Friday, November 17, 2017

Art from the Watershed

A felled Peninsula Watershed eucalyptus tree has gone on to a new existence as a permanent sculpture by a local Bay Area artist.   

The original eucalyptus comes from a previous habitat restoration project in the southern part of the watershed, where stands of the non-native species and other invasive growth were removed from the lands around Homestead Pond.

The artist, Evan Shively, has created a system for using a whole tree and works with reverence for his salvaged materials. When you saw a tree, he said, “It dictates where it wants to be cut.” 

Homestead Pond, once a vital breeding habitat for threatened California red-legged frogs, had declined over the years. But now restored grasslands and healthy young coastal oaks are providing renewed foraging and shelter for both the frogs and the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake (considered by some as “one of the most beautiful serpents in North America” ).

Friday, November 3, 2017

Hunting and Gathering on the Watershed

These days we’re collecting acorns from local mature Coastal Live Oak forests in the vicinity of Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir. They’ll be nurtured in a nursery for about a month before the December planting. The young saplings will sprout through 6-foot-tall protective tubes, with the future new forest eventually occupying a total of about 19 acres. 

Our crews also just finished hydroseeding about 44 acres with native grass seed mixes, spread out across four different locations along Upper and Lower Crystal Spring reservoirs. The mixes--which varied from site to site--consisted of several  grass species, including some collected from the watershed. The straw-filled fiber rolls, shown in the same photo, slow stormwater runoff and prevent erosion into streams, drainages and the reservoir. 

In all, the Habitat Restoration Program will bring back about 180 acres of native grass, wetland and Coastal Live Oak forest at several different Peninsula Watershed locations. The historic habitats provide essential food and shelter for a variety of native plant, butterfly, bird and other wildlife species, some found nowhere else in California. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sawyer Camp Trail Update: South Entrance Reopens for Weekday Use

The Sawyer Camp Trail southern entrance will reopen for weekday use, starting Friday evening, October 27,  p.m. There is a possibility that the County of San Mateo will require a second weekday closure at a future time. 

Coyote Point Ranger Station: 650-573-2592

Friday, October 20, 2017

Ready for Rain, Acorn Plantings, and a New Native Forest

About 13 acres of newly cleared Peninsula Watershed land are slated for acorn plantings, with a healthy young oak forest to follow. 

Protective 6-foot tubing 
The small green flags you see in the top photo mark the sites for the upcoming plantings by hand. There will be one acorn for each 1- to 2-inch hole, spaced about 15 feet apart. We’ll insert a tall, 6-foot tube over each to help the young seedlings grow straight and strong, while safeguarding them from deer, rodents and other wildlife. 

The acorns will come from existing mature watershed oaks, and they’ll be nurtured in a nursery for about a month before the December planting. Irrigation pipes are already in, and we’re also ready for rain with straw-filled fiber rolls. The fiber rolls slow stormwater runoff and trap the sediment away from creeks, drainages and the reservoir. 
Irrigation piping and fiber rolls

Just next to the future new woodland, we also recently converted about 60 acres of land to grasslands, a wetland, and a creek.  

The two adjoining projects follow a recent clearing of large stands of invasive non-native trees in the same area. The work is part of an extensive Habitat Restoration Project to bring back about 180 acres of native grass, woodland and wetland at several different Peninsula Watershed locations. The historic habitats provide essential food and shelter for a variety of native plant, butterfly, bird and other wildlife species (some found nowhere else in California). 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Life on the Watershed: Native Turtle Hatchlings on the way Home

It’s time for newly hatched Western pond turtles to be making their way across the grasslands, from nest to permanent reservoir home. 

Digging a nest above San Andreas Res.
The mother digs out the nest a little way from shore in early summer, and then returns to the water while her eggs incubated in the warm covered sands for the next several months. The young turtles are on their own from the start but seem to know where they’re destined to be for the next several decades. 

Western pond turtles can live up to 50 years in the wild, and won’t reach maturity for six years or more.

The Peninsula Watershed is home to an abundance of native California wildlife species and has the highest concentration of rare, threatened or endangered species in the nine-county Bay Area. The Western Pond Turtle is designated a “species of special concern” by The California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

San Mateo County to Close Sawyer Camp Trail Weekdays October 9 -- 27

The San Mateo County Parks Department will close the south half of the Sawyer Camp Trail weekdays, from Monday, October 9  through Friday, October 27, for public safety due to San Mateo County construction activities. 

The closure will be in effect from the Crystal Springs entrance to the gate just beyond the Jepson Laurel at the trail’s approximate midpoint. Weekday cyclists should use alternate routes during this period 

The entire trail will be open for weekend use Friday evening, October 13, 5 p.m., through Sunday, October 15, 8 p.m., and  Friday evening, October 20, 5 p.m., through  Sunday, October 22, 8 p.m.  
Information and Updates: 
Coyote Point Ranger Station: 650-573-2592;   

The Crystal Springs Dam Bridge Replacement Project 
The County of San Mateo’s Crystal Springs Dam Bridge Replacement Project is under the jurisdiction of the County of San Mateo’s Public Works Department. The replacement follows the 2014 completion of several SFPUC Water System Improvement projects to upgrade the Lower Crystal Springs Dam and other nearby facilities. Because the previous 1920s bridge had been determined as seismically unsafe, the County demolished it before the SFPUC began its upgrades. The bridge reopening is currently scheduled for August 2018. 

For further information and updates, please visit the County of San Mateo Department of Public Works website at

Friday, September 29, 2017

Migration on the Watershed

It's migration season. The Peninsula Watershed can be a good place to see a few or more colorful birds that aren't usually around the rest of the year.  

September through early October is peak migration season here in the Bay Area for multiple species of birds passing through on their way south from their northern breeding ranges to the warmer wintering grounds.  

Flying long distances in a single day or night, many will stop for a few days at various woodsy Bay Area spots to refuel for the next leg of the journey. Some species glean insects from tree leaves or bark, while others dart out from a perch to catch flying prey in the air.  
The abundance of insect life, native trees and other greenery makes the watershed an attractive rest area for birds on the move. If you're out on the trail, here are some typical western migrants that you might spot before they move on. 
Photos, top to bottom:  Yellow warbler; Black-throated gray warbler, Western tanager; Pacific slope flycatcher