Tejon Ranch Conservancy eNews Winter/Spring 2020

On the Ranch

By Operations Director Tim Bulone

Whether it’s nature or nurture, there’s no doubt that the human life span has increased by some measure now that we have reached the year 2020. Happy New Year, by the way!

Back in the 1600s, a young Englishman named Percy lived an incredibly full life in just 30 short years. He was educated at Oxford and influenced by, among others, American pamphleteer Thomas Paine. Percy felt the need to express his dissatisfaction with the government of his day in the least seditious manner he could think of: poetry. Percy was good at it. Back then odes were a pretty big deal. In case you missed that day in English class, an ode is a poem about a specific subject and Percy wrote a now-famous poem called Ode to the West Wind.

So, what does an ode-writing, old-timey Englishman have to do with life on Tejon Ranch? Well, it’s actually the last line of his Ode to the West Wind that brings us to where we are. Arguably, his most notable quote, it is especially fitting for this time of year. “O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

We are about a month away from wildflower season. Our winter brought us plenty of moisture, much of it from snow. And though we can’t know for sure how colorful our spring will be, the duration of wildflower season, like Percy Bysshe Shelley’s life, always seems incredibly short. Full, beautiful, wondrous, but short. Poetry may not be your thing, but if you drove across Highway 138 last wildflower season, then you saw nature’s own poetry of wildflowers with stanzas made of poppies, lupines, and owl’s clover that left your eyes wanting more.

We will do our best to make sure there are opportunities to experience this year’s bloom, whether it is just a haiku or a full-blown sonnet. Life is too short to spend it all looking at a screen; some of it must be experienced on the Ranch.

Photo by Ben Teton


Christmas Bird Count 2019

By Steve Justus, California Naturalist Docent

Photos by Mitchell Coleman

Every year for the last several years, the Conservancy has supported the Audubon Society’s important Christmas Bird Count program with our results reported and compiled into the national project. In 2019 we were able to stay consistent with previous surveys, fielding four teams that covered both the Antelope and San Joaquin valleys. Our total species count was 60, a bit down from previous years.

Photo: Say's phoebe (Sayornis saya) on black elderberry (Sambucus nigra), Chanac Creek.

Weather was the story again this year. Conditions were decent until the last minute with the weather deteriorating on the morning we were to head out. Being too late to cancel, the teams just toughed it out. Intermittent drizzle and light rain made some roads impassable, and intermittent low clouds kept us at lower elevations. But the dedicated teams stayed focused.

Photo: red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) on California sycamore (Platanus racemosa), Tejon Creek.

Most impacted by weather was the Western Antelope Valley route, where the team sighted only 16 species, highlighted by three golden eagles and three ferruginous hawks. The Eastern AV was only a little less impacted with a count of 22 species. This route was highlighted by a greater yellowlegs sighting on a pond, plus mountain and western bluebirds, harriers, and red-tailed and ferruginous hawks.

Photo: acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) on black oak (Quercus kelloggii), Winter's Ridge.

Counts on the San Joaquin Valley routes were the least impacted by weather. The southwestern route compiled 29 species. Highlights were the high raptor counts: harriers and red-shouldered, Swainson’s, red-tailed, and ferruginous hawks, and merlins and kestrels. Add in golden eagles and a bald eagle!

Photo: red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis).

The Eastern SJV route had the largest team and highest results, with a total of 55 species counted. The individual counts were in some cases very high and highly varied. Highlights were many, but standouts were 12 raptor species including sharp-shinned and rough-legged hawks, bald eagle, golden eagle, and prairie falcons. Add in 62 wild turkeys, eared and pied-billed grebes, and it was quite a day for this team.

Photo: western bluebirds (Sialia mexicana), female and male, on inland scrub oak (Quercus berberidifolia), Blue Ridge.

The Conservancy thanks all of the participants for supporting the CBC. Volunteers are the lifeblood of any science or stewardship project on Tejon. Your time is greatly appreciated. If you are interested in other volunteer projects, please follow us on Facebook and at Tejonconservancy.org.

Photo: red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) on red willow (Salix laevigata), Chanac Creek. 

Photo: wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), near El Paso Creek.

