 earthquake that occurred along the San Andreas fault near San Francisco 101 years ago Wednesday.

Oppenheimer said scientists are learning all the time about the state's seismicity.

“We don't have a very complete picture of earthquake activity in California,” he said. Monitoring only began in the 1930s, reaching current standards in the 1970s.

Seismic activity isn't organized, he said, with some faults not showing activity for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years.

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LAKEPORT – BoardStock has another chance to call Lakeport home this summer, with the City Council voting Tuesday night to invite the community to come and discuss the event coming to town in late September.

BoardStock promoter Rob Stimmel asked the city earlier this month to reconsider allowing the event to take place in and around Library Park, either Sept. 19-23 or Sept. 26-30.

About 20 people came to hear the discussion, which took place toward the end of Tuesday's meeting.

The council didn't invite public comment, however, saying that they would do so at a May 1 workshop.

At the discussion's onset, Councilman Ron Bertsch said he was against reconsidering the issue.

Mayor Roy Parmentier, who has been against the event coming to Lakeport, said, "If we put it on, we're going to get paid for our police and fire department."

Parmentier had said previously he told Stimmel that he would need to pay upfront for the city's emergency services.

If BoardStock isn't based in Lakeport, Parmentier said he's concerned Konocti Vista Casino may host the event, in which case the city will have the same problems but no extra money to pay for police and fire.

Councilman Buzz Bruns said the lake is low, and is likely to be shallow and filled with weeds during the proposed dates in late September. If visitors see the lake that way, he said, they're likely to come away with a bad impression.

BoardStock would be better held earlier in the season, such as June, Bruns suggested.

Councilman Bob Rumfelt said when he made the motion against BoardStock at the March 20 meeting, it was based on the proposal that the city host the event. This latest plan, said Rumfelt, has Stimmel listed as the event's host.

Despite their concerns, Bruns made a motion to discuss the event, with Rumfelt seconding. The council voted 4-1 to hold a discussion, with Bertsch voting no.

Bruns reiterated his belief that the county and city could suffer “a slap in the face” if the lake wasn't at its best in September. “If we had a high lake like we did last year we would have a shot at it.”

For his part, Parmentier said he thinks June is too soon to hold BoardStock.

Responding to concerns about water quality, Stimmel said, “The reality of it is, if we're talking about the quality of the water, unless it's unfit for someone to be in the water, it's not an issue.”

When the event was in Stockton, they had issues with green water, but it didn't bother the competitors or for the television coverage, Stimmel reported.

Stimmel said he couldn't be ready to hold BoardStock by June or August.

“In the past, we had been a September event," he said, with the event held during what he called “the shoulder season.”

Rumfelt asked about the minimum water depth needed for the competition. Stimmel said 4 feet, with the average depth ranging between 4 and 8 feet.

“We want our lake to look good,” said Bruns.

Parmentier asked other council members for their thoughts.

“I just don't see what's changed," said Bertsch, who said the use of city staff time was a primary reason for turning down the previous proposal.

Bruns said he didn't want to see the park fenced and the city having to collect money during the event.

Parmentier reiterated his concern that if the city doesn't allow BoardStock in, Konocti Vista will host it.

Stimmel told the council that the September dates will reduce attendance by 20 to 25 percent, which Parmentier agreed will remove a problem element.

The discussion's result was that the council voted 4-1 – with Bertsch once more voting no – to schedule a May 1 public meeting where they'll hear what the community thinks about having BoardStock in the city at a different time. Until then, negotiations between Stimmel and the city will continue.

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Erik Harms works on the osprey nest from a PG&E truck's bucket. Photo by Judy Barnes.

CLEARLAKE OAKS – It all started a couple years ago when I noticed some ospreys (large fish hawks with wing spans of 54 inches) building a nest on the cross arms of a Pacific Gas &Electric power pole in our neighborhood on Widgeon Way.

I had seen bird platforms put up near power poles in other locations around the lake so I thought I could just call PG&E, explain the situation and get a platform put up. What happened was a crew came out that day, but they just knocked down the nest and left.

What I didn’t know is that the nests can cause power outages, fires, and even death to the birds when their nesting materials span two or more lines and the nest gets wet in the rain.

This year the ospreys were back and I decided to go higher up in the PG&E hierarchy. After a few phone calls by me I received a call back from Rick Trimble, Clearlake PG&E electric supervisor. He came out to my house that day to look at the nest in progress and promised to do what he could to help solve the problem.

True to his promise, he and his crew – Erik Harms, electric crew foreman and lineman Gerardo Pena (a.k.a. “Bird Man”) – were on the scene Thursday morning, April 12, with a nesting platform built by Bird Man the evening before to mount on an existing PG&E guy pole in the vicinity. The result is pictured.

Contrary to what I and some others may have thought, many of PG&E’s electrical crews do care about birds. They may even have a passion for them – enough so to dedicate their own unpaid time to helping find solutions to nests on power lines.

Harms told me that they often transport osprey eggs from nests that have to be removed to Lake County Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Loch Lomond for incubation. Now that is dedication!

Judy Barnes lives in Clearlake Oaks.


