Tejon Ranch conservancy January 2017

On the Ranch

In 2008, Tejon Ranch Conservancy began its work of conserving 90% or 240,000 acres of Tejon Ranch. During this time we’ve focused on protecting and restoring the natural landscape while sharing the Ranch with you and many others, including 42 research partnerships. Did you know we have 21 active research projects on-going with national and even international institutions? We’re also working with Cal State University Bakersfield and local schools to inspire future conservationists.

Faculty Members from California State University, Bakersfield

So here’s what’s planned for 2017…some exciting activities!

  • Launching the new Membership program and expanding public access with great hikes, tours and workshops throughout the year.
  • Recruiting more volunteers, including docent naturalists and citizen scientists.
  • Working with Tejon Ranch Company to improve water availability and fencing for managed grazing.
  • Continuing riparian and wetland restoration in high priority ecological areas.
  • Strategic planning with our Board to create a sustainable and independent Conservancy for the long-term.
  • Designing and building the first ever Conservancy campground.
Overlooking the Conservancy campground site.

Of course, the daily jobs of science and stewardship will continue and remain a top-priority, as will welcoming volunteers, students and guests like you to this very special place. I’m encouraged and excited for 2017 and invite you to join us, as a member or volunteer.

See you on the Ranch!


President and CEO

PS- We hope you enjoy reading about owls on wildlife cameras, migrating bald eagles, new board member Terry Watt, long-time volunteer Chuck Noble and our newest staff member Mark Herr. As always, we welcome your thoughts or questions.

Bald Eagles on Tejon: a majestic over-wintering resident.

By Ellery Mayence, Senior Ecologist

Photo by Conservancy Volunteer Chuck Noble

Eagles are relatively common on Tejon Ranch, though the majority of sightings are of the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). Each year, however, as persistent cold sets in across more northerly latitudes, large numbers of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) migrate south. From a regional perspective, the Klamath Basin of Northern California is well known amongst birding enthusiasts for its large numbers of over-wintering bald eagles. Lesser known are a handful of individuals that venture to points further south, including to the San Joaquin Valley side of Tejon, ultimately making the Ranch and the surrounding area their home away from home for the winter months (December through March).

Feeding predominantly on fish, bald eagles require unrestricted access to open water, not an obvious landscape feature of the southern San Joaquin Valley. So, where does such aquatic habitat exist on Tejon? Though there is a small reservoir on the Ranch, most folks familiar with Tejon’s over-wintering eagles often observe them along the California Aqueduct that crosses the Ranch in the vicinity of the Grapevine. Interestingly, and not necessarily common knowledge, the aqueduct supports robust populations of striped bass and catfish – ideal prey for foraging eagles.

Fortunately, for those who would like to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures, venturing onto privately held Tejon Ranch is not required, as members of the public can access portions of the aqueduct from Edmonston Pumping Plant Road. A common hangout for eagles in this area is a cluster of dead trees (and a live palm tree or two) that are the remnants of an old homestead. Though sightings are not guaranteed because the over-wintering population is small, the focal area affords other birding opportunities (particularly raptors) and impressive views of Grapevine Peak and Pastoria Mountain.

Welcoming the Women of Weather!

From left to right: Richelle Briasco, Reema Hammad, and Donna Panasiewicz. Not shown is Paula Harvey.

We would like to introduce the newest members of the Conservancy’s volunteer weather station team including Richelle Briasco, Reema Hammad, and Donna Panasiewicz. Not shown is Paula Harvey who is also an integral member of the team. The Conservancy maintains nine weather stations across Tejon Ranch and these women play a vital role in data retrieval as well as ensuring each station is properly maintained and fully operational. Visiting each station might seem like an easy job, but they’re required to brave a range of conditions including the occasional 110 degree day at Comanche Point and, though they haven’t experienced it yet, the three mile uphill hike through snow to access Martinez Ridge. Many thanks to these women volunteers for their die-hard enthusiasm and dedication!

Looking for adventure? Volunteering at the Conservancy can be fun and adventurous. Please contact Ashley at aross@tejonconservancy.org or call her at (661) 248-2400, extension 105.

