By David Yearsley
Imagine if you will a 1,737-acre pristine valley in southern Sonoma County- one that contains a 250-acre natural lake, plus numerous ponds and springs that support diverse wildlife and flora. Surround this valley with 800-foot high rolling hills offering beautiful Bay vistas, then add resident Golden Eagles soaring through the breathtaking views. Now imagine this vision as a reality. Yes, there is currently a fantastic opportunity for a new regional park in just such a place! The Regional Parks Department has partnered with the Open Space District in a proposed deal to purchase the Cardoza Ranch and restore the historic lake to beautiful Tolay Valley. This incredible site is located just east of the tiny town of Lakeville, off Highway 116, two miles south of Petaluma.
Tolay Valley is a pristine, self-contained watershed that has been preserved by the Cardoza family for over three generations. It has been open to the public only during the annual Cardoza Ranch Pumpkin Festival, when up to 28,000 visitors each year get the opportunity to ride hay wagons, gather pumpkins and experience the charm of an old-time family farm. Historically, the valley once contained southern Sonoma's only natural fresh water lake. In ancient times it was famous as a gathering spot and spiritual center for the region's indigenous people. More recently it inspired names for the town of Lakeville and what is still called "The Lakeville Highway."
Sadly, the lake was drained in the late 1800s. Dynamite was used to "unplug" the lower end of the valley, letting the lake's water drain into San Pablo Bay. The historic lake bed, used for agriculture, has subsequently yielded a treasure trove of Native American artifacts, including many arrowheads and thousands of rare "charm stones," some dating back 4,000 years. Many are on display in a small museum on the ranch. Some of the unique stone artifacts have made their way to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.
Not only does the valley have a rich cultural history, it has tremendous biodiversity. Because of the many natural fresh water seeps, wildlife is still abundant. The valley harbors several known species of special status, including the Burrowing Owl, Red-legged Frog, Northwestern Pond Turtle, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Kite, California Horned Lark and Tricolored Blackbird. It is also one of only two known locations in the Bay Area that produce a special "moist prairie grass."
Unfortunately, the opportunity to acquire this pristine watershed is a limited time offer. The Cardoza family, including several generations of descendents, agreed in April to a one-year commitment to sell their cherished 1,737 acres to Sonoma County for $18 million dollars. The County put up $250,000 in "earnest money" for that privilege, and now hopes to raise the funds necessary to complete the deal. The Open Space District, according to Supervisor Mike Kerns, is committed to providing half of the funding-$9 million. The Regional Parks Department is working hard to match that number by seeking grants and donations from public and private sources.
Time is of the essence. The owners are currently willing sellers, hoping what has been a family heirloom can now be preserved as a public treasure. However, they have been negotiating with the County for nearly three years and have recently received offers, exceeding the appraised price, from private parties with development and gambling interests in mind. The parcel is zoned to subdivide into 28 estate parcels or could possibly be developed as a golf club, resort or casino. If the purchase money is not raised by the April, 2006, deadline, the deal could easily fall apart. The family feels they can wait no longer.
What can we do to insure that this property is saved from development and preserved as a beautiful public park? The Sonoma County Regional Parks Department has a web site that tells about its plans: <www.sonoma-county.org/parks>. Look under "What's New," and you will find information about their efforts. There is also a local group, the "Friends of Tolay Lake Park," that is organizing grassroots support to see that the property is acquired in time. Its members will be arranging tours and giving community presentations, as well as manning an information table at the Cardoza Ranch throughout the October pumpkin season. There is also information online about this project, which can be accessed by searching "Cardoza Ranch Pumpkin Farm" or "Tolay Valley" on the Internet. A "Friends" web site is under construction.
A lot of community support and volunteer effort are needed to ensure that this dream becomes a reality. If you would like more information or want to lend assistance to this vital project please contact the Friends of Tolay Lake Park at 766-6832. Help us put the "Lake" back in Lakeville!
(David Yearsley is a Petaluma Riverkeeper and a Friend of Tolay Lake Park)
By Curtis Kendall, Sanctuary Manager
The Audubon California Mayacamas Mountains Sanctuary, near Healdsburg, California, was overrun by wildfire on Saturday, September 4. Approximately 99% of the 1400-acre Sanctuary had been burned by late Sunday evening. Fortunately, the Sanctuary is comprised of fire-adapted habitats and Audubon has no significant structures or facilities on the property. Unfortunately, nearly all of 1200 shrub and tree seedlings planted within the last two years, which are part of an oak woodland and riparian restoration program in the Pine Flat area, were lost to the blaze.
The Sanctuary is comprised of grassland, chaparral, hardwood woodland, and mixed hardwood/conifer forest habitats, along with a mile of riparian habitat along Little Sulfur Creek, many wet seeps and springs, and substantial serpentine soil habitat. The fire was very fast moving, and it is likely that most of the mature trees will survive the assault. We have little idea of the extent of wildlife loss due to the fire; however, we are hopeful that most of the birds and other wildlife were able to escape the flames and smoke or find safe harbor in the few pockets that did not burn.
