by Jen Stanfield
Sonoma Land Trust and Pathways for Wildlife staff placed infrared cameras along major rural roads in southern Sonoma County last summer to monitor underpass and culvert use by animals. We expected to leave the cameras in place for one year. However, we have recently experienced our first truly wet season since the wildlife corridor studies began several years ago, and it soon became clear that monitoring and maintenance for the cameras would be a wholly different experience from our past study.
by Kyle Pinjuv
Hiking season has arrived in Sonoma County. In fact, every season is hiking season in Sonoma County —we are lucky in that way! But hiking season also means tick season, and every season is tick season in Sonoma County. We are unlucky in that way. Our county is home to a variety of tick species, and knowing how to identify them, their behavior and how to deal with them is very important for your short and long-term health. Sounds dramatic, I know, but as a vector species, these small arthropods can transmit a number of diseases to their hosts (hosts being Sonoma County hikers, bikers, our pets, and others). Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, tularemia, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are among the diseases that can be transmitted from a single tick bite, Lyme disease being the most common.
Ticks are often found hanging on the edge of a blade of grass, front legs outstretched, waiting for a host to walk by and brush against them so they can grab hold. At this point, they will begin their journey up and over your clothing, or an animal’s fur, until they find a suitable place to dig in for a meal. For humans, that place is usually at the interface between clothing and skin. Your sock lines, belt lines or collars are all common places for tick attachment. It is a misconception that ticks fall from trees or that they can jump onto their hosts. In actuality, if you find them on your neckline or scalp, they likely made a long journey from your boots or pants cuffs. Tucking the cuffs of your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants can help keep ticks from finding bare skin.
by Shanti Edwards
After my last blog post about the cultural landscape of Little Black Mountain, I’d like to share some of the rich stories from the homesteading era of Cazadero, collected by Leslie Smirnoff, a former SSU graduate student. Leslie surveyed and recorded the property’s cultural sites, sifted through county records and historic maps, and interviewed neighbors to produce a “cultural resources management plan” for Little Black Mountain. The document chronicles the prehistory and history of the landscape and provides recommendations for the safekeeping of culturally sensitive areas. Based on this document and other stories shared by neighbors, here is a brief history of the Cazadero area and Little Black Mountain.
The forced relocation of Kashia Pomo from their ancestral lands on the Sonoma Coast — and a burgeoning era of European immigrant homesteading, ranching and logging — left its mark on the hills surrounding Cazadero. The post-gold rush era of Sonoma County history is characterized as a time of increased homesteading settlements into rural areas by European immigrants who engaged in farming, ranching, logging, the tourism industry and other related trades. Nearly the entire area was settled by 1897. By 1908, all land had been claimed.
Cazadero was initially called Austin when a post office was established in 1881. In 1886, the North Coast Pacific Railroad established a spur running from Duncan’s Mills along Austin Creek to the town, enabling the expansion of the lumber industry and tourism economy. In the early 1880s, Silas Ingram established a resort, and in 1886, the town was renamed Ingram’s after the resort. The bustling resort town and two-story hotel was subsequently re-named Cazadero (Spanish for “the hunting place”).
by Trevor George
As we all know, Sonoma County has recently endured severe rainstorms. We’ve seen serious impacts from these storms on our roads, yards, homes, and more. After events like these, stewardship staff take stock of the infrastructure and natural resources on our preserves. While inspecting Laufenburg Ranch, I came across a portion of Bidwell Creek that, from afar, looked to be missing trees. I walked toward the creek and found this:
by Corby Hines
Much can be observed from a shoreline, especially with a good set of binoculars. From the levee at Sears Point, I’ve seen long-billed curlews probing in the mudflats, harbor seals cruising the deeper channels with noses and eyes just above the surface, and even a bald eagle perched on a marsh mound. Although there’s a lot to see from the shoreline, if you want to truly experience the habitat, you need to get in the habitat. There is no better way to fully experience the tidal march at Sears Point than in a kayak.
