Posted on Categories Habitats, WildlifeTags , , ,

Petaluma Wetlands added to international conservation list

Matt Brown, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

The Mekong River Delta, the Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon Rain Forest, and now the Petaluma Wetlands, all share an important distinction. They are sites included in an international list of critical wetlands worth protecting.

Petaluma wildlife advocates received notice last month that the Petaluma Wetlands are included as Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance, a designation from the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature. The official designation means the Petaluma Wetlands are joining the 400,000-acre San Francisco Bay Estuary, which was awarded international status in 2013.

The Ramsar designation, named after the Iranian city that held the international Convention on Wetlands in 1971, doesn’t include additional funding, but is helpful in securing grants for wildlife conservation, said Susan Kirks, president of the Madrone Audubon Society.

“This is a significant recognition for the sensitive wetlands habitat, birds and wildlife of the Petaluma Wetlands,” she said.

The Petaluma Wetlands include Alman Marsh Tidal Wetlands, Shollenberger Park Wetlands, Ellis Creek Wetlands, Gray’s Marsh Wetland and Hill Property Tidal Marsh, all environmentally sensitive spots along the Petaluma River that are home to a diversity of species, including the salt marsh harvest mouse, river otter and an array of birds.

Read more at http://www.petaluma360.com/news/8191606-181/petaluma-wetlands-added-to-international

Posted on Categories Habitats, Sustainable Living, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Sebastopol woman transforms yard into a way station for feathered friends

Meg McConahey, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

See the article in the PD for more information about habitat and native plant gardening.

Almost as soon as Veronica Bowers bought her property in rural Sebastopol 18 years ago she began making over the backyard. She ripped out rose bushes, hydrangeas and other strictly people-pleasing ornamental plants and began transforming her two acres into a comfortable way station for songbirds.

It’s a pretty place, with masses of native plants and trees for forage and cover, fallen logs that will host tasty insects and their larvae, berry bushes to fuel up for long migrations, multiple nesting boxes for extended stays and a large pond for bathing. She has arbors covered with wild grapevines, which also provide seating areas to watch the entertaining show of birds as they come and go.

Not everyone, like Bowers, can create a Club Med-style resort for songbirds. But the former pastry chef and chocolatier, who eventually gave up baking to devote herself full-time to maintaining a hospital for sick and injured songbirds on her property, maintains that everyone can do at least something to create a little sanctuary space for songbirds. For many native species, habitat is dwindling and they are under assault from multiple forces, from free-roaming house cats, to climate change to light pollution that confuses migrating birds on their nighttime journeys.

Read more at: Sebastopol woman transforms yard into a way station for feathered friends | The Press Democrat –

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags , , ,

First case of West Nile virus this year found in Sonoma County

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County’s first case of West Nile virus this year was detected recently in a dead bird found in northeast Santa Rosa near Trione-Annadel State Park, regional health officials announced Friday.

The dead American crow was collected near Timber Springs Drive and Timber Springs Court, according to the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District. That puts Sonoma County among 33 California counties to report the presence of the virus this year.

West Nile virus generally spreads through mosquitoes who feed on infected birds and then bite humans. Most people never show any symptoms of the disease, but about one in five will show mild symptoms including fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and rash. Less than 1 percent of people will develop severe neurological symptoms, including possible death. Nizza Sequeira, a spokesperson for the regional mosquito and vector control district, said in a written statement that preventing and controlling mosquitoes and vector-borne disease “is a responsibility we all share,” encouraging residents to take steps to reduce the production of mosquitoes on their properties and report problems to health officials.

Source: First case of West Nile virus this year found in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , ,

Sonoma Clean Power adds wind to energy sourcing

Staff Report, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Sonoma Clean Power broke ground today on a project that will update an existing wind power facility and bring more wind power in-state. The Golden Hills North Wind Facility, in the western central valley community of Tracy, will remove 283 30-year-old wind turbines and replace them with 20 2.3-megawatt GE turbines, capable of generating more power with twice the efficiency of the previous wind project.

Sonoma Clean Power is a a community choice aggregation, or CCA, organization, created under state policy that allow local governments to pool their electricity load so they can provide alternative energy sources. Currently, most wind energy in SCP”s portfolio comes from Oregon. The Golden Hills facility is forecasted to cover 6 percent of SCP’s load starting in 2018. The contract term is 20 years from full commercial operation date.

“Repowered wind facilities carry multiple benefits,” said Geof Syphers, SCP’s CEO. “One modern wind turbine replaces 21 of the old-style turbines, producing more energy. This is low-cost, clean electricity that will serve our customers of Sonoma and Mendocino counties.”

SCP is partnering with wholesale electric power generator NextEra Energy Resources. An affiliate of that company owns and will operate the wind project.

The wind project will have a generating capacity of 46 megawatts, enough to power more than 13,500 homes.SCP’s announcement stated the project will also create hundreds of union jobs during the construction phase, beginning this month, and will provide full-time employment opportunities once the project is operational at the end of 2017. The project will provide more than $10 million in property tax benefits over its projected 30-year operational life.

Fewer wind turbines will also significantly reduces bird strikes.

Source: Sonoma Clean Power adds wind to energy sourcing | The North Bay Business Journal

Posted on Categories Habitats, WildlifeTags , , ,

Winter is prime time for birdwatching in Northern California

Tracy Salcedo, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

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 

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

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 

Chris Smith, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

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 , , ,

Sonoma County bird watching, bike rides and hikes

Vinny Schwartz, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

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

Williamson’s sapsucker sighted in Santa Rosa

Chris Smith, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

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.