Owls on Tejon Ranch

By Conservancy Biologist Ben Teton

We’re excited to share the following wildlife-camera video capturing the first confirmed sighting of the California spotted owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) on Tejon Ranch. Not only is this species uncommon and in decline throughout the West, but it also is closely associated with mature and old-growth forests and is an indicator of forest ecosystem health. With the spotted owl’s conservation status in flux and roiled in perpetual controversy, protected forestlands like those on Tejon Ranch provide a critical safe haven for these, and many other owl species throughout the region. Additionally, these videos captured on Conservancy wildlife cameras confirm the cameras’ importance and value to conservation (you can support wildlife cameras at Tejon).

Recognizing the importance of this exciting new discovery, this month we share our favorite owl videos captured across the conserved lands of Tejon.

Barn owls (Tyto alba), like the one featured in the video below, are specially adapted nocturnal hunters who rely on keen eyesight and hearing to catch rodents and other small mammals in the dead of night. Asymmetrical ear openings in their skull allow these birds to more precisely pinpoint prey in the dark using sounds alone.

This Western screech-owl (Megascops kennicottii) is a small owl native to North and Central America, and is commonly captured on our wildlife-cameras as they frequent upland spring, hunting frogs and other small animals throughout the night.

Of the nine owl species known to live on Tejon Ranch, the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) is the largest. This video clearly shows the immobile, tubular eyes unique to owls, that allow them to see great distances in low light. With eyes almost the size of our own human eyes, great horned owls have some of the largest eyes in proportion to body size among all terrestrial vertebrates.

To see more wildlife camera clips from Tejon Ranch go to our YouTube channel.

Ben Teton is a Wildlife Biologist with the Tejon Ranch Conservancy. Watch for more features on wildlife cameras at Tejon!

Welcome Terry Watt, New Conservancy Board Member

Terry Watt, Tejon Ranch Conservancy Board Member

Since 1989, Terry Watt has been the principal of Terrell Watt Planning Consultants, a firm specializing in planning and implementing projects that promote resource conservation and sustainable development patterns, all of which are significant to the region. Terry is a nationally recognized leader in general and specific planning, open space and agricultural land conservation and environmental compliance, with expertise in facilitation, public outreach, and negotiation.

“It’s hard for me to think of a person in California more qualified than Terry Watt when it comes to making conservation work on the ground," said Joel Reynolds, Conservancy Board Chair. “Terry was instrumental in helping to craft the landmark 2008 Ranch-Wide Agreement that now protects 90% of this amazing place."

Terry has a wide variety of clients throughout California, including non-profit organizations, government agencies and foundations, and is frequently at the table in negotiating major environmental victories.

“ I have long been fascinated by Tejon Ranch and was so proud to be part of its conservation, to have worked with the Tejon Ranch Company and my peers in the environmental community in creating the Conservancy. To now be able to carry on this work as the organization matures and grows is very rewarding," said Terry at a recent board meeting.

Prior to forming her own consulting group, Terry was the staff planning expert with the environmental and land use law firm of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger. Terry and her husband reside in the Bay Area and are frequent visitors to southern California, often stopping in at Tejon.

Here we go again…

By Conservancy Science Director Mike White

Most people think of fall as the time of year when plants and animals are slowing down and preparing for a long winter rest. But in some habitats in California, fall and early winter is when things just get going for many annual plants. Remember, annual plants are those that germinate from a seed, grow to maturity and reproduce within a year, and then drop their seeds for the next annual cycle. For example, fall rains trigger germination of annual plant species in Tejon’s extensive grasslands — covering over 100,000 acres of the Ranch and supporting numerous species of conservation concern. And after the first couple of storms of this season, we are finally starting to see green!

Our grassland research has shown that the timing and amount of rainfall, temperatures, and types of soil will determine which annual plants are most abundant each year. In the following photo, you can see seedlings of several different species, grasses have narrow leaves, and wildflower species have broad leaves.

Our San Joaquin Valley grasses are mostly nonnative species; it is our broad-leaved wildflowers that represent the native plant biodiversity in our “grasslands.” The Conservancy’s grassland enhancement efforts are focused on managing for conditions that favor the native species, so our grasslands look like this!

Our San Joaquin Valley grasses are mostly nonnative species; it is our broad-leaved wildflowers that represent the native plant biodiversity in our “grasslands.” The Conservancy’s grassland enhancement efforts are focused on managing for conditions that favor the native species, so our grasslands look like this!



