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Tejon Ranch conservancy enews May 2018

On the Ranch

By Conservancy President & CEO Bob Reid

Last month I wrote about the people who make conservation possible. Now I’ll ask, “Why do we need conservancies?” Maybe instead of restoring habitats and their inhabitants, we should be finding ways of not damaging them in the first place.

Think of all the lifeforms either driven to extinction or nearly so over the past century. Yes, there were many salvations and victories along the way—but why did we have to let it go that far? Were commerce, expansion, growth, and enterprise so important that they couldn’t be achieved without destruction? Obviously, we cannot do anything about the past, but we can be—and should be—doing more about our future.

The 2008 Land Use and Ranch Wide Agreement (RWA), creating the Tejon Ranch Conservancy and protecting 240,000 acres and its many lifeforms, was a big step in this direction here at Tejon. The Tejon Ranch is a private working ranch, and the RWA provided for “reserved rights” allowing the business aspects of the Tejon Ranch Company to continue, but to do so following best management practices (BMPs) for these various activities to minimize their impact on the landscape. A large part of our work at the Conservancy is working with the landowner to ensure this approach is working.

If we are successful, we leave behind an important conservation legacy. But it won’t happen on its own, nor will it succeed just because we want it to. It takes diligence, planning, thought, hard work, and a commitment to knitting together all the forces that come into play here at Tejon. It’s a complex approach in a complex environment simply aimed at conservation.

I want my grandchildren to live in a world that no longer needs to “rescue” species, but considers conservation no different than anything else—something we practice every day in every way. I want their grandchildren to experience condors, mountain lions, wildflowers, eagles, badgers, oaks, skinks, blue skies, chilly winds, and more, all as if it was perfectly natural—because it is.

Sadly, we do need conservancies. So I’m happy the Tejon Ranch Conservancy is here doing this work and invite you to help create this conservation future by joining with us here at Tejon.

See you on the Ranch!

Bob Reid

President and CEO

The California Naturalist Series

Story and Photos by Chris Gardner, California Naturalist and Conservancy Docent

Great Horned Owl: Bubo virginianus

The great horned owl, Bubo virginianus, is native to, and the most widespread owl species throughout, the Americas. Its preferred habitat includes deciduous, coniferous, and mixed woodlands, including deserts, urban areas, and mountains. Its diet consists of mammals, such as rabbits, rats, squirrels, mice, moles, voles, shrews, and bats.

This is a large owl, 18 to 24 inches tall and weighing 2 to 5.5 pounds, with dark brown and gray-brown mottled upperparts and dark-barred underparts. In the Southwest, its feathers are paler and grayer than in the Pacific Northwest.

Its soft feathers quiet the beats of its 3- to almost 5-foot wings. The head has distinct ear tufts and rufous facial disc. The throat and upper breast are white and may have heavy dark spots. Sexes are similar.

It has forward-facing eyes, just slightly smaller than human eyes. The iris is yellow. Instead of turning its eyes, the owl must turn its whole head and can rotate its neck 270 degrees. The ears are asymmetrically placed with the left ear slightly larger than the right. The ear placement allows the triangulation of sounds made by potential prey.

Sharp talons on powerful zygodactyl feet (two toes facing one way and two the other way) are used to kill prey. The great horned owl can apply at least 300 pounds per square inch of crushing power in its talons, considerably greater than the capability of the human hand.

Almost all prey is killed by crushing it with the owl’s feet. Prey is swallowed whole when possible, usually in the same location where it was caught. If the prey cannot be swallowed whole, the owl will fly with the prey to its perch and tear off pieces with its bill. The owl will regurgitate pellets of bone and other non-digestible bits. Pellets are dark gray or brown in color and are very large.

A surprise bloom in White Wolf became the focus of wildflower tours this spring.

Vistas, Visits and Volunteers

By Public Access/Education Manager Chris Fabbro

Reservoir Two after a late spring storm.

Despite the dry winter, a few storms did provide enough moisture for a late bloom and stunning scenery for a couple dozen events, including impromptu tours, member picnics, and weekly hikes, all supported by a dedicated team of docent and naturalist volunteers. Many thanks to them all, as well as our neighbors at Murray Family Farms, who offered its Big Red Barn location to stage public tours. Our appreciation also extends to partner volunteer groups, American Hiking Society, Cal State University Bakersfield, and the U.S. Forest Service, for providing over 800 field hours on various Conservancy events and projects this spring.

American Hiking Society and Forest Service participants on their 2018 Volunteer Vacation take a quick break to enjoy the view from Ray's Perch. They supported stewardship work removing invasives, preparing Conservancy picnic sites, and helping with the new Arts Education program.