From left to right are PG&E Electric Supervisor Rick Trimble, Electric Crew Foreman Erik Harms and Gerardo Pena, a PG&E lineman called

LAKEPORT – Will BoardStock take place in Lakeport this September? The question was opened once more at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, but the event organizer says he now has an offer from Konocti Vista Casino to host the event.

Rob Stimmel of BoardStock Promotions has been trying to find a new home for his event since mid-February, when Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa said the event wouldn't be welcomed back for a third year.

Stimmel said the reason cited at the time was a concern about the resort losing its alcohol license, an issue that Stimmel maintains is less about his event and more about the resort's security operations.

Not long after that decision, Stimmel and Ron Campos of Campos Casuals approached the City of Lakeport to ask that BoardStock be hosted there.

Talks continued for about a month before the City Council voted on March 20 to decline hosting the August event.

Stimmel went back to the council Tuesday to ask them to reconsider. The council voted to do just that, and to have a May 1 public hearing. But the council once again voiced numerous concerns about BoardStock, and showed little enthusiasm about seeing the event come to town.

“It wasn't bad but it wasn't good,” said Stimmel Wednesday of the previous night's meeting.

Stimmel said he had expected more of a public workshop at Tuesday's meeting. Instead, the council limited discussion to its members, setting the public meeting for another two weeks out.

The original August dates for the event aren't workable now, said Stimmel, and he's instead asking the city to consider the third or fourth weekend of September. That date change already has lost him some event sponsors, he said.

“I'm really at a point of critical mass,” Stimmel said. “I have to make a decision really quick about where I'm going to go and what I'm going to do.”

Enter Konocti Vista. Stimmel said he's been talking with the casino for several weeks about holding the event there.

Having the event go to Konocti Vista was a concern Mayor Roy Parmentier voiced at Tuesday night's meeting.

If BoardStock was based in Lakeport, said Parmentier, they could require Stimmel to pay upfront for police and emergency services. That wouldn't be possible if it went somewhere else nearby, he said.

That may well be what ends up happening with BoardStock, said Stimmel.

On Wednesday, Stimmel said Konocti Vista “handed me a contract today.”

The casino, he said, is asking for a few stipulations, one of them being that if they reach an agreement to host the event, that Stimmel must commit to stay there and not to pull out should the city decide to welcome him.

“They pretty well want me locked in,” Stimmel said, on either of the September weekends he's already suggesting.

Stimmel said he's going to go over the Konocti Vista contract with his attorney before making any decision.

Where is he inclined to go? Stimmel isn't sure.

“I honestly don't know what I'm going to do,” said Stimmel, noting there are benefits for both locations.

While downtown Lakeport would look great on television, the lake near Konocti Vista might end up being better for event competitors, Stimmel said.

“If my attorney tells me that this is all good and I should go forward with the deal with Konocti Vista, I would probably do that,” he said.

Stimmel said he's still considering whether to continue discussions with Lakeport's city staff and council.

“I can't really afford to wait another two weeks and then have the council vote it down again,” Stimmel said.

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Sgt. Michael Walters visits with some of his pen pals at Kelseyville Elementary on Tuesday. Photo by Ginny Craven.


KELSEYVILLE April 17th was a very special day in the lives of Kelseyville third graders.

The young patriots have been writing letters to our troops to be included in care packages sent to Iraq by Operation Tango Mike. In the course of letter writing, the third graders became pen pals with Sgt. Michael Walters, an eight-year Army veteran.

The 80 third graders assembled to meet with me under the guise of discussing their next effort for care packages for our troops. I asked them to close their eyes and think of the most important thing they would say or ask in their next communication with Sgt. Walters.

While they concentrated, Sgt. Walters entered from the back of the room and joined me front and center. When the children opened their eyes, they were astonished to see their soldier pen pal from Iraq standing before them. There was a collective gasp in the room!

Sgt. Walters hosted a question-and-answer session with his excited little friends. The children were delighted to learn that he enjoys video games and his favorite food is pizza.

The professional young sergeant answered every question asked, emphasized the importance of staying in school and getting an education, and thanked the children for their support and letters.

The visit ended as the students left the room, shaking hands with and thanking their soldier friend for his visit. More than a few of the youngsters were inclined to hug their real life hero.

Sgt. Walters is enjoying 15 days' leave before he will return to Iraq to complete another nine months in his tour of duty there. Home for the military man is Corona.

His visit to Lake County was no small undertaking. This young man made the nine-hour trek on Monday with his fiancée, Cassandra, and his parents. They arrived at the Lakeport English Inn at 8 p.m., where they were greeted with a reception from Operation Tango Mike volunteers and proprietor Karan Mackey.

The gathering served as a welcoming and a wedding shower as Michael and Cassandra will be married on Saturday.

Sgt. Walters and his family departed Lake County with a feeling of deep gratitude. They were grateful for the support Michael has received while deployed and they were appreciative of the warmth and generosity of Lake County residents.



Walters, his parents and fiancee, Cassandra, drove nine hours to visit with the children. Photo by Ginny Craven.


A nuthatch perched on a log. Photo by Ian Markham.


