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!
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.