Photo by A. Jones

2020 Wildland Weeding Events

By Conservation Science Manager Mitchell Coleman

A small population of the rare California jewelflower (Caulanthus californica) co-occurring with the highly invasive Sahara mustard (Brassica tournefortii) on Bald Mountain. Photo by Laura Pavliscak.

One of the Conservancy’s mandates is to protect and enhance the amazing biodiversity and endemism found on Tejon Ranch. As many of us know, invasive plants are a significant contributing factor to decreased biodiversity, in California and worldwide, in part because they are highly resource competitive. In days past, it was not uncommon on sunny Saturday mornings to happen upon groups of sweaty people cheerfully pulling out invasive plants, by hand, by trowel, and sometimes by power tool. The numerous trash bags they filled were treated as hazardous waste, carefully taken off the property to be disposed of in a way that would prevent the seeds from dispersing once again.

A group of wildland weeders celebrating their victory over the noxious weed, Sahara mustard (Brassica tournefortii), near Comanche Creek. Photo by Mike White.

Those early morning weekend warriors made great strides at mitigating the dominance of invasive species in certain spots on the Ranch, perhaps so much that for a few years now there hasn’t been as much of a need for targeted weeding efforts. This can only be a good thing, as the co-occurring native plants in these areas, many rare, have had more room and resources to grow. If there is a downside, it is that this passionate community of stewards have not recently been able to ply their craft on Tejon.

A group of wildland weeders tackling a dense patch of invasive horehound sage (Marrubium vulgare) near Pescado Creek. Photo by Scot Pipkin.

Bittersweetly, two-plus years of decent precipitation have provided us some astounding “super blooms” yet have also increased the invasive biomass and seed bank. We need to weed once again. Let’s take this as an opportunity. Whether you are new to the world of stewardship or an experienced steward, do you want to get your hands dirty? Do you enjoy seeing your labor benefit the land? Would you like to see a part of Tejon Ranch that you probably haven’t visited before? If so, sign up for a Wildland Weeding event in 2020! You can count on a few hours of weed pulling and generally geeking out on all things ecological. Chance wildlife encounters and wildflower displays may be a bonus. Locations are still TBD, as we must wait and see which areas will be in special need of attention. In the meantime, keep a steady eye on the horizon (or rather, the events calendar!).

A group of volunteers from the Los Angeles Conservation Corps preparing to take on a dense patch of tamarisk trees (Tamarix ramosissima) near Caliente Creek. Photo by Laura Pavliscak.


Ravens and Pronghorns and Joshua Trees and Poppies exceed fundraising goals.

In December 2019, we asked some of our favorite people to form fundraising teams for us and guess what? They did! The goal for each team was to raise $1,000 and the team that raised the most money for the Tejon Ranch Conservancy would win an incredible prize, a springtime tour and picnic for 10 on the Ranch.*

Almost instantly, four teams formed: the Pronghorns led by, arguably, our hardest working docent Steve Justus; the Poppies led by Donna Fenton of Bakersfield (with help from, arguably, the most animated docent Dick Taylor); the Joshua Trees led by the mysterious and elusive Tejon visitor Sonja Bolle; and lastly, the Ravens led by long-time Conservancy supporter and frequent visitor Dr. Diane Cosko of Mountain Aire Veterinary Clinic in Lebec.

In the first few weeks, the Joshua Trees bounded to the lead, exceeding the $1,000 mark right away. But in the following weeks, the Poppies and Ravens teams surpassed the Joshua Trees, then took turns outdoing each other for the lead. Each team exceeded the initial $1,000 goal. In the last week, the Ravens swooped in to take the prize having raised $7,950. In all, the total raised by all four teams exceeded $20,000!

Thanks to the tremendous effort of these teams, especially their captains, and the fine folks who supported them, we are able to continue our mission working to protect, enhance and restore the native biodiversity and ecosystem values of Tejon, not just for us, our children, and grandchildren, but also for the plants and animals that call Tejon home.

*or a prize of equal value

A Panoply of Precious Invertebrates

The Lorquin Entomological Society shares its 2019 ‘Bioblitz’ results.

