by Shanti Edwards
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then here are 10,000!
Sonoma Land Trust and The Wildlands Conservancy (TWC) are partnering with Felidae Conservation Fund to track wildlife use of our coastal properties (Little Black Mountain, Pole Mountain and Jenner Headlands preserves) as part of their Bay Area Puma Project. The imagery obtained advances our understanding of puma movement and behavior and provides us with better knowledge about the array of wildlife — and humans — that make use of our lands. Here are some images recently collected across SLT and TWC protected lands. Enjoy!
by Trevor George
When I was in college at Sonoma State, I had a roommate who had just moved into the dorms from Hawaii. He had rarely, if ever, been to the mainland and chose Sonoma County for his big adventure away from home. He would do some of the things you might expect for someone fresh out of tropical Hawaiian paradise, such as walking to class in a thick parka, gloves and hat on a sunny, 65 degree day, and he would cook with Spam occasionally. But one difference in perspective that I had not expected was illustrated the first time he saw a squirrel.
“Whoa, is that a squirrel?! It’s a squirrel! Check this out! Did you see him?!”
by Corby Hines
The last time I flew to Hawaii, I marveled at how far off and isolated from land the island chain is. In fact, it’s the most isolated island chain in the world, being more than 2,000 miles from the nearest continent. While visiting this jewel in the Pacific, I wondered how ancient Polynesian navigators were able to discover this tiny paradise in the midst of a vast ocean, so I did a little research.
It turns out that the most likely explanation is that a little bird told them about it. In his book, “Voyagers,” the late artist and storyteller Herb Kawainui Kane shares the legend of how ancient Polynesians from islands in the South Pacific followed the migrating Kolea bird — also known as the Pacific Golden Plover — to discover their new home in Hawaii.
by Elizabeth Newton
One of my favorite things to do in the summertime is to sit in my garden and watch the honeybees swarm all over the borage plants. Borage, or borago officinalis, is a favorite food of honeybees. It grows like a weed, re-seeding itself year after year, requiring no care. As a bonus, the plentiful blue star-shaped blossoms are edible and look pretty in salads.
All summer long, honeybees are hard at work collecting and storing nectar and pollen for the coming winter. On a hot July day, it’s hard to comprehend that days are actually growing shorter, but the bees know. Though their numbers burgeon in springtime, they begin to decline in summer, slowly at first. In late fall, a small remnant of the colony hunkers down for the winter. They seal themselves inside the hive, using a sticky substance called propolis. All winter long, this small knot of bees keeps each other warm and lives on their stored supplies.
by Tony Nelson
One of the most satisfying tasks in land management, for me, is removing fence. Much of our work stewarding land and resources requires a very long view. Often we do good things knowing that we aren’t likely to see the full benefits ourselves. Taking out fence, though, provides immediate gratification. While we can see the old materials piled up to be taken away, the aesthetic transformation on the landscape is incredible. The more one takes notice of fences, the more one sees. They’re everywhere and they create psychological as well as physical barriers. Not all fences are bad, of course, and we need them to manage livestock and people. But they have unintended consequences for wildlife so I love taking fence out when it’s not necessary. Our volunteers like taking fence out for the same reasons — which is why a group of volunteers and staff took out three old fence lines (2,350 feet!) at Glen Oaks Ranch this past Tuesday.
by Kate Freeman
On a recent afternoon at Glen Oaks Ranch, the allure of feeling alone in the woods fueled my desire to linger until dusk. I slowly wound my way down the George Ellman Trail, savoring the rich blanket of green that is once again spreading out over the landscape. In a momentary respite from the cacophony of robins and starlings that are flocking in massive numbers around the farmstead, I savored the stillness and solitude of wintertime. Just as my mind began to quiet, I was caught off guard by a pungent gust of skunk musk coming from above. Looking up, I saw not a skunk but a Great Horned Owl passing silently overhead, unintentionally broadcasting its presence like the lovesick Pepé le Pew.
by Julian Meisler
The nearly 700 acres of grassland that burned at our Sears Point Ranch in October have now greened up despite the paltry rainfall so far this winter. The fire here was not nearly as hot or intense as elsewhere, but it was hot enough to burn hundreds of fence posts over many miles of fences. To determine the extent of the damage, I spent a fair bit of time walking fence lines in November.
The good news is that it allowed me to visit areas that I seldom get to, including a small drainage at the back of the property that supports some of the property’s few willow trees. I’ve seen them before, of course, but I had never poked my head underneath until then. It was a good thing I did.
The fence line travels underneath the canopy and the fire had too, burning posts and causing the fence to loosen and sag. Caught in the fence was a seemingly dead red-tailed hawk, its wings caught in the loosened fence wire. In the eight years I’ve spent on Sears Point Ranch, it was the first time I’d seen something like this. I ventured closer and the hawk moved, craning its neck to watch my approach. I could see that I was not going to be able to disentangle the bird by myself so I retreated to avoid injuring it further or risking my own injury from its sharp talons and beak. I needed to find someone who could help.
by Dave Koehler
The winter solstice is a time of reflection and introspection, when celebrating the season involves quiet moments and inward gaze. I am honored that people share their stories about why they support our work. Listening helps me better understand my own relationship with the land and gives me insights on how we can best work together to achieve our common goal of protecting the land…forever.
by Bob Neale
Things have changed over the years for me here at Sonoma Land Trust. I spend much more time inside, in front of the computer … emails, phone calls, meetings, meetings, meetings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the good fortune that brought me here. Great people, great community, great mission — a great job. And yet, I miss walking the land like I used to. So when I do get outside, I take advantage of it. I let my mind wander.
Last week, I found mind and body wandering across Tolay Creek Ranch, amazed, as always, by the land. Winter is almost here, though the dry December and blue skies make me wonder about rain and drought. Nevertheless, it is winter now. This is the time of year when many plants and trees go dormant, many animals hibernate and the sun takes longer naps. Winter is the time of year when we plant our native trees, shrubs and grasses at Tolay Creek Ranch.
by Shanti Edwards
When the Creighton Ridge Fire of 1978 swept through the wooded canyons of the Cazadero area, neighbors say that it sounded like a jet engine roaring as it burned landscape features like Little Black Mountain in mere minutes. Sparked by a lawnmower hitting a rock on a hot August afternoon, it quickly engulfed the land and swept through more than 11,000 acres, destroying 64 homes.
In a landscape and community shaped by fire, Sonoma Land Trust’s stewardship efforts at Little Black Mountain and Pole Mountain have been focused on fire preparedness and fuel reduction. The Little Black Mountain Preserve was donated to SLT in 1979 by the Thieriot Family after the fire leveled their quaint back-to-the land homestead, and the Lookout Tower was moved to Pole Mountain in 1981 to protect the community from more catastrophic fire events.
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.