From time immemorial, people have been plying the waters in our region with kayak-like boats. The Coast Miwok and Pomo lashed tule reeds together to make elegant boats with which they navigated local waterways. In the early 1800s, the Russians brought Aleut hunters and their sealskin kayaks to hunt sea otters along the coast. And today, kayaks are readily available in all shapes and sizes, allowing people to explore every manner of watery habitat.
Although I’ve witnessed some special moments from the shoreline at Sears Point, you can only see a fraction of what’s going on from the edge of the habitat. It wasn’t until I got in the water that I actually got a feel for the place. Moving at paddle speed seems like the natural pace to take it all in. Birds remain calm and continue feeding as you float by, much closer than they would be if you were stuck on land. It’s one thing to observe the bay’s tide surging through the levee breach while standing safely on solid ground, but to feel the power of the tide’s pull from in the water is quite another. Seals, skittish on land, are curious in the relative safety of the water, and that fleeting glimpse of a seal from shore can turn into a delightful show as the seal performs underwater acrobatics observable from your ringside seat in the belly of a boat. At nearly 1,000 acres, the marsh is a big place, and all of it is accessible by kayak.
by Julian Meisler
After Jen Stanfield’s excellent blog post two weeks ago about Bee Gate, I’ll continue with another bee-centered story.
Chances are that, if you are reading this, you are aware that honeybees face global declines from a variety of causes. While the disturbing losses attributed to colony collapse disorder (CCD) seem to have abated somewhat, colony failure in the U.S. was still over 40 percent in 2014−2015. Beekeepers consider losses above 18.7 percent to be economically unviable.
It is true that European honeybees are not native — but, without them, we’d be in a heap of trouble. That is why the lesson I learned at Sears Point several years ago has remained poignant.
by Tom Robinson
Consider this a thank-you note to the people who have protected much of the Highway 101 corridor between Sonoma and Marin Counties from development. A job change early last year has me commuting by bus along this stretch and I've come to cherish every patch of non-urban land along the way. As a land conservation planner, this journey has become a daily source of inspiration.
My passion is to protect land from development so that natural ecosystems can function and provide habitat for wildlife and food, clean water and places to be in nature for people. When I look up from my laptop and out the bus window and see a white-tailed kite hovering over the Petaluma Marsh, black-tailed deer foraging on the slopes of Mount Burdell or a herd of Holsteins grazing in the San Antonio Creek Valley, I feel rooted in my work.
At the Bay Area Open Space Council, located in Berkeley, I spend a lot of time in the abstract mapping world where the landscape is depicted as a collection of polygons representing things like woodlands, grasslands, croplands, developed areas and roads. This information is necessary for figuring out where to prioritize conservation. But, at the same time, these abstractions leave out reality — the action happening within those data.
Passion for protecting nature emerges from our experiences with nature — overturning a rock and discovering a salamander, reeling in a trout, making a wildflower press. Our relationship to nature is not about maps. Indeed, too much time spent in the abstract mapping world (or in an office, for that matter) can leave a person feeling disconnected from inspiring on-the-ground realities.
Is a bus ride through open space the same as being on the ground? No, but it’s turned out to be a heck of a lot more grounding than I ever would have thought possible. Starting out in Santa Rosa, you see Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve rising above the retail stores of Santa Rosa Avenue. Then, coming down into the Petaluma Valley, the dairies and ranches stretching to the Western Petaluma hills spread out before you. South of Petaluma, all the way to Novato, is a string of protected lands: Shollenberger Park, the Yee conservation easement, the Petaluma Marsh (the largest remaining natural tidal brackish marsh in California), Mt. Burdell, protected by Olompali State Park on the north and a Marin County Open Space District park on the south, and Rush Creek Open Space Preserve. Even on the urban Highway 101 corridor in Marin, open space is everywhere. It reminds me of what those polygons represent — living creatures and plants and unending ecological processes that keep the whole thing thriving.
by Jen Stanfield
Many of you know that Sonoma Land Trust properties often include infrastructure — like roads, buildings and fences — in addition to beautiful and important natural resources. Occasionally, Land Trust staff must turn their attention to maintaining the built environment on our preserves. One such opportunity arose last year at our beloved Glen Oaks Ranch when the septic leach lines serving the ranch house failed. After the telltale burbling inside the house and a definitive diagnosis by a plumbing professional, we embarked on the task of fixing it.