By Emile Fiesler and Kat Halsey

A fluorescent California common scorpion (Paruroctonus silvestrii). Photo by Emile Fiesler.

The Tejon Ranch is a biological treasure trove. Due to its unique location at the confluence of intrinsically different habitats, it has a large biodiversity. The Transverse Mountain ranges, the Mojave Desert, the Central Valley, and the southern foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range all converge at the Ranch.

A checkered white butterfly (Pontia protodice). Photo by Kat Halsey.

Tejon’s flora has been studied in detail. The plant list boasts a richness of more than one thousand species. The vertebrate animals, mainly the mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, and especially the birds, are also being studied.

A rove beetle larva (Staphylinidae spp.). Photo by Emile Fiesler.

The largest biodiversity of all multicellular organisms on Earth, as well as on Tejon Ranch, is comprised of the invertebrates — the animals without a backbone. Invertebrate animals include insects, arachnids (spiders and kin), myriapods (millipedes, centipedes, and kin), crustaceans (crayfish, roly-polies, and kin), mollusks (snails & kin), and earthworms. Even though the invertebrates, especially insects, represent the majority of the biodiversity, they are also the least known. These compounding extremes provide an exciting opportunity to discover a plethora of species, many still unknown to science.

A California pink glowworm (Microphotus angustus). Photo by Kat Halsey.

Their richness in biodiversity is paralleled by the importance of their ecosystem contributions, including pollination, decomposition, being primary and secondary consumers, and as direct and indirect food sources for organisms higher up the food chain, including humans.

A rare wandering spider (Titiotus spp.). Photo by Emile Fiesler.

To enable this discovery, the Tejon Ranch Conservancy has partnered with the Lorquin Entomological Society. LES is the largest society in Southern California dedicated to the study of insects and their kin. Since 2015, the Conservancy has invited LES to help study and document the biodiversity once or twice a year, for several days in a row.

A true velvet mite (Trombidium spp.). Photo by Kat Halsey.

From June 28 to 30, 2019, LES was based at Sebastian Camp and ventured into the Ranch on day trips. Our BioBlitz event was organized and hosted by Mitchell Coleman. We surveyed the riparian habitat of Tejon and El Paso creeks, as well as the higher elevations of Winter’s Ridge.

A long-snout plant bug (Neurocolpus longirostris). Photo by Emile Fiesler.
A goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia). Photo by Kat Halsey.
One camel cricket (Gammarotettix aesculus) of a large colony. These crickets are associated with buckeye trees. Photo by Kat Halsey.
A large lady beetle (Hippodamia convergens) colony. Photo by Kat Halsey.
A cybaeid spider (Calymmaria similaria). Photo by Emile Fiesler.

One of the highlights of this BioBlitz was the treasure trove of spiders, including a rare wandering spider. We look forward to another BioBlitz in 2020! For a full species list, follow this link. 


By Education Coordinator Paula Harvey

When I go out in the field and find something interesting, I settle in to study it. I think about my subject, observe deeply, and then learn further by sketching it. I lose track of time and become intimately involved in my study.

My mind is stimulated, my thinking becomes clearer, I’m energized and I feel connected with the natural world around me. Questions emerge and I write them around my sketches. Some questions, with further observation, can be answered on the spot, others I take home for further research.

Journaling is personal and individual and each of us has our own style. Yet, what we study is connected to the scientific community and some of our observations may be useful to others, particularly in the face of climate change. I’m contributing to the greater scientific good, at the same time, enhancing my own well-being.

The intellectual, emotional, and spiritual benefits of nature journaling are so far-reaching that it is no wonder it continues to be a beloved activity of naturalists, artists, and scientists.

Some journal examples.

Last spring, Tejon Ranch Conservancy hosted a two-day “Nature Journaling for Educators” workshop. Kern County science and art teachers and outdoor educators from Southern California were inspired by the content and the surroundings. We were graced with spectacular spring weather, occurring between two storm systems, and brilliant wildflowers in Campo Bonito, a place we often refer to as The Milky Way, for the display of thousands of acres of popcorn flower, (Plagiobothrys).

