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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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Crayfish Busting Keeps Creeks Clean in Calabasas

By: Angela De Palma-Dow

Crawling, creeping, and swimming under the surface in some Santa Monica Mountain creeks and streams lurks a red, crunchy and clawed troublemaker.  The red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) is an invasive species because it does not originate from California.  Like other invasive species, once crayfish became established here, they can cause damage to the environment, the economy, social or public health sectors.  The red swamp crayfish is native to areas of Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico, but have been observed in some Santa Monica Streams since the 1960s1. Red swamp crayfish are particularly harmful to stream ecosystems in southern California because they have no native competitors or predators to keep their population levels in check. There are historically no native crayfish in southern California streams to compete with red swamps for food or living space.  Additionally, in most Santa Monica Mountain streams, there are no longer any large native game fish to prey on these invasive crustaceans.  Without active management and removal of the crayfish, they will continue to cause significant damage to the aquatic resources of Santa Monica Mountain regions. These crayfish negatively affect stream ecosystems by:

  • Consuming both juvenile fish, amphibians and their eggs1,2,3
  • Reducing beneficial aquatic plants by eating them and digging them up2
  • Reducing the density and variety of aquatic insects (which serve as food for fish) by directly consuming them and changing the stream bed habitat which serves as their home2,3
  • Negatively altering water quality when they dig and burrow into sediments and stream banks making the water turbid and less inhabitable by native species3

Since 2010, MRT based in Calabasas, with the help of regional volunteers, have been actively removing invasive crayfish in the Malibu Creek Watershed.   This is very important work not only because the Malibu Creek watershed drains into the Santa Monica Bay, but also because its tributaries are also home to many important native species.  Native fish such as the Arroyo Chub and the southern Steelhead Trout, as well as amphibian species such as Pacific tree frogs and the endangered California Newt have all shown a decline in numbers or have disappeared entirely in creeks where red swamp crayfish are present1. Thanks to the ongoing efforts by MRT to remove crayfish, aquatic habitats have the chance to rebound and once again provide a natural home for our native species.

Want to get involved with MRT’s effort to remove crayfish from Malibu Creek Watershed?

Mountains Restoration Trust has several Crayfish Removal Open House events every month that you can participate alongside restoration professionals helping removing invasive crayfish from Malibu Creek Watershed streams. Check our calendar of events page <https://www.eventbrite.com/o/mountains-restoration-trust-3176893670 >to see what opportunities are coming up.  Do you belong to a group or organization that wants to support MRT and our invasive species removal efforts?  Contact our volunteer coordinator at volunteer@mountainstrust.org.

1. Red swamp crayfish can be identified by their typical red coloration and red dots on their claws and carapace (body).

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. While most are bright red, not all red swamp crayfish are red like their name indicates. Females or immature males can be brown or tan in color, but all red swamp crayfish will have raised dots along their claws and carapace (body).

 

 

 

 

 

Sources cited in this text:

  1. Milligan, W.R., Jones, M.T., L.B. Katz, T.A. Lucas, and C.L. Davis. 2017. Predicting the effects of manual crayfish removal on California newt persistence in Santa Monica Mountain Streams. Ecological Modeling 352: 139-151.
  2. Lodge, D. M., C. Taylor, D. Holdich, and J. Skurdal. 2000. Nonindigenous crayfishes threaten North American freshwater biodiversity: lessons from Europe. Fisheries 25(8):7–19.
  3. Klose, K and S. D, Cooper. 2012. Contrasting effects of an invasive crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) on two temperate stream communities. Freshwater Biology 57:526-540.
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Cloud Forest Restoration Event on Santa Rosa Island