Upcoming volunteer and public activities include docent-led hikes, monthly public access activities, and special member tours. Look for these dates on our website calendar and Facebook page, as well as docent naturalist training (June 9-10 and 16-17, plus ongoing field training).

We have also been working closely with several volunteer groups who share our conservation mission. These include multiple local Audubon trips including an upcoming Breeding Bird Blitz (count) in mid-May, co-hosting a weekend-long art reception with U.S. Forest Service and Conservancy Artists in Residence at Heritage Square Museum in Los Angeles, and working with school and university groups for structured educational visits.

Cal State University Bakersfield student group Sensational Sophomores supported Conservancy projects as part of their Alternative Spring Break program last month.

We are looking forward to hosting volunteers on May 12 at a new picnic area, White Fir Day Use Area, for the annual Volunteer Appreciation Day. Please contact me at cfabbro@tejonconservancy.org if you haven't had a chance to RSVP.

Photos from the Artist in Residence Group Show in Los Angeles, hosted by the Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service volunteers, and Heritage Square Museum. Ten artists staffed a public reception on April 7, filling one of the restored mansions at Heritage Square with original, nature-themed works.

Visit in May!

Everyone has two opportunities to experience Tejon this month. A high country hike, hosted by Public Access/Education Manager Chris Fabbro, is set for Friday, May 11. Click here to learn more and sign up. The next offering in the Tejon Ranch Ecology Seminar Series for 2018 will be Saturday, May 19. If you’re interested in digging deeper into Ranch ecology with Conservancy Senior Ecologist C. Ellery Mayence, Ph.D., click here to sign up! Have questions? Email Ellery at emayence@tejonconservancy.org.

Photo by Mike White
All this ancient oak tree needs is a picnic table underneath. Photo by Chuck Noble.

SPONSOR A PICNIC TABLE

What better way to enjoy a day on Tejon Ranch than stopping at a beautiful picnic site for lunch or a sunset wine and cheese, or, as students, enjoying an outdoor classroom?

We’ve made these dream visits possible with new picnic tables located within the conserved lands of Tejon Ranch!

And what better way to show your support, or even honor a friend or loved one, than by sponsoring a Conservancy Picnic Table? Your $1,000 donation will be commemorated with a tasteful plaque mounted on the tabletop and a framed photo by Chuck Noble of the magnificent Tejon landscape, seen above, to display in your home or office, and of course, a welcome picnic at your table! We have only 12 tables waiting for your support!

Prop 68 Serves All Californians

On the June ballot, many of you, as Californians, will have a chance to address some of our state’s most important water, park, and natural resource needs.

At a time when California faces more frequent and severe droughts, damaging wildfires, floods, and the impacts of climate change, Prop. 68 invests in safeguarding our water supplies and preparing for future challenges and natural disasters.

Prop 68 also helps communities across California that lack access to safe parks and clean drinking water, ensuring that all California residents, regardless of zip code, have access to the safe, clean water that they deserve and safe places for kids to play.

That’s why the Tejon Ranch Conservancy is in strong support of Prop 68, a $4 billion investment in the coming years to protect California’s own unique natural resources and ensure every Californian has access to clean drinking water and safe parks.

We’re not alone in our support. We’ve joined a broad, bipartisan coalition of conservation groups, local park advocates, water experts, and business organizations committed to supporting Yes On 68 California and protecting our state’s water and parks for years to come. Notable supporters include Governor Jerry Brown, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, the Association of California Water Agencies, The California Chamber of Commerce, League of California Cities, American Lung Association in California, and other advocates for California’s public health.

To learn more about Yes On 68 California and what you can do to help spread the word—such as endorsing Prop 68, sending an email of support, or sharing content via Facebook and Twitter—please visit the Yes on Prop 68 website at www.yes68ca.com.

EDUCATION UPDATE

By Education Program Coordinator Paula Harvey

April was a busy month at the Conservancy for teachers and students. Early in the month, 27 art teachers from Kern High School District spent a few hours exploring the White Wolf area, creating works of art, and networking with colleagues.

Two Kern High School District art teachers create beautiful works of art.
Art teachers chat with colleagues after exploring the area and working on their art.
Kern High School District Art Professional Learning Community on April 4.

We had to postpone two faculty events due to wet weather and soggy roads. Faculty from College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita was finally able to tour the southern part of the Ranch on April 20.

College of the Canyons faculty members inspect mortar holes.
College of the Canyons faculty members enjoy spectacular displays of wildflowers and stunning views of the Antelope Valley.

At the end of the month, art students from North and Bakersfield High Schools came out to White Wolf to learn about nature journaling and landscape drawing.

