Craig Newmark’s List of Backyard Wildlife

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A male house sparrow is on Craig’s List of backyard wildlife (photo by Craig Newmark)
Like many other nonprofit and social media enthusiasts, I started following Craig Newmark on Facebook for his technological genius, witty commentary and dedication to philanthropy with craigconnects and other efforts.

Yet in between his eclectic posts like a link to an article titled, “Is This Virtual Worm the First Sign of the Singularity?,” his dedicated advocacy for veterans rights, and even answering customer questions for Craigslist (his official title reads Customer Service Representative & Founder), I started noticing a curious pattern.


Squirrels gathering at a birdbath or raiding a birdfeeder. Or the Mission Impossible-esque squirrel surveillance and reconnaissance video series, where Craig applies his high-tech skills to catch some undeniably cute home intruders red-handed. And his interest in squirrels is not cursory—last year he even announced his intent to create “A New Era of Squirrel Based Activism,” and initiated a #Squirrels4Good fundraising campaign for the National Wildlife Federation.

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We’re both self-described nerds (I post YouTube videos of backyard frogs while Craig is, well, Craig), so Mr. Newmark’s nerd stock rose even higher in my estimation when I began noticing his Scuiridae postings. Yes, I connected with a pioneer of the internet not over our common passion for open source systems or strategic web platforms but rather our shared adoration of these bushy tailed, backyard acrobats.

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Why the affection for squirrels? As Craig told me in a recent interview:

“Squirrels are survivors; they impressively adapt to the urban environment. My favorite encounters are caught on webcam, where I can see one very smart squirrel coming in to check things out. No interior video, but, well, after seeing the video, I see something to the right of my keyboard, and let’s say, well, that’s not a raisin.”

And it’s not just squirrels that might wander into Craig’s home and leave some mementos. Craig also regularly shares his photos capturing an array of other backyard wildlife. I’ve joked with him that his dwelling in San Francisco might contain more biodiversity than my rural home outside Yosemite. It’s almost a fair fight, he observes, as he does have the benefit of being located near urban greenspace. “I live in the Cole Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, in an odd side street that backs into Sutro Forest. Sutro Forest is an actual forest in the middle of the city, near Golden Gate Park. It’s large enough to have surprises, like a coyote sighting by two different people. It has hiking trails; I’ve been up there twice with the missus.”

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Rock doves (photo by Craig Newmark)
Although he has the advantage of living near greenspace, Craig also employs several strategies to promote his “mi casa es su casa” philosophy with the local wildlife. “We offer them jobs in technology, but lacking an opposable thumb, it’s hard for them to use a keyboard. Aside from that, we have a few bird feeders up and a coupla bird baths.”

Recently married, Craig’s wife Eileen shares his bird and squirrel watching enthusiasm and he gives her full credit on Facebook when she snags a life lister bird or snaps a photo. Craig’s roster of avian sightings in his backyard alone is impressive—42 species and counting as of May 2013—and he documents them in “Eileen and Craig’s Birdography Spectacular” online photo collection. If the technology thing ever fizzles, Craig could easily switch to wildlife photography as a profession.

Given the abundance of critters he sees, what are some of his most memorable encounters? “For me, maybe the first times I saw the most unexpected of birds, particularly hummingbirds, various raptors, and only twice, red-headed conures, a kind of wild parrot. For the missus, the times when a tree rat darted out from behind a plant pot, or maybe more recently when a pair of raccoons tried to break in.”

Anna's hummingbird in Craig's backyard, photo by Craig Newmark
Anna’s hummingbird in Craig’s backyard (photo by Craig Newmark)
Close-up of an Anna's hummingbird (Photo by Craig Newmark)
Close-up of an Anna’s hummingbird (Photo by Craig Newmark)

And what animals would he like to add to his wish list of backyard visitors? “I’d like to get a good sighting of the coyote, we could hang out and be pals, though Crosby the next door terrier wouldn’t be so keen about that.”

I’m guessing the squirrels might not like it as well.


A sharp shinned hawk considers his dinner prospects outside Craig's window (Photo by Craig Newmark)
A sharp shinned hawk considers his dinner prospects outside Craig’s window (Photo by Craig Newmark)

Want to make a difference for wildlife in your yard, schoolyard, church, business, neighborhood, or community? Check out the NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat® program.

Want some virtual squirrel fun? Check out the new Squirrel vs. Birdfeeder app from NWF.