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It’s a Bird, It’s a Bug… It’s CITIZEN SCIENCE!!!!!!!!!!

iNaturalist is the brainchild of Nate Agrin, Jessica Kline, and Ken-ichi Ueda. They originally came up with the idea for the website during their senior master’s project at UC Berkeley in 2008. A few years later, the California Academy of Sciences became involved, and from there the site and corresponding phone app have blossomed into one of the biggest citizen science research platforms in the country. From hikers and mountain climbers to beach bums and birdwatchers, anyone can be a naturalist. All you have to do is take a photo and upload it for the waiting scientists and researchers in the iNaturalist community! Just like that, you can go from being a normal person to a Citizen Scientist – documenting data one photo at a time.

“If enough people recorded their observations, it would be like a living record of life on Earth that scientists and land managers could use to monitor changes in biodiversity, and that anyone could use to learn more about nature.” Scientists are gathering data every day about what species are living where, tracking population counts and migrations. iNaturalist is a social media platform designed to help researchers gather data in locations they might not normally be able to get to — private property, remote areas, etc. iNaturalist helps to record the biodiversity in areas, the various plant, insect, wildlife forms that exist within particular boundaries. The primary goal of the site, though, is to connect more people with nature and get them outdoors and excited about what could be living in more than just their backyard.

We make observations about the world around us every day, but do we really look at what we’re seeing? We might see a wildflower, and think “that’s pretty”. But did you ever think you could be the one to identify the species of that flower, and give the local science community a data point to add to their research? Snap a photo, upload it to an app, and get an ID on the bug or plant or animal that’s in the photo. Pretty easy, right? If you don’t know what species an insect, plant, or animal photo is when you upload it, don’t worry! Just give the most detail you can and label it as “insect”, “butterfly”, etc., and that will help direct scientists or hobbyist naturalists who are identifying other photos on the site. They’ll help ID it for you, and then that information will get sent to the California Academy of Science.

Anyone with a smartphone or a computer with access to the internet can use iNaturalist! The app for your phone is free on both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, just look for the little green bird icon. Download it, and get started on your first photoshoot as a citizen science – there’s a whole world of nature out there to explore!

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Wildlife Spotlight: Red Tailed Hawks

The red tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is North America’s most common hawk, and can most certainly be found in the Santa Monica Mountains. They have pale bellies and dark back feathers. The tail is golden cinnamon colored, it’s not as bright red as most might think! They can be easily identified by their broad rounded wings and their shorter tails. 

It is an opportunistic feeder. Its most common prey are small mammals, including squirrels and rabbits, but will also eat smaller birds, fish, or reptiles. Interestingly, the red tailed hawk and the great horned owl feeds off similar prey, so competition between the two birds often occurs during twilight when both species are out hunting. You can often find a red tailed hawk standing alone atop trees and telephone poles. When the hawks mate, they pair up and fly in large circles. The male will dive down and then climb back up to where it can perform the circling dance again to try and impress his mate. Then it will grab another bird with its talons and dive back down. Red tailed hawks may mate for life. Females can lay up to five eggs yearly and the eggs, incubated by both sexes, incubate for about four to five weeks. After the young hatch, they leave the nest about six weeks later.

Though they mate for life, red tailed hawks are not social creatures. They won’t hunt in populated areas, like a Coopers Hawks or a sharp-shinned hawk. They favor open fields and mountain habitats, like our very own Headwaters Corner. Mountains Restoration Trust staff have spotted quite a few red tailed hawks circling our property, likely hunting small mammals like squirrels that hide out in our trees.

Want to know more about these graceful predators? Check out the resources below!

 

“Red-Tailed Hawk.” National Geographic Photo Ark, National Geographic, 11 Nov. 2010, www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/r/red-tailed-hawk/.

“Red-Tailed Hawk.” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2015, www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-tailed_Hawk/id.

“Raptors of California.” California Department of Fish and Wildlife.Gov, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2016, www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Birds/Raptors.

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Beetle Mania — But Not the Groovy Kind

by Amy  Yuelapwan, Land Restoration Tech

**The beetle shown in the photo above is a full sized adult, with a US penny shown for scale.

The Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) beetle is currently affecting multiple tree species around California. Mountains Restoration Trust (MRT) is monitoring for the PSHB in Calabasas, with the help of the California Resource Conservation District (RCD),. The main species of trees that MRT is monitoring are the Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia, the Valley Oak, Quercus lobata, and the Western Sycamore, Platanus racemosa.

There are test results from University of Riverside that confirm the PSHB beetles found in Calabasas are carrying what’s known as the ‘Fusarium Dieback’ fungal disease. This disease blocks the flow of nutrients through the trees, effectively killing the tree from the inside out.