I could expound here on the process of septic repair. I could describe the waiting room fittings of the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management department, the surprising amount and variation of paper sizes involved in septic design and permitting, or the minimum length requirements for leach lines serving a 2 bedroom, 1 bath bungalow, but I sincerely doubt that information is what brought you to our blog. So I’ll restrain myself.
But why do I bring it up here, only to follow with “nah, not interesting”? Well, my friend, the answer is … BEES!
by Bob Neale
What a year! As we enter the season of hope and renewal — the end of one year and the beginning of the next — I’m spending too much time reading the news.
The news isn’t great. Our animals are disappearing — giraffes and coho and lions and fishers. Climate change is all around us — we see it in the weather and in the tides. Political systems seem stretched beyond capacity around the world. It’s a distressing way to enter the season of hope and joy.
I read all this and put down my iPhone feeling powerless and glum. My dog gives a tail wag and I grab my coat and head outside. The sky is clearing from this welcome rain and a little sunlight shines through the yellow leaves of a maple tree. Walking towards the park, I wave to a neighbor, smile, check the creek running under the bridge — any steelhead? And I walk. Walking through the oak woodlands has been my tonic for years. The fresh rain smell wafts around me, my step lightens, Abbie the dog runs after the ball. By the end of my walk, my disposition had greatly improved. I was chilled on my cheeks and nose, but warm in my heart.
I felt better. Nature makes me feel better. I’m so grateful to live here in Northern California surrounded by the spectacular drama of nature, grateful to be living and working in communities that appreciate the natural world. That gives me courage, gives me hope, and helps remind me not to give up or give in.
by Nicole Na
If you’re familiar with Sonoma Land Trust, you’ve probably heard of our work to protect the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor, a band of habitat linking the Marin Coast to the Blue Ridge-Berryessa region in eastern Napa County and only three-quarters of a mile wide in some parts. This narrow strip of land is critically important. It serves as cover, easy passage, a source of food and water, and breeding habitat for Sonoma Valley’s wildlife — including mountain lions.
Mountain lions aren’t just cool to look at — they play an indispensable role in maintaining the biodiversity and stability of the Sonoma Valley ecosystem. The health of a mountain lion population can also give us insights on how wildlife in general can move between habitat areas as they need large ranges (anywhere from 10 to 370 square miles!) to survive — and if a mountain lion can survive in fragmented habitats, perhaps other species can too.
That’s why we’re a funding partner in Audubon Canyon Ranch’s ACR Mountain Lion Project, a research effort that involves the collaring of mountain lions in the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor and the Mayacamas Mountains to the north. The collars gather GPS data points, which tell researchers about the animals’ behavioral patterns, including movement and feeding.
The first subject of the project, a female mountain lion dubbed P1 (for Puma 1), was captured the night of October 5 in a trap filled with roadkill on the grounds of our Glen Oaks Ranch. The humanely designed traps equipped with transmitters allow researchers to reach the lion as soon as possible to minimize stress. The research team reached the lion within 10 minutes, sedated her and fitted her with the GPS collar, and collected some biological samples (later analyzed at UC Davis). An hour later, the lion was moved to another location and walked away elsewhere on the property.
P2, the one-year-old daughter of P1, was captured and collared near Annadel State Park on November 13 and released at the capture site.
Both lions were in great health. P1 is between 8 and 10 years old, weighs about 96 pounds and is 6 feet from head to tail. P2, a juvenile, weighs 70 pounds.
The importance of this work will have far-reaching impacts. ”This project is going to yield invaluable data for conservation efforts, not just locally, but throughout California,” said ACR executive director John Petersen to the Press Democrat — and we’re proud of the role Sonoma Land Trust in playing in saving the habitat that these lions call home.
Sources: Audubon Canyon Ranch
To find out more about how you can help protect the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor, visit sonomalandtrust.org or read about it here.
Nicole Na is Sonoma Land Trust's communications coordinator.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.