While initial looks at the burnt and smoking Sanctuary leaves a pit in my stomach, there is great potential for a massive grassland restoration effort in the fire's wake. The Sanctuary has been plagued by many invasive weed species including yellow star thistle, Italian thistle, and medusa-head grass-fire is just the tool to begin the fight to allow native grassland species to gain the upper hand. Planning for the restoration effort will begin immediately.
The Geysers fire, which was reportedly started Friday by a malfunction at a geothermal power facility within the Calpine Geysers Geothermal Power Generating Facility five miles or so from the Sanctuary, was approximately 12,000 acres in size. Many of the Sanctuary's neighbors were fortunate to have minimal losses; however, some did lose cabins and outbuildings and for that we are saddened.
Audubon's good friends and neighbors Jim and Shirley Modini, who own a 1700-acre ranch that they manage as a preserve next door to the Sanctuary, suffered minimal loss. The Modinis, with a fire crew and five of their close friends, including myself, battled the firestorm to protect the Modini's home and barn despite a mandatory evacuation of the area. The fire crew set a backfire as the wildfire approached the Modini's home. However, wind from the firestorm pushed the flames beyond the fire line around the house making it necessary to battle flames that jumped into the Modini's yard just feet from the house. The Modinis lost one old historic bull barn that was only 50 feet or so from the house, but their house and large barn a quarter-mile down the road were saved. In retrospect it is obvious that we were very lucky that nobody was injured or killed-the intensity of the heat and smoke was unbelievable.
By Bryant Hichwa
Madrone Audubon would like to commend Mayacamas Sanctuary Manager Curtis Kendall for his efforts on the Sanctuary and in assisting our neighbors, the Modinis, during the Geysers Fire. Our chapter is committed to providing support with planning and "people power" for the necessary restoration efforts of replanting, assessment and research studies. We hope that Madrone members who have expertise to assist in those efforts will step forward to help, as well as any simply possessing strong arms and backs for the manual labor involved. Watch for follow-up information
We also recommend the excellent article in the Press Democrat
of Sunday, September 12, "A Wildfire's Rebirth" by
reporter Martin Espinoza, concerning the effects of the fire
on the Sanctuary.
"The Glory, Wonder and Diversity of Birds"
Monday, October 18, at 7:30 PM
First United Methodist Church
1551 Montgomery Drive
We welcome back our ever-entertaining past president and Pee Wee Audubon leader Peter Leveque. He will give a talk he presented at Sonoma State University in the Fall of 2002 as part of the university's Arts and Lectures Program, the first in a series of five lectures to honor Charles Sibley, a renowned ornithologist who studied avian relationships using DNA comparison techniques.
Peter's lecture will address some interesting aspects of bird biology and particularly the amazing diversity of species. The talk will be followed by slides to illustrate some of the points made in his presentation. He adds, "taking notes not required but could be helpful for the quiz that follows." Be prepared!
Peter Leveque is a retired Biology professor, having spent
35 years at Santa Rosa Junior College teaching biology-Field
Biology, Marine Biology and selected courses in avian Natural
History. He recently spent three weeks in Kazakhstan with his
daughter in order to accompany her and her newly adopted little
boy back home to Santa Rosa.
Bouverie Preserve Events:
Biannual Volunteer Work Day at Bouverie is Saturday, October 2, from 9:15 AM to 1:30 PM, rain or shine. After a morning of repairing trails, trimming back fallen trees, mulching, and helping with other odd jobs, participants will enjoy a homemade lunch served at 12:30 PM. Please call the Preserve at 938-4554 to register no later than September 29.
Nesting Season 2004 at Bolinas Lagoon Preserve's Heronry. Remember our 2004 cold, rainy spring and our resident pair of ravens, "Maurice" and "Peg"? Despite those difficulties, the heronry successfully fledged 18 Great Blue Heron chicks (90% success rate), 105 Great Egrets (49% success rate), and at least 8 Snowy Egrets (a guess of 57% since Snowies' nests are mostly hidden from view). Maurice and Peg raised at least two chicks, whose hungry mouths explain the increase in the heronry's predation over last year.
Our heartfelt thanks to all of you Chapter members who hosted during ACR's public season. We hope you came to our Volunteer Appreciation Picnic last month so we could celebrate your generosity and time in person.