“Whi-Whi-Whi!” the agitated trilling, followed by the vehement hammering of a tiny beak, jolted me from my near-comatose stupor. I yanked my eyes from their vacant staring at the math book in front of me to discover the source of that startling noise which had erupted from just above my head.

Instinctively brushing aside my books and reaching for my camera, I turned and followed the tiny shower of bark that alighted upon my head to find myself face-to-face with a jittery and insolent little bird. It became abundantly clear in that brief period as we blinked at each other in bewilderment that the little nuthatch had chosen this precise moment to dislodge her prize from the tree branch above me, and was offended by my intrusion into what she undoubtedly saw as more meaningful work.

In one deliberate motion I leveled the camera at my harasser and broke my gaze for just a moment to peer down into the viewfinder. “NOOOO!” a voice inside of me screamed as I realized I had done it again. Rather than finding the beautiful image I had meant to capture, my eyes were greeted by the abysmal darkness of the inside of my lens cap.

By the time I had looked up and removed the cover, the little bird was flitting triumphantly across Lake Solano, taunting me audibly around the hefty seed lodged in its bill. I couldn’t resist. The bird had vanquished all hope of returning to my neglected math homework so I grabbed my binoculars and prepared for pursuit.

This marked the end of yet another misguided attempt to multi-task and study for a math test in the great outdoors, but was the beginning of a chase that resulted in my eventually getting the picture of the nuthatch, with a bonus opportunity to watch a red-shouldered hawk devour a red-shafted flicker.

So what’s it like to be a young naturalist these days balancing the commitments of high school with a commitment to nature? With fistfuls of anecdotes like this to draw from, you can probably see why I’d answer the question offhand with the curt response, “frustrating!”

In a life burdened with innumerable obligations, constantly torn between finishing homework, studying for tests, preparing for SATs, researching colleges, carousing with friends and running to rugby practice, at times it seems scarcely possible to pay homage to my true passion.

My frequent attempts to enjoy Mother Nature in convenient conjunction with other necessary tasks like rushing through the Yolo Basin on the way to rugby in Sacramento or heading down to Lake Solano to study for an impending math test most often end fruitlessly. You can only enjoy yourself so much with deadlines nipping at your heels and distracted study time is often more harm than help. So why do it then? Why make the sacrifices to scrape together a few hours and go hiking every other weekend?

In truth, there was a time I had no answer for these questions and that bit of my life withered and wasted away with neglect. I ignored my impulses to escape into nature and they became muffled in the back of my mind. Yet, inevitably, I suffered for that denial of my true self. My mind became fraught with a listless urge to escape and get away. Finally I did.

I fled school for a summer abroad in the jungles of Southeastern Peru researching rain forest fish beside my brother, and was overawed by those wonders we found. I lived, for two months, a blissful life exploring the amazing intricacies of Amazonian ecology and was reinvigorated by the experience. I had found the contentment that had so often eluded me, and as the summer came to a close I refused to let it dissipate.

Seizing upon the spark of ornithological fascination I had acquired in one of the best birding hot spots in the world, I kindled it into a fully-fledged love of bird watching to bring home with me. Upon arrival in San Francisco, I bought myself a copy of The Sibley Field Guide to Birds and began to fervently familiarize myself with those creatures whom I had ignored most my life but had now resolved to befriend.

Soon I was hopelessly hooked, dashing about between the many spectacular natural areas in our region from the Yolo Basin to Grey Lodge Wildlife Refuge, from trails high up Cache Creek to the Stebbin’s Cold Canyon reserve below Monticello Dam in pursuit of my feathered friends. Stalking about with camera and binoculars I became intimately acquainted with the land’s winged residents.

Even the onset of school couldn’t stop my expeditions to the beautiful wildlife habitats of the region. I discovered that I simply couldn’t deny the important facet of my life which exploring nature has always been. I realized that it was television shows and lethargy that could be sacrificed to make room for better entertainment and more soothing relaxation.

My hikes, birding expeditions, and even my simple sorties about my own country property have yielded a consummate satisfaction without parallel. While they do add extra time commitments to an already full schedule, their cathartic influence more than makes up for lost time by boosting my productivity.

The only real burden that my nature going has placed on my life remains the sadness I feel when reflecting on how few of my peers appear to share my same love. Or maybe, like me, it is in them waiting to be discovered.

But I’ve never been one to wallow. I’m taking the torch and attempting to pass on my love of the natural world to anyone I can. In my school’s environmental club I am spearheading the movement to make regular club field trips to wildlife areas and I try to volunteer with the Yolo Audubon Society’s Education program for school kids in Esparto, when I can.

For those of you who already share my passion, I encourage you to do what you can to pass it on. For those of you who don’t, I suggest giving it a try. The wonders of the natural world have brought me an endless source of entertainment and satisfaction as I have never known before, and they are right here in front of our faces.

Ian Markham is a Yolo County resident and a Junior at Christian Brothers High School. He frequently enjoys the Cache Creek area. Tuleyome Tales is made possible by Tuleyome, a nonprofit working to protect both our wild heritage and our agricultural heritage for future generations. Visit them online at



A red shouldered hawk devours a flicker. Photo by Ian Markham.




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