We will have another high school faculty day on May 10 and College of the Canyons faculty will be back out on May 9. Art students from Frazier Mountain High School will be going to Big Sycamore Canyon to create temporary sculptures using native materials.

If you are a high school or college teacher and would like to join us on May 10, please email me at pharvey@tejonconservancy.org so I can reserve a space for you.

Activity: Use Your Senses to Observe a Site

Sit quietly in one spot for 10 to 15 minutes. Pay attention to what you discover through your senses as you see, hear, smell, and feel. Record what you have experienced in your nature journal. What discoveries did you make? Which of your senses did you use the most? Did any one of your senses get stronger as you focused your attention through that sense? What did you learn about your surroundings through your sensory observations?

Variation: Walk around and examine a small area. Take notes on how man has affected the environment around you―look for evidence of man-made influence.

Photo by Mike White

BEHIND THE GATES...

April’s surprise wildflower bloom generated a considerable number of Ranch visits. The northern side of the Ranch offered the first color in late March, particularly White Wolf, and the Conservancy was soon at its busiest! Staff, with the help of about 15 volunteers, led weekend public tours, plus 18 groups for hikes, tours, birding, and workshops, and four student field trips.

This is also a busy time for Scientific Research supporting our conservation work, with over a dozen researchers and groups traversing the landscape and furthering their inquiries in this short but brilliant season. Behind the gates in April were James Parham, California State University Fullerton, investigations of legless lizards; Brandon Pratt, California State University Bakersfield, physiological ecology of chaparral shrub species; Kane Keller, California State University Bakersfield, site assessments for a study on the effects of anthropogenic nitrogen deposition on legume-rhizobium mutualistic Interactions; Tom Dudley’s Riparian Invasive Research Lab, tamarisk leaf beetle (genus Diorhabda); California State University Northridge Bryophyte Group, substrate type influence on species decomposition; Devyn Orr’s University of California Santa Barbara Group, landscape scale ecological structure and function; David Miller’s California State University Bakersfield Student Group, paleo river systems and associated conglomerate deposits; and Prahlada Papper, David Ackerly’s lab at University of California Berkeley, hybridization in oaks.

Photo by Laura Pavliscak

IT’S A FORB’S LIFE

By Wildlife Ecologist Ben Teton

It should go without saying that the “trap” cameras we use across conserved lands are designed to capture information on wildlife. That is certainly true for us on Tejon, and those of you who follow us are familiar with the diversity and richness of species that encounter trap cameras as they go about their lives on the Ranch.

However, these cameras provide a window into more than just fauna, so this month we are featuring a series of videos that documents the growth and decay of a single shrub. This might sound as boring as, say, watching grass grow, but I invite you to consider the struggle and resiliency of a lifeform that manages to endure while rooted to the earth.

Imagine surviving the wild swings of inclement weather only to be ravaged by hordes of cellulose-thirsty ungulates stalking your every, well, stalk, not to mention the invasion of foreign plants allelopathically corrupting your soil while outcompeting you for territory, both above and below ground. It’s hard out there for a forb as you will see from the series of videos capturing the growth and decay of Solanum douglasii, a particularly comely member of the potato family commonly known as “greenspot nightshade.”

July and August:

Greenspot nightshade is a common perennial shrub native to northern Mexico and the southwestern United States, characterized by an umbel-shaped inflorescence of white flowers and berries that transition from deadly poisonous to uniquely medicinal. Ripened berries of this plant were used by the Cahuilla Native Americans for everything from tattooing to curing pink-eye. The unripe berries, however, have been known to kill many species of animal including humans, and the glycol-alkaloid solanine found throughout the plant is extremely toxic. That may be the reason this freshly germinated individual was mostly passed over by the various critters browsing across its wetland home during these critical summer months.

September and October:

A month has passed since we last checked in with douglasii, and it has matured considerably in that short span, branching out and up while developing the early stages of inflorescence and fruiting bodies. It will be a rough fall for our shrub, as its broad green leaves appear evermore tantalizing to the local herbivores, both big and small.

November and December:

Winter marks the beginning of the end for our brave forb, as its desiccated stalk begins to wither while what’s left of its leaves are trampled or consumed by less exacting forest browsers. It has been a valiant run for this California native. Hopefully its berries will have helped it achieve reproductive success, so it may maintain its unique position within the ecological community of Tejon.

Photo by Scot Pipkin

More About Conservation

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Land bridge in Santa Ana Mountains could save local mountain lions—someday.

California Condor exhibit prospects boosted by 12K donation.

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Thank you!

Tejon Ranch Conservancy ENews is written and produced by Conservancy staff and volunteers with the help of co-editors Tim Bulone, Paula Harvey, and Susan Chaney. If you'd like to contribute an article to ENews please let us know.

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