Thursday, June 22, 2017

Life on the Watershed: The Most Social of Them All



They are the most social of birds
Acorn woodpeckers live in tight clans and share stored acorns for food—as well as mates and the raising of the young in one common nest inside a tree cavity.

They’re year-round residents of the Peninsula Watershed, where the mixed oak/conifer forests provide abundant acorns as well as large trees with soft bark and dead trunks or limbs for storing them. Each acorn nut is stored in its own hole, When an acorn dries out and shrinks, the woodpecker moves it to a smaller hole—so that simply maintaining the granary is a constant activity.

Their abandoned nesting and roosting holes become homes for other native breeders: such as tree swallows (at left), along with chickadees, bluebirds and other “secondary cavity nesters." Woodpecker holes are also adopted by chipmunks, Western fence lizards, Gopher snakes, and some amphibians, 

Good places to see and hear Acorn woodpeckers are open slopes with scattered oaks and dead trunks or other bare limbs. 


Friday, June 16, 2017

Temporary Closures of Sawyer Camp Trail


There will be several short weekday partial closures of the Sawyer Camp Trail during the next two weeks, between June 20 and June 28. 

The San Mateo County Parks Department will close the  southern half of the Sawyer Camp Trail, from the Skyline entrance to the Jepson Laurel (near mile marker 3.5) Tuesday-Wednesday, June 20-21.  Park crews will also add more rock plus bender board to the shoulders, from the entrance to about mile marker 1, to make the sloping more gradual. 

The northern half, from the Hillcrest entrance to the Jepson Laurel, will be closed for mowing Thursday-Friday, June 22-23. 

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will close the southern half of the Sawyer Camp Trail for one more day, Tuesday, June 27, to paint a new center line. 

Finally, just north of the Sawyer Camp Trail, the Parks Department will close the San Andreas Trail, from Hillcrest to San Bruno Avenue, for mowing Tuesday-Wednesday, June 27-28.

No weekend closures are scheduled. 
  

Friday, June 9, 2017

June on the Watershed: California Buckeye Bursting Out




It’s a showpiece of the watershed. The deciduous California buckeye tree is in its full pink and white bloom, and the fragrant blossoms are an annual staple for others in the oak woodland community. 

The nectar draws more butterflies than any other native plant, and the pollen is feast for a diversity of bumble bees, beetles and other native insects. The Echo blue butterfly lays its eggs on the new unopened bud, which then becomes host for the larvae that live on the flowers, pollen and young fruit. The multitude of early summer invertebrates are in turn forage for numerous resident and migrating birds, and the abundant foliage will provide safe nesting habitat.   

Buckeye flowers and other parts of the tree have toxins that our native bees and other insects are immune to. But the European honeybee isn't, and beekeepers maintain their hives at a distance.


Early in the year, when the toxin level is low, deer and other mammals will nibble young leaves and shoots but avoid mature growth. Then, when the leaves yellow and fall to the ground, they lose the toxins and are once again high-protein food for others.

The seeds—big glossy “bucks eyes” that emerge from their husks in
the fall—are the largest of any California native plant (and very poisonous).   

Friday, June 2, 2017

Peninsula's Emergency Responders Gather at Pulgas Water Temple

They came from San Francisco to the north and as far south as Ben Lomond in Santa Cruz County. They were police officers, fire fighters, sheriff’s deputies, park rangers, watershed keepers, and others—here at Pulgas Temple for the SFPUC Peninsula Watershed’s annual first responders’ meet-and-greet reunion, organized by the watershed’s community liaison John Fournet.

Watershed staff people team with those agencies on day-to-day issues of trail management, tree clearances and public safety as well as the unforeseen forest fires, injuries, and other emergencies. 




The SFPUC owns and operates the 23,000-acre watershed plus 200 miles of Bay Area pipeline right of way. We give our partner agencies the access routes they could need at any time in case of emergency, according to the watershed’s manager Joe Naras. Our watershed keepers—trained responders as well—help with fires or other disasters on neighboring lands and come with emergency drinking water vehicles when needed.  “These are the times when people come together,” Naras said.


The Pulgas event is a standing occasion for renewing bonds and getting acquainted with newcomers. “This way,” Naras told the crowd, “we don’t meet for the first time when something happens.”