This past week, MRT vegetation crew members, MRT executive director, and volunteers provided a few more hands to assist Research Ecologist Dr. Kathryn McEachern of the US Geological Survey on a restoration project on Santa Rosa Island. The restoration site, often referred to as as the Cloud Forest, is home to specialized species of trees and chaparral shrubs that collect fog on their surfaces in order to provide water for the whole island ecosystem. Sadly, this beautiful forest has been in critical condition from a long history of overgrazing and erosion that began in the mid-1800s. Since the introduction of non-native species around that time, like sheep and cattle, close to 75% of the island’s native vegetation has disappeared. This particular area suffered from intense erosion which has left the roots of many of the native fog collecting trees exposed. With all of the vegetation in such a vulnerable state, the complex system that supports the Cloud Forest has fallen apart. In order to correct this, Dr. McEachern, has been working to initiate ecosystem recovery by setting up natural fiber wattles to control erosion, as well as collecting and growing native plants around the forest. The MRT team is assisting with these efforts by planting native trees and setting up fog fences to aid with the natural water collection. Here are some of the photos from last week’s restoration event 🙂

  

    

 

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What Types of Species Do We Have in the Santa Monica Mountains?

 

We are so lucky to have a rich community of flora and fauna here in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Ever wondered just how many species we have?  Take a look at this list!

  • Mammals : 50 Species
  • Birds : 400 Species
  • Amphibians : 35 Species
  • Vertebrates : 450 Species
  • Reptiles : 25 Species
  • Special Amphibians : 5 Salamander Species, 6 Frog and Toad Species (2 are introduced)

Rare or in decline species:

  • Two-striped garter snake
  • Coastal western whip-tailed lizard
  • San Diego mountain king snake
  • Legless lizards
  • Western pond turtle – extremely rare

These animals are found in 12 Santa Monica Mountains natural communities and 26 different vegetation types.

Thanks to nps.gov/samo for the information!

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Mountains Restoration Trust Receives The North Face 2016 Explore Fund Grant

Mountains Restoration Trust is increasing access too and environmental stewardship in the outdoors for fourth grade students in Los Angeles, California.

Calabasas, CA – June 28, 2016 – Mountains Restoration Trust is proud to announce The North Face awarded a 2016 Explore Fund grant for the Cold Creek Docents Field Program.   The Cold Creek Docents Field Program will launch in July 2016 and will accommodate 24 classes.  The Cold Creek Docent Field Program is dedicated to educating inner-city fourth grade students about the natural and cultural history of the Cold Creek watershed and its relationship to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and worldwide ecological principles.

To celebrate the National Park Service Centennial, the Cold Creek Docents Field Program is activating its program in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMRA) with the goal of bringing people to play, learn and serve in these spaces. The SMMNRA is the largest urban national park in the United States and preserves one of the best examples of a Mediterranean ecosystem in the world.

The North Face selected a total of 45 nonprofits that engage their participants in opportunities that inspire a lifelong love of the outdoors. Selected programs use outdoor exploration as a catalyst for positive personal or societal change, to encourage participants to try new outdoor activities, and promote environmental stewardship values.

“Encouraging people to experience and enjoy the outdoors has been our mission at The North Face since we were founded 50 years ago,” said Ann Krcik, senior director of Outdoor Exploration at The North Face. “We are proud to support these outstanding programs that expose participants to the beauty and joy of the outdoors. Through these Explore Fund grants, we are building a community of outdoor explorers and inspiring people to love and protect the places where we play.”

Since 1977, the Cold Creek Docents have been leading field programs for public and private schools in the greater Los Angeles Region and has provided over 100,000 learning experiences for students.  The focus for this project is to provide more opportunities for Fourth Grade students.

As part of its mission to start a global movement of outdoor exploration, The North Face introduced Explore Fund (www.explorefund.org) in 2010 and the program has since provided more than $2.2 million in grants to organizations committed to inspiring people to explore the outdoors and care for the environment.

To learn more about Mountains Restoration Trust and The Cold Creek Docents Field Program visit www.mountainstrust.org.

About The North Face®

The North Face, a division of VF Outdoor, Inc., was founded in 1966. Headquartered in Alameda, California, the company offers the most technically advanced products in the market to accomplished climbers, mountaineers, snowsport athletes, endurance athletes, and explorers. The company’s products are sold in specialty mountaineering, backpacking, running, and snowsport retailers, premium-sporting goods retailers and major outdoor specialty retail chains.