Chuck Noble: A Legacy of Volunteerism

Chuck Noble, a Lebec resident, took his first hike on the Tejon Ranch in the Conservancy’s infancy. “While on the hike with Public Access Manager Lauren as our guide, I guess I impressed her with my knowledge of wildlife and pointed out some tracks and plant life… she then asked me to become a docent. It has been a fun experience.” Chuck’s skills and knowledge, especially with wildlife and wildlife photography, make him a tremendous asset, especially to Ranch visitors.

”I have assisted in guiding hikes and jeep tours across the ranch. I have a love for wildlife and do a lot of wildlife photography in the wild. Tejon has a lot of wildlife and is one of the last untouched properties in the state. I have spent much of my life in the mountains and have learned the importance of protecting what we have that is undeveloped. I spent my career as an aerospace photographer and graphic artist, so once retired I needed an outlet for my energy and skills, and found it two miles from my Lebec home.”

“I love passing on my knowledge to young people and trying to make them understand the importance of this wonderful land we live in. I can relate to anyone and love teaching outdoor skills and pointing out things that they would miss. I also have very sharp eye sight and can spot wildlife at a great distance, which has helped people on tours to enjoy and see often elusive creatures in their natural state. I also am a fair tracker, honed from years when I was a hunter, and can recognize different animals by their tracks.”

Chuck’s early life on a farm and childhood spent exploring nearby woods resulted in a love of nature which he describes as “Love for the outdoors and this land we live in.”

“I grew up in rural America on a farm with lots of woods and spent my youth enjoying God’s great creation. I love what the conservancy is doing in preserving this great piece of land in its natural state. The ranch is a mystery to most people; they cannot fathom why it has not been developed more! Most folks today do not understand why it is important to save these wild areas. Wildlife can move through the mountains freely and are not restricted. Birds migrate through the ranch and it is an important place where they can nest safely. Every turn and every ridge top is different and the views are awesome in all kinds of weather.”

If you love the outdoors and sharing your knowledge with others like Chuck does, please call Ashley Ross at (661) 248-2400, extension 105, for more information or to sign up as a Tejon Ranch Conservancy volunteer.

Conservancy Wildlife Tech Mark Herr

Mark Herr

As we enter a new year, we also welcome Mark Herr, the newest member of the Conservancy team. Mark Herr will replace Kayla Kauffman (who’s off to Patagonia!) as the Conservancy’s Wildlife Technician, and will continue her work studying feral pig ecology and population dynamics on the conservancy lands of the Tejon Ranch. Mark is a Los Angeles native who has recently returned to California after completing his undergraduate studies at Penn State, where he majored in Wildlife Science.

Research is Mark’s passion, and his undergraduate work focused on the ecology and evolution of amphibians and reptiles. Mark is excited to begin working on our federally funded feral pig study, and hopes that his experience studying invasive species may help give him some additional perspective on ecology dynamics. His previous work focused on the responses of native species to invasive species, and he’s excited that his role at the Conservancy will give him an opportunity to study the ecology of feral pigs directly.

Outside the office, Mark likes to spend his time in the water, and is an avid scuba diver and spear fisherman. Eventually, Mark hopes to go on to graduate school to study ecology and evolutionary biology and continue his research career.

Welcome, Mark, to the Conservancy Team!

So, what do you want to do next?

Come experience the exceptional and temperamental springtime beauty of the wildflowers on Tejon Ranch.

The Tejon Ranch has unique and diverse plant communities with an exceptional number of species. When spring conditions are just right, the plant communities are vividly displayed on the Ranch. We never know when the best blooms will start or even where, but you can bet we will have the best wildflower display in the West.

Join Tejon Ranch Conservancy as we invite the public to enjoy the wildflower bloom in the San Joaquin and Antelope Valleys. Our experienced and knowledgeable volunteers will be on hand to offer information and education about the Ranch, plants, wildlife and photography.

Pre-registration is required and you can sign up beginning in February 2017. Keep an eye open for the invitation!

In addition to these great opportunities, the Conservancy will be introducing a couple of new trips to this spring’s calendar. Check out the spring schedule of events below and sign up soon as spaces are limited.

Or better yet…Become a member today! Enjoy priority access to public access events and some great special member only events.

Want more access to the Ranch? Become a volunteer today! We are looking for all kinds of volunteers, and becoming wildflower viewing station volunteer is an easy way to get involved. Morning and afternoon shifts are available and training is provided.

For more information, contact Ashley Ross by email (aross@tejonconservancy.org) or by phone (661-248-2400 ext 105)

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