Posted on Categories Habitats, WildlifeTags , , ,

Winter is prime time for birdwatching in Northern California

When winter strips the leaves from the Bay Area’s deciduous oaks, it does more than bring more light to a dark season. It also enables those enchanted by birds a better chance to see them, count them, and appreciate them.
This improved visibility is one of the reasons popular and productive citizens’ science birding events, such as the Christmas Bird Count (sponsored by the National Audubon Society) and the Great Backyard Bird Count (sponsored by Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology), are staged in winter. Those elusive little brown birds are easier to see and identify when they aren’t obscured by foliage, meaning counts are more accurate and provide a better gauge by which to measure the health of bird populations and the habitats that sustain them.
Birding, like wildflower blooms, newt migrations, butterfly and ladybug congregations, and displays of autumn foliage, offers walkers an opportunity to experience the Bay Area’s open lands in a new way. For the amateur, turning an eye to the sky opens the hiking experience to a higher plane. For safety’s sake, hikers focus on their feet, watching the trail so they don’t fall down. You’ve got to look up to find the birds, which means you must stop, and stopping results in discovery. The place may be old and familiar, but by pausing, looking up, and listening to the birdcall, you will see that place in a different way.
On the trails described below, amateur birders or those who are curious about birds are guaranteed to see a variety of species, from songbirds to shorebirds to raptors. These trails also offer opportunities for expert birders to check off another species on their life lists.
Read more at: Winter is prime time for birdwatching in Northern California | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Habitats, Land UseTags , , , ,

New hiking trail opens up along San Pablo Bay 

Sonoma County’s newest hiking trail officially opened Sunday just a few hundred yards from the often backed up and typically frustrating Highway 37.
The Eliot Trail, located at the edge of tidal wetlands near where Lakeville Highway meets Highway 37, gives travelers an experience opposite to the nearby roadway.
The two-and-a-half mile trail offers walkers, joggers and cyclists a tranquil view of Mount Tamalpais and the skyscrapers of San Francisco as they traverse the flank of the new northern border of San Pablo Bay.
“It is such nice place to take a run,” said Julian Meisler, the Baylands program manager for Sonoma Land Trust. “For Sonoma County, this is one of the best access points we have to the bay.”
Jim Jackson of Sonoma said he was impressed with the extremely flat trail after doing the round-trip five-mile hike with his wife, Sharon.
“You get great views of the entire bay. It’s extremely peaceful and quiet out there. You can hear the water lapping by you,” Jackson said. “You realize how quickly you are away from 37.”
Read more at: New Sonoma County hiking trail opens up along San Pablo Bay | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Local Organizations, WildlifeTags , ,

Betty Burridge, Sonoma County champion of bird conservation, dies at 84 

Betty Burridge loved birds. One of the region’s leading, longest-tenured advocates of wildlife conservation, Burridge counted and chronicled and studied and traveled the world to seek out and savor every possible species.
A physical therapist by profession, Burridge was for decades a stalwart of the regional Audubon Society and a leader of its winter bird counts. She spent years compiling a Sonoma County Breeding Bird Atlas that has been invaluable when questions arise as to how a proposed construction project might impact nesting birds.
“In these times of rapid growth and development within Sonoma County, wildlife habitat is disappearing every day,” Burridge said 30 years ago, in comments that still seem timely. “Each of us can recall fields where hawks used to soar, that now are shopping centers; farm ponds where ducks and shorebirds lingered, that since have been drained.”
Passionate to the end about preserving ecosystems that support birds and other animals, Burridge died March 24 in Santa Rosa. She was 84.
For many years, she and fellow Madrone Audubon Society members Ernestine “Ernie” Smith and Martha Bentley towered as giants in regional conservation efforts. Smith died just last August, Bentley in 2008.
Read more at: Betty Burridge, Sonoma County champion of bird conservation, dies at 84 | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Land Use, Local Organizations, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , ,