Media contact:
Stephanie Jones
Mountains Restoration Trust
818-591-1701 x203
sjones@mountainstrust.org

Caren Bell
On behalf of The North Face
510.748.2742
Caren_Bell@vfc.com

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“Old Fire” Claims Mountains Restoration Trust’s Headquarters

On the weekend of June 4th Mountains Restoration Trust’s headquarters fell victim to the Old Fire in Calabasas.  The fire started from downed power lines caused by a car crash close to the office on Mullholland Highway.  The fire quickly burned up 516 acres of the Santa Monica Mountains.  The office building, which was a converted home, was devastated after the old wooden patio awning caught fire and the flames rapidly spread throughout the house.  We were fortunate in that the historic Masson House on the property was completely spared and that no one was seriously injured.  We have been able to salvage many files and hard drives from the computers that did not burn up, but many irreplaceable artifacts were lost.

This fire, though tragic, is an opportunity for Mountains Restoration Trust to rebuild and become stronger than ever.  It is not stopping us from continuing our restoration projects; in fact, many members of the field crew were back out working on our projects by the following Tuesday!  We have a commitment to preserve, enhance, and restore the natural resources of the Santa Monica Mountains and we will continue to do that.  We can now use our skills right on our own headquarters’ property, as we work to enhance and restore the coast live oak woodlands and riparian areas that were burned there.

The office will be torn down and we have plans to create a nature focused demonstration center for the community and beyond.  The center will show how we can live in an urban-wildland setting.  There will be native gardens, interpretive activities, a community presentation room, public bathrooms, and more.

As for now, we are asking for financial assistance in order to continue our operations.  We have moved our office into the Masson House and are in the process of replacing many of the items lost.  We are working to replace the tools used in the field, such as shovels, gloves, hoses, waders, and buckets, along with office supplies, such as computers, telephones, and filing cabinets.  As we are in a scramble to get the projects going full force again, we are appreciative of any and all help.

From fire comes regrowth, and so we are looking forward to the future of Mountains Restoration Trust!

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Potrero Creek Revegetation Project

tom-hayduk-planting

Restoration Manager Tom Hayduk (right) and a volunteer(left) working to plant native species.

As you might already know, we are currently working on the Potrero Creek Revegetation Project at National Parks Service’s Rancho Sierra Vista property in Newbury Park. The goal of this large effort is to plant 5,000 oak trees and other native plants on 24 acres of floodplain along Potrero Creek. We are in need of donations in order to complete this vast project. The project is an exciting challenge and an opportunity for the community to help return this land back to the oak woodland and riparian habitat that existed prior to disturbance from ranching and farming activities.

potrero-creek-revegetation

Potrero Creek Restoration Site with volunteers.

The site was previously a cattle and sheep ranch, then a citrus farm, before being purchased by the National Park Service many years ago. Most native plants that were once there have unfortunately been replaced with non-native annual grasses, mustards and wild radishes. A previous restoration project implemented by the NPS within this area twenty years ago accounts for some of the coast live oak trees scattered throughout the site, and probably much of the mulefat, western sycamore and California wild rose established along the creek. Yet, when MRT first visited the site in the fall of 2014, the area appeared to be largely a blank slate. But on close inspection, little pockets of native plants were found, and anything native and thriving – even on a small scale – was added to our plant list for the project. The list was expanded to include other Santa Monica Mountain species appropriate to the habitats and microclimates found onsite.

Since the project began in February 2015, we have completed about 3/5ths of the planting, meaning that there are still just under 2000 plants that need to be put in the ground. As one of MRT’s most ambitious restoration project to date, we underestimated the vast amount of work required, and are running out of grant money. Even with strong support from the local community and the help of over 300 volunteers, we are still in need of additional funding. The donations will go towards completing the plantings and caring for the recently planted native plants, which includes watering, weeding and spreading mulch. Please share this with your family and friends, donate if you can, and/or join us at one of our monthly volunteer events! Your support in returning these 24 acres of land to the oak woodland and riparian habitat once found there is greatly appreciated!

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