Preparing for Winter (which is really Northern California's "spring," but that's another story). October always marks the start of our fall school programs at Bouverie and Bolinas Lagoon Preserves. Hundreds of docents will visit nearly one hundred 3rd- and 4th-grade classrooms all over the Bay Area, then lead nearly 3000 schoolchildren over miles and miles of beautiful trails at our two teaching preserves. They'll teach-with hands-on kits and wonder-filled hikes-about the ways nature prepares itself for winter's stress by the amazing feats of migration, seed dispersal, deciduousness, decomposition and hibernation. Right now many volunteers are in a training program at Bolinas Lagoon for 22 Wednesdays, studying to become docents by Spring 2005. Bouverie Preserve will conduct its training class starting next September 2005. It's not too early to inquire about this wonderful opportunity to study with natural history experts and learn to share the love and wonder of nature with schoolchildren. Call (415) 868-9244, or visit our website at <www.egret.org> to learn more about these two award-winning programs.
The 3 R's-Research and Resource Management at the Ranch. ACR biologists and volunteers are conducting their own studies or working with visiting investigators on over 60 active projects, from newts to waterbirds, raven eggs to cape ivy, grassland management to species diversity. You can learn more about these fascinating studies by subscribing to our annual research publication, The Ardeid, hot off the press last month. Call either (415) 663-8203, or visit our website. [[[Mary--watch for italics on The Ardeid]]]
The 3 F's-Fun and Free Food. Join us for a fall workday on Saturday, October 2, at Bolinas Lagoon Preserve in Volunteer Canyon and we'll serve you a great lunch. From 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM, 1:00 lunch. Call (415) 868-9244.
By Betty Burridge
When my phone rings, I never know who will be calling or what they will want to know. That's because I'm the "General Bird Question" person listed on Madrone Audubon's answering machine. Sometimes it's just about the friendly brown birds on the patio that go "pink, pink, pink." That's easy, they are California Towhees. Another favorite question, especially at this time of year, is: "When should I take down my hummingbird feeders so the hummingbirds will migrate south?" The answer for this one is that our local Anna's hummers do not migrate and thus they appreciate nectar feeders the year round.
But one evening, July 14 to be exact, I got a call from Sonoma. This man had been observing up to 20 white birds with owl-like faces gathering each evening in a large walnut tree about a block from the Plaza. He had checked his field guide and decided that the Gyrfalcon held the closest resemblance to these birds. Now I've been a birder for 30 years, and finally saw my first Gyrfalcon this June in Denali Park, Alaska. The thought of 20 made me smile.
But we pursued this case. He acknowledged that there were possibly dark marks on the face, near the eyes. Without good binoculars he was not able to give me any more details. Assuming that these were raptors, my mind fixed on which gathered in groups. White-tailed Kites, of course, but only in the winter that I knew of. It was a puzzle.
So I called a birding friend who lives in Sonoma, and asked if he would check this out. The next day I received a call with the answer to the puzzle. My friend lived just two blocks from the caller, so he walked over with his telescope and tripod and was able to identify the birds as immature White-tailed Kites. Neither of us had heard of "teenager" kites meeting as a group in the middle of summer. What is more, these "kids" did not roost there for the night, but flew away together. The kites continued to gather there for a few more weeks.
What does this mean? One novice birder became enamored of the clarity and precision of good optical equipment, and swore that he was hooked on birding from then on. And two "hard-core" long-time birders learned that there is always more to learn.
Bodega Bay, Wednesday, September 1
By Roberta Chan and Martha Bentley,
BRC Admissions Coordinators
Last spring the Bird Rescue Center in Santa Rosa appealed to Madrone Audubon members to help through baby bird season by manning the new admissions and telephone service at the Center. This is a position which requires graciousness and tact under pressure, knowledge of the development of baby birds, and the ability to convince others to follow the advice given.
The following Auduboners stepped forward and helped ensure that literally hundreds of baby birds were NOT "rescued" but left with the parents who are their best hope of survival: Janet Bosshard, Roberta Chan, Marlena Hirsch, Elinor Laubly, Judy Missakian, Shirley Spina, Elaine Woodriff and Laurie Smith.
We hope all of you and more too will step forward again next year! A thank you is also extended to all of you who helped feed and care for birds in the back rooms of BRC. Your help was greatly appreciated.
The production of the October Madrone Leaves has been "outsourced"-to Michigan! By the time you read this issue it will have traveled to Mary Haller's computer in her new home in West Bloomfield, near Detroit, and back again via electronic magic to our printer, Seraphim Rose Press, in Rohnert Park. We are grateful to Mary for volunteering her long-distance services, since new Production Editor Diane Cobb is spending a few weeks welcoming her first grandchild into the world.
Mary reports that she and her husband Stan have enjoyed their first full summer in the Midwest. Their bird feeder, placed at the edge of a lush forest, has provided a lot of entertainment "more interesting than television." She was watching recently and confessed to considerable dismay when a large shadow flew over and very visibly took away one of her little customers in its talons-nature's hierarchy in action.