This workshop was specifically designed for educators who could bring what they learned to their classrooms, because science/nature journaling connects directly with NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards). Teachers enjoyed themselves and came away with ideas and strategies they could immediately use with their students. Some comments from teachers:

• “I hope nature journaling is the latest for a shift in our collective paradigm. Science and creativity and spirituality. This is what humanity needs most right now.”

• “Taking in nature while learning is an ideal way to learn new things. It has inspired me to get our students into similar learning environments.”

• “Not only was the content of the workshop incredibly valuable, it was so energizing and inspirational to be surrounded by other professionals of various backgrounds, each bringing their own perspective and expertise to the table. As an outdoor educator, I walked away with numerous tools that I could (and did!) implement in my classes immediately.”

Tejon Ranch Conservancy is once again offering this wonderful two-day workshop for educators. It will be held on March 26th and 27th. We’ve made some changes that will enhance participants’ experiences. Content will be delivered in a way that connects what teachers do in and out of the classroom, in science, art, and language arts, with the relevance of field journaling.

We have teamed up with Wind Wolves Preserve, so we will spend one day there and one day on Tejon Ranch. We have the help of an artist who will teach some basic drawing skills on the first day. On the second day, we will have breakout sessions in wildflower identification, tracking, advanced drawing, wildlife and landscape photography, wilderness writing, and more. AND, we will spend more time than last year journaling and collaborating with our colleagues.

“Observation, curiosity, and creativity are skills that you can develop. Learn to observe deeply and open yourself to the wonder of inquiry and investigation. Embrace what you do not know as a point of departure to explore the mystery of the world.” (Laws, The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, 2016)

If you are an educator, interested in learning more about this amazing event, please contact me at pharvey@tejonconservancy.org.

A New View

By Operations Director Tim Bulone

Any important work is worth the effort. That is how we feel about our newly redesigned website. Every staff member had a hand in its creation, having started with our most recent CEO Bob Reid and then Communications Manager Ben Teton, who spearheaded the project at its start. Whether it was writing, creating maps, graphics, selecting photos and videos, or editing and polishing, staff rose to the occasion.

The true test, however, rests in your hands. We tried to make it not just easy to use, but easy on the eyes, as they say. We hope you will find it useful and enjoyable. You may explore our new website by clicking the button below.


Nature Journaling Workshop - February 21, 2020

Nature Journaling with Tejon Ranch Conservancy - Observation, curiosity, and creativity are skills that you can develop. Join us for our February Nature Journaling workshop on Tejon.

Tejon Canyon Hike - February 23, 2020

This moderately strenuous hike is 6 miles up and back through Tejon Canyon, which was the historic route used by early explorers to cross the Tehachapi Mountains. We will hike along a dirt road, adjacent to Tejon Creek, through a beautiful sycamore and willow riparian ecosystem, as well as oak woodlands and incense cedars.

Leap Year Hike - February 29, 2020

Join us for a 3-mile family-friendly hike in the White Wolf area of Tejon Ranch to observe the verdant landscape. Directions will be emailed to registrants three days prior to this easy to moderate hike.

Nature Journaling Workshop - February 29, 2020

Nature Journaling with Tejon Ranch Conservancy - Observation, curiosity, and creativity are skills that you can develop. Join us for our February Nature Journaling workshop on Tejon.

Wildland Weeding Event - March 14, 2020

Do you harbor a grudge against invasive plants? Are you interested in environmental stewardship? Want to get your hands dirty? If so, spend the day with the Tejon Ranch Conservancy and learn how this small not-for-profit organization works to manage invasive species on Tejon Ranch. Space is limited: Book your spot now!

The Small Print

Please register early, seats are first come, first served. Events may be canceled and access may not be granted for any reason including, but not limited to, severe weather, hazardous conditions, not enough registrants for a specific event, actions that are incompatible with with the 2008 Conservation and Land Use Agreement, etc. Event registration is mandatory and no person may be substituted for another. Those not registered will not be allowed access to the property. Pets and smoking are not allowed on Tejon Ranch.

Photo by Dan Potter

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Thank you!

Tejon Ranch Conservancy E-News produced by co-editors Tim Bulone and Susan Chaney. If you’d like to contribute to E-News, please let us know.

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