An impregnated PSHB female travels short distances, from a parent tree to a different tree. When she arrives at a new host tree, she bores in and begins to make galleries, or tunnels, where she will lay her eggs. The offspring are born within the tree and feed on the disease-carrying fungus, Fusarium euwallacea. The life cycle starts all over again when the offspring breed with each other inside the tree and the impregnated females leave to find new tree hosts. This beetle, along with many other types of vectoring beetles (carrying diseases), are closely monitored for their activity because the tree hosts they choose in urban and wild settings are heavily affected. In the worst cases, the trees die completely.

It is a popular theory that the long-experienced drought has severely weakened trees and majorly effects the death of infected trees — so don’t forget to water landscaped trees! The symptoms to look out for are areas of leaf dieback (death of twigs and branches, generally starting at the tips) in the tree canopy, as well as entry/exit holes in the trunk. This is accompanied by discoloration, also called ‘staining.’ There are resources online, but if you suspect that a tree is diseased, MRT and RCD can be contacted for further assistance. RCD also offers citizens the opportunity to monitor their own properties by setting up traps to find potential PSHB beetle activity.

 

The California Department of Conservation, and the Resource Conservation District can be contacted via the postal service, email, or telephone.

801 K Street, MS 14-15
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 457-7904

webmaster@consrv.ca.gov

 

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Wildlife Spotlight: Green Lynx Spider

This week, our staffers found a Green Lynx Spider (peucetia viridans) perched on a lily near our office in Headwaters Corner. She appears to have made her home here, as one of her younglings emerged a few moments after we spotted her.

Typically, these spiders guard their young for 6 to 8 weeks after they hatch, until they are they are big enough to defend themselves from possible predators. This is unusual behavior — most spiders are known to eat their mothers as their first meal, before moving on to their weaker siblings and then other prey. Lynx are active hunters, that stalk their prey and spit venom. They don’t actually spin webs, like most species of spiders do!

These spiders are aptly named for the bright coloring of their body. They move quickly and pounce like cats, making the ‘lynx’ part of its name very accurate. Like cats, they’ll also often sit still for very long periods of time waiting for prey to wander by. They can be found on shrubs , wildflowers, and in tall grasses all throughout the Southern United States, Venezuela, Mexico, and all over Central and South America.

They’re great for controlling pest problems in cotton fields, and soybean or peanut crops. The only downside? They also like to snack on bees and butterflies as well.

Check out the resources below to find out more information about this unique guest here at Headwaters Corner.

  • Hawkinson, Candace. “Green Lynx Spider.” Beneficial Spiders in the Landscape: #48 Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia Viridans), Galveston County Master Gardener Association, 2006, aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/beneficial-48_green_lynx_spider.htm.
  • Regents of the University of California . “Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Quick Tips.” UC IPM Online, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, 11 May 2017, ipm.ucanr.edu/QT/commongardenspiderscard.html.
  • Raines, Ben. “Venom-Spitting Spiders Hatching out All over Alabama Make Great Mothers.” AL.com, 2 Nov. 2015, www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/11/venom-spitting_green_lynx_spid.html.
  • Weems, H.V. (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry), and W.H. Whitcomb (University of Florida). “Featured Creatures .” Green Lynx Spider – Peucetia Viridans (Hentz), University of Florida, Publication Date: November 2001. Latest revision: July 2014.

 

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Wildlife Spotlight: Coyotes

If you live anywhere near the Santa Monica Mountains, you have encountered coyotes. They can be menaces to your smaller dogs or cats, eat at your trash, and run around your yard at night. But why is this? As more and more development continues to grow the cities around the Santa Monica Mountains, there is less and less space for the coyotes to live. So when your you build or buy your home in the hills, you must remember that at one point that was land for the coyotes and other animals to roam. Coyotes are known to scale fences as high as six feet, and will even dig under your fence. Here are some tips to keep your pets safe from coyotes:

  • Keep your pets inside at night, and prevent them from getting out without your supervision
  • When walking your small dogs at night, make sure you’re in a well lit area
  • Keep all outdoor trash can lids closed, to prevent the coyotes from eating it
  • Pick fruit on your trees as soon as it ripens, and keep rotten fruits off the ground
  • Never feed a wild coyote
  • Don’t leave your pets food outside — especially at night
  • Prevent your pet from roaming free

If you see coyotes and they are up to no good, consider filling out a coyote encounter observation report. In addition, you can communicate with your local officials or contact animal control should a coyote be violent or eating your garbage.

Sources:

http://www.cityofcalabasas.com/coyotes.html

Pictures:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coyote

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