Friday, September 30, 2016

New Grasslands Coming near Sawyer Camp Trail

                                      Spraying the hydroseed mix of native seed, wood fiber, tackifier and water. 

This week our habitat restoration crews began hydroseeding newly opened areas above the southern half of the Sawyer Camp Trail.

The young native serpentine grasses will begin sprouting within a couple of weeks, and be well established by next spring-- assuming some rainfall and other favorable conditions. We’ll keep watch for regrowth of the invasive acacias for the next year or two, and then plant acorns for future native forests.

The approximately 20-acre replanting in the Sawyer Camp Trial vicinity is part of a larger restoration project to bring back about 180 acres of native oak woodland and grassland 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).

The fresh young plantings will be steadily maintained by our staff to promote healthy establishment, and we'll monitor their performance for several years after that.   

Friday, September 23, 2016

Watershed's Oldest Dam Still Going Strong

It was San Francisco’s first water source outside City limits. 

Pilarcitos Dam—situated deep in the Peninsula Watershed’s remote Pilarcitos Canyon—turned 150 this year. It survived the earthquakes of 1906 and 1989 with no damage, it’s still in service today, and planning is under way to extend its operating life for years to come. 

Today, the 1866 earth-fill dam holds Pilarcitos Creek raw water for delivery primarily to the Coastside County Water District in Half Moon Bay, with some water also diverted as supplemental supply to Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir. Water releases from the dam also improve downstream fish habitat, and the secluded woodsy canyon is a safe haven for nesting Marbled murrelets.   

Friday, September 16, 2016

Life on the Watershed: Watch for Baby Snakes along the Sawyer Camp Trail

It’s been called “one of the most beautiful snakes in the U.S.”

And the early fall is when the endangered San Francisco garter snake numbers are on the rise, with females giving birth to about 16 young each.  The baby snakes are about 5 to 7 inches long at birth, the ones that survive will reach adulthood at age 2, and they can grow to about 3 feet in length.

The protected San Mateo County species travels between vegetation or burrows and nearby bodies of fresh water (such as Crystal Springs Reservoir). Its favorite food is the tree frog, but it also likes other amphibians, including bullfrogs and the California newt, which is poisonous to most earth species.

The San Francisco garter snake is not dangerous, and—if you’re lucky enough to encounter one along the trail some September day—chances are it will slither away to safety quickly.  So watch it while you can!

Photos 1 and 2 by Elizabeth Larsen, USFWS.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Gathering and Sowing Native Seeds

Here crews are harvesting hayfield tarplant –a common native grassland species--near the eastern shore of the Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir. They will be part of a special seed mix that we’ll disperse nearby to help restore habitat later this fall when the soil is wet from the first rains and the weather is cool. 
Other native grass and forb seeds we’ve been collecting for the mix include yarrow, yampah, tufted hair grass, and Crystal Springs lessingia. We use locally harvested seeds for our new habitat sites whenever possible because they are so well suited to our watershed’s unique climate, soils, and hydrological conditions .

Later this fall, watch for the displays of Crystal Springs lessingia. Though rare, it happens to be abundant on our watershed’s serpentine grasslands, where it produces swathes of pink or lavender along I-280 when it flowers in the fall. 

                                Crystal Springs lessingia in bloom.

The removal of non-native trees and understory plants continues along the mid-section of the Sawyer Camp Trail through October. We’ll be hydroseeding those newly opened areas with native serpentine grass seeds too—and acorn plantings will follow.   

Friday, September 2, 2016

Life on the Watershed: The Return of the Bald Eagles

A breeding pair of  Bald eagles returned to the watershed this year and has successfully reproduced again. Three healthy eaglets—the largest number yet—fledged this year. 2016 was the fourth year in a row that the pair had nested on the Peninsula Watershed. 

“They were missing from San Mateo County for more than 100 years,” according to watershed keeper Sarah Lenz. “Our watershed has the land and resources to provide a good home for them and allow their chicks to sustain themselves and thrive.”

“It’s a testament to how we preserve the habitats that give wildlife a chance to stay wild without pressure from humans,” watershed keeper Peter Panofosky added.

Though the eaglets have left the nest area, they will continue to fly and hunt in the general vicinity. 

Our 2016 Crystal Springs eaglets will keep their brownish mottled color for the next few years before they acquire the distinctive white head at age four and full maturity. One or more could return as adults to start another nest in the protected lakes of the watershed.

Bald eagles mate for life, and—because they live up to 30 years in the wild—chances are that more eaglets will begin their own long lives on the Peninsula Watershed in future years.    

Friday, August 19, 2016

Wildlife Protection Fence along Sawyer Camp Trail

If you’re on the Sawyer Camp Trail mid section when it’s open for through use on weekends or a holiday, you’ll see our Wildlife Exclusion Fence (WEF) enclosing the entire Habitat Restoration Project  area.  

This specially designed woven fabric fence prevents endangered San Francisco garter snakes, California red-legged frogs,and other reptiles, amphibians and small animals from entering the work area. Mesh funnels at the fence base, placed approximately every 100 feet, allow them to exit the area safely, while the narrow opening with a one-way flap at the end prevents them from returning. The WEF also prevents silt from flowing into adjacent drainages.

An environmental inspector monitors the work area for compliance with various environmental requirements, and our biologists check for the presence of special-status species and other vulnerable wildlife, such as roosting bats, nesting birds, and San Francisco dusky-footed woodrats. Active bird nests are protected by a buffer zone around the tree until the young successfully fledge from the nest. 

Wildlife Exclusion Fencing minimizes the potential for harm or injury to state and federally listed species near the work area. It is required by State and Federal permitting resource agencies and the California Environmental Quality Act for construction projects where such special status species may be present.

The fence will be taken down after the vegetation removal is finished later this year.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Temporary Closures of Sawyer Camp Trail Mid-Section Start Aug. 1

A mid-section of the Sawyer Camp Trail, from approximately mile 1-1/4 to mile 3-1/2 (by the Jepson Laurel) will be temporarily closed on weekdays for public safety during tree removal in preparation for habitat restoration over the following period:

Monday-Friday, August 1 through October 28, 2016

The trail will be fully open on weekends and holidays. 

Though through use will not be available on weekdays, the trail will still be open on those days for about the first  1-1/4 miles from the south entrance at Crystal Springs Road,  and for 2-1/2 miles from the north entrance at Hillcrest. 

Bicyclists wanting through access should use alternative routes during this period.  

Chalcedon checkerspot butterfly
This work includes the physical removal of approximately 22 acres of non-native invasive trees that have choked out and displaced the original watershed forests.  It is part of a long-term project throughout the watershed to bring back and maintain about 180 acres of native oak woodland and grassland habitats, and the diversity of plant, bird, butterfly, and other wildlife species that depend on them. 

Looking for an alternative?

Check out the San Andreas Trail, just across the paving from the Sawyer Camp north entrance at Hillcrest. The first 0.7-mile southern segment is unpaved and not open to cyclists (who can take  the frontage road just east of I-280). The rest is paved and extends all the way to San Bruno Avenue. You’ll pass through a variety of habitats, from evergreens to coastal scrub and grassland, and the further north you go, the better the vistas of our northernmost reservoir, the San Andreas.  

Questions:  (866) 973-1476;;