Friday, December 23, 2016

Season’s Greetings: Native Christmas Berries Light Up the Watershed

Small wonder they’re called “Christmas Berries,” for this time of year is when they're at their peak, and they're everywhere along the Sawyer Camp Trail.     

They’re the fruit of a hardy native shrub, the Toyon, which thrives in oak woodland surroundings. While they’re brightening the watershed surroundings for the rest of us, the vivid hue also alerts the neighborhood wild that the season of holiday feasting is here.

The Toyon is one of the few native plants that provide winter food for fruit-eating birds, such as robins, thrushes, jays, hummingbirds, and more. Those flurries of activity draw in the mammals (which are color blind but love the berries too).  And all return the hospitality by dispersing the berry seeds elsewhere in winter-wet soils, where they take root before the dry weather sets in. 

The dense shrubbery also provides safe habitat for bird nests, along with cover for other species, and black-tailed mule deer nibble the
young green sprouts.

The robust evergreen usually ranges in height from 6 to 12 feet, but in shady area  can grow to more than 30 feet in quest of sunlight.   

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Happy Holidays from the Peninsula Region!!

Here’s a schedule of what to expect for construction over the holidays for the Regional Groundwater Storage & Recovery project:
  • No construction work from December 23, 2016 through December 26, 2016 at any well sites.Work will resume on December 27, 2016 through December 30, 2016. 
  • No construction work from Saturday December 30, 2016 through Monday January 2, 2016. Work will resume on January 3, 2016.

For the Bioregional Habitat Restoration project:
  • There will be no SFPUC work at the Sawyer Camp Trail through January 3, 2016.
  • Any concerns with access to the trail should be directed to the San Mateo County Parks & Recreation Department at (650) 573-2592.

As always please don’t hesitate to contact us at (866)973-1476, or email or with any questions.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Life on the Watershed: Eater, Beware

The rains bring out the California newts—brownish amphibians that over the dry months have holed up in hollow logs, rock crevices, burrows and other safe, moist woodland havens. Now they’re on their annual pilgrimage to the breeding waters—the small, still pond or stream where they themselves were hatched. 

Like other amphibians, they begin life as larvae, with external gills for breathing. As they become adults, they develop lungs for life on land. When they first leave the waters, they’ll be away for about three years before braving their own first yearly return.  

Many of the adults we see now are making the weeks-long trek on tiny legs across miles of boulders, fallen trees, dense clumps of grass, fences, and other obstacles. Good thing they’re equipped with the famous salamander ability to regrow a lost tail or other limb (along with a heart, liver, spinal cord, brain part, lung part, or lens of an eye).

The resilient newt is fortunate in another key survival aid—a highly potent toxin. The odor it sends out and the bright orange belly give others the message, “POISON—Eaters, Take Heed.” And most do.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Dead on the Watershed: Our Fertile Snags

“Why are all those dead trees still here?” a Sawyer Camp Trail walker asked us as he eyed the newly restored habitat for the first time. 

Actually, you’ll see them all along the trail—snags (tall, dead and bare standing trees) that we’ve purposely left in place throughout the habitat restoration area and elsewhere in the watershed. 

In death, they are more of a natural resource than ever for an abundance of other life. Their loose bark harbors beetle, ants, and other insects that are food for birds, rodents and animals. Butterflies, bats and small animals find shelter there too.

Cavities drilled by woodpeckers become nests for swallows, flycatchers, and other “secondary cavity-nesters." With bills too small to drill their own nests, they depend on holes put there by others. Male songbirds sing out from open limbs to attract mates or declare nesting territory. Hawks and Bald eagles perch high on a snag to guard a nearby nest and watch for prey.  Trunk hollows become winter dens for raccoons, squirrels and other small animals.

Also in the restoration area, we’ve left scatterings of logs to decay where they are for the same reasons. As the wood decomposes, its nutrients mix into the soil, making it more fertile for healthy new plants.
Insects, salamanders, snakes, and mice take shelter in the rotting logs, and they in turn are prey for other, larger species. During the rains, the damp rotting wood and leaves give rise to mushrooms and other fungi. And the mushrooms are food for everything else—from insects to mammals--including deer in severe winters when other foraging is scarce.

In short, that dead wood provides more sustenance for the neighborhood wild than it did in life.