Laguna de Santa Rosa docents dedicated to waterway

Ariana Reguzzoni, PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation’s mission is to “restore, conserve and inspire,” but people involved in it say it does much more than that. The 22-mile waterway is the main artery in a 254-square-mile watershed that starts in Cotati and extends to Forestville and the Russian River. While some people in Sonoma County are just discovering the reach and value of the Laguna, there is a dedicated band of volunteers who return year after year to steward the important ecosystem.
“There are so many reasons to love the Laguna: the plants, wildlife, birds, but I find so often that I am fulfilled by the connections to the people who care about the land,” said Christine Fontaine, director of education programs for the Laguna Foundation. “It’s the people coming together that keeps sustaining me in my work.”
Longtime Sonoma County residents Steve and Suzanne Abrams are two members of what Fontaine refers to as the “Laguna people.” The retired parole agent and teacher, respectively, moved to Santa Rosa over 40 years ago, but didn’t really know about the Laguna until recently. In 2012, they decided to volunteer as Laguna guides, inspired in part by the death of a friend who had led hikes through the area. The couple said they love learning about the Laguna’s cultural and natural history but, echoing Fontaine’s sentiments, meeting and educating the community stands out most for them — especially the people who are born and raised nearby.
“Surprisingly, a lot of people who are from this area have no knowledge of the Laguna,” said Steve Abrams. “It flabbergasted me!”
Read more at: Laguna de Santa Rosa docents dedicated to waterway | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Transportation, WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on Sonoma County bird watching, bike rides and hikes

Sonoma County bird watching, bike rides and hikes

Click here for downloadable maps.
Wildlife abounds in Sonoma County during all seasons and includes seals, sea lions and the occasional elephant seal and the twice-annual flotilla of Humpbacks. There are bobcats, skunk, otter, raccoon, fox, muskrat, deer, coyote and lions. Also voles, opossum, mice, rats and a raft of amphibians, lizards and fish. The black bear has made a tremendous comeback as well with estimates of more than 30,000 in Northern California alone.
But no form of wildlife is viewed as often as birds. Open ocean, rocky coast, beaches, estuaries, bays, rivers and streams, wetlands, chaparral, farmland, vineyards, forested hills and mountains provide habitat for over 394 species of birds. This provides a rewarding and engaging pursuit for people of all ages making bird-watching America’s most popular and widespread hobby.
The mouth of the Russian River is reported to have 70 breeding bird species within a five-kilometer ‘block’ which encompasses it, according to the Madrone Audubon Society. It’s tops among the 195 blocks Madrone delineated to assist them in their breeding bird census.
Many species are more common during spring, autumn and winter but since we’re into summer, listed are a few of the more abundant and common summertime and year round species and where they might be found.
In the woodland and brush along Austin Creek where it empties into the Russian near Casini’s campgrounds there’s an abundance of bird life. Houses line Austin Creek and their yards provide habitat for many species as well.
It’s where four different habitats, each especially attractive to particular species, come together. Thus pelagic birds like cormorants and gulls make excursions up from the river mouth, riparian birds such as herons, wood ducks, kingfisher which favor riverine wetlands are common (actually they’re spectacular but they’re still Common).
Meadow and garden birds such as woodpeckers, grosbeaks and orioles, thrushes like the Swainson’s which we hear but rarely see, bluebirds, flickers and dozens more.
Soaring hawks abound, buteos such as red-tails, red shouldered hawks, along with turkey vultures and the occasional bald-eagle.
Osprey are common and may be heard, seen and discovered in their nests without much trouble.
Read more at: Sonoma County Bird Watching, Bike Rides and Hikes – Part 2

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags Leave a comment on Williamson's sapsucker sighted in Santa Rosa

Williamson's sapsucker sighted in Santa Rosa

The spotting of a white-rumped beauty drew spectators Thursday to the pool patio at Santa Rosa’s Flamingo Hotel.
She’s a Williamson’s sapsucker, a woodpecker that keeps for the most part to the conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada and other mountains of western North America. A visiting wildlife biologist noticed her Thursday in a tall pine alongside the east Santa Rosa resort hotel’s pool.
Emails and social-media dispatches declared that this was only the second known spotting of a Williamson’s sapsucker in Sonoma County. The bird seemed to be looking for food well up the pine.
Members of the species drill tiny holes in bark, then returns to eat the sap that oozes out and also any insects that are stuck in it. Observers noted that, from the presence of a good many holes, it appears she has sojourned in the hotel tree for some time.
Read more via Admirers flock to Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Local Organizations, Water, WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on Sonoma Land Trust giving preview of restored wetlands near Sears Point