Speaking of our "editorial staff, " I would like to thank Mike Seddon very much for his ongoing help. Mike, who actually lives in Santa Rosa, puts the calendar together, edits the Observations and proofreads the entire final copy, down to those last pesky commas
We hope all of our members received the September Leaves in a timely fashion this past month. That seemed to be the case, and we sincerely hope that most of the labeling problems and bulk mail slowdowns experienced in the first half of 2004 will not be repeated.
Reminder: Please contact Kathy Angell by phone or e-mail (see page 8) for membership questions. And remember that we welcome your comments and/or contributions-line drawings, too would be appreciated to illustrate our newsletter. For these purposes you may contact Editor Daphne Smith or Production Editor Diane Cobb (again, see page 8 for phone and e-mail information).
Starting this fall we would like to renew all of our local Madrone memberships at the same time. This schedule will reduce the workload for our local membership team, that is, the volunteers who update the database with changes of address as well as renewals and expirations.
Please look above your name on your newsletter to see the date your membership will expire. If your membership has expired or is due to expire by June 30, 2005, please renew as soon as possible. This membership will be valid until December 31, 2005. We plan to send a reminder notice for renewals in a few weeks.
Madrone Audubon now has 166 members that have joined our local chapter (and 1700 memberships through National Audubon). We remind you that funds collected through local memberships stay in our chapter and are used to support local projects in education, conservation, general meetings and birding. If you want to maintain your National Audubon membership and also want to support the local chapter's programs, please consider a donation directly to Madrone Audubon. Watch for our annual fundraising letter in October.
If you have any questions, please call membership chair Kathy Angell at 838-4041
By Dan Nelson, 762-3811
Lesser Scaup Jun.-Aug. Bodega Harbor M.Ob.
CONTRIBUTORS: Ann Amyes, Betty Andrews, Betty Burridge, Dave DeSante, Patricia Domenigoni, Liz Donath, Mark Eaton, George Griffith, Cathy & Paul Heater, Mike Heffernon, Art Hofmann, Alan Hopkins, Joel & Linda Hornstein, Lisa Hug, Calvin Lou, Margarita Luff, Thelma Miller, Ian Morrison, Gerry Mugele, Kathy Mugele, Dan Nelson, Karen Palmer, Howard Peterson, Jean Richmond, Doug Shaw, Rich Stallcup, Arthur Slater, Phil Taylor, Ryan Terrill, Gwendolyn Toney, Joe & Kathy Tresch, David Vander Pluym, Jim White, Alan Wight, and Ken Wilson.
Information on Redwood Landfill's proposed expansion and its threat to the Petaluma Marsh is now available on-line. NWLE (No Wetlands Landfill Expansion) has just launched a new website, <http://www.noexpansion.org/> . Check it out!
"Let's Watch Hawks" with John Klobas. Sunday, October 3. An SRJC Community Education class on observation and identification of raptors as they migrate southward over Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands. We will also bird the Rodeo Lagoon area and visit the Golden Gate National Recreation Area Visitor Center. This class ideal for the beginning as well as the experienced hawk watcher. For more information and registration, call 527-4372.
Native Plant Sale. Saturday, October 9, from 9 AM to 1 PM at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building across from the County Fairgrounds, sponsored by the Milo Baker Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. October is peak planting time for natives-this sale is the time to buy! It provides a wide array of native plants including trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and seeds, AND benefits scholarships. Advice is available on habitat plantings as well as shade/sun and dry/water needs.
Creekbed Restoration. Saturday, October 9. LagunaKeepers will join ranks with the Cotati Creek Critters at the headwaters of the Laguna, in Cotati. Meet at 9 AM at Helen Putnam Park in COTATI (not Petaluma). Take Old Redwood Highway through downtown Cotati, past the Veterans Building on the left and turn left at the stoplight onto Myrtle Avenue. Meet in the parking lot of the park. Watch for "critters" signs. For information contact Laguna Foundation Education Coordinator Mary Abbott at 527-9277.
Special Events in the Central Valley
Public tours are held at the Isenberg (Woodbridge) Crane Reserve near Lodi on Sundays, second Thursdays and second Saturdays of each month through February 27 (holidays excepted). This area is the Sandhill Crane capital of California. Tours are led by docent naturalists; for more information call (916) 358-2869.
Eighth Annual Central Valley Birding Symposium in Stockton, November 18-21. At the Radisson Hotel, hosted by the Central Valley Bird Club. The schedule, brochure, and registration form are on the website: <http://www.cvbs.org>. The non-computer inclined can contact Frances Oliver at (209) 369-2010.
And don't forget the Audubon Assembly! Hosted by California Audubon, also at the Radisson Hotel on Wednesday and Thursday, November 17 and 18. The conference theme is "Building Constituencies for Bird Conservation" and will feature an array of workshops and programs. For full details about the Assembly contact Jill Shirley at (530) 795-0550 or visit the website at <www.audubon-ca.org>.