Sonoma Land Trust giving preview of restored wetlands near Sears Point

The completion of a major wetland restoration project south of Sonoma is months away, but already, the landscape along San Pablo Bay has been transformed.
Fresh water several feet deep covers former farmland, concealing all but the tops of hundreds of newly created marsh mounds. On Friday, the melodic sounds of thousands of shorebirds offered sweet relief from the foggy gloom.
Project officials were so surprised by the sudden transformation of the 1,000-acre property that they’ve decided to share the wonder with the public during a one-day preview Monday, on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the new 2.5-mile levee trail will be open to hikers, birdwatchers and leashed dogs.
“We were as stunned as anybody by this beautiful new landscape, and the thousands of birds that are enjoying it right now,” said Sheri Cardo, a spokeswoman for the Sonoma Land Trust. “We wanted to share it with everybody.”
The $18 million project, one of California’s most ambitious wetland restoration efforts, is the culmination of a decadelong effort to return Sears Point Ranch to its natural state. The tidal marsh and levee system will support wildlife, provide flood control and offer new recreational opportunities for visitors. Upon completion, the site could become the premier access point into San Pablo Bay from within Sonoma County, organizers say.
via Sonoma Land Trust giving sneak peek of restored | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, WildlifeTags Leave a comment on Climate change threatens half of North American bird species

Climate change threatens half of North American bird species


Bluebirds, mallards and other beloved California birds may vanish from our summer skies, according to an alarming new report by the National Audubon Society.

Over the next six decades, climate change could shrink or shift the range of half of the nation’s 588 bird species, forcing them to move or adapt to smaller ranges, according to the group’s scientists. Some species may die out.

Of the 314 threatened or endangered species listed in the report, 170 are regularly seen in California.

"This report has a lot of importance for us," said Audubon California Executive Director Brigid McCormack. "Our hope is that this will prompt people to step up and protect the birds they enjoy in their daily lives."

The future also looks dark in a report released Tuesday by several federal agencies, Cornell University and private organizations. It found bird populations declining across Western U.S. habitats, especially in arid lands such as the desert, sagebrush and chaparral regions of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

via Climate change threatens many bird species – San Jose Mercury News.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on Santa Rosa was once Meadowlark Woods

Santa Rosa was once Meadowlark Woods


“Meadowlark Woods” is the translation of the Mishewal-Wappo name for the Santa Rosa area: whitsé la holma noma. At the time the Sonoma Mission was established in 1823, whitsé la holma noma was west of Mishewal lands, in Pomo territory. It was a place they passed through on their way to the coast.

Meadowlarks must have been abundant in those days. About the size of a robin, they have a yellow chest with a black V, and a distinctive song.

Meadowlarks build their nests in small depressions in the ground, often weaving grasses and stems together to create a weatherproof dome.

The Mishewal name is a clue to what Santa Rosa was like before it was (re)settled in the 19th century. As their name suggests, meadowlarks like open grasslands and the edges of marshes. “Meadowlark Woods” evokes a mosaic of grasslands, trees and wetlands.

Frank Marryat, an Englishman who visited in 1850, described it as, “sprinkled with oak trees, and it seems ever as if we were about to enter a forest which we never reach, for in the distance, the trees, though really far apart, appear to grow in dark and heavy masses.”

Grassland birds tend to have more complicated songs than those of forest birds. Perhaps it was this complexity, which more closely resembles human speech, that inspired the Coast Miwok, another neighbor of the Mishewal, to say that meadowlarks “talked too much” and “could speak any language.” (Mockingbirds have a similar reputation. Their scientific name means “many-tongued mimic” — they copy the sounds of other birds, insects, amphibians and even machines.)

Children were told not to speak to meadowlarks. They were likely to insult you by saying you were stingy, or mean, or that you ate too much. One 19th century story tells of a Chilean immigrant who was approached by a chattering meadowlark that taunted in Spanish, “Lopez ya no tiene mas whiskey” (Lopez has no more whiskey).

Today, there’s little risk of being mocked by a meadowlark in Santa Rosa. A few large oaks, the last survivors of Meadowlark Woods, can still be found in its urban neighborhoods. But to hear a meadowlark you have to leave the city and go to a place that remains open and grassy.

Contact Glen Ellen-based historical ecologist Arthur Dawson at

via Sense of Place: Meadowlark Woods.

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags Leave a comment on Songbird season takes flight

Songbird season takes flight


Spring means warm days, fragrant flowers in bloom and migratory songbirds returning to Sonoma County. It also means more work for Veronica Bowers and her Native Songbird Care and Conservation in Sebastopol.

Bowers and her team of volunteers rehabilitate injured birds and care for babies orphaned when people accidentally or intentionally destroy nests.

Her facility, the only songbird care center in Sonoma County, does most of its work during the nesting season between April and September. Bowers and her staff can care for up to 200 birds at any given time, diagnosing diseases, treating wounds and feeding them meal worms every 30 minutes.

via Sonoma County's songbird season takes flight | The Press Democrat.