Tejon RancH Conservancy eNews May 2019


By Staff Biologist Mitchell Coleman

The Ranch has been immersed in a blur of color this wildflower season. Within the span of a week, areas that were green and brown burst into multitudinous hues of orange, purple, pink, yellow, and red. That’s only what you see at a glance; get close, and low to the ground and more colors and textures reveal themselves!

The diverse, mosaic-like patterns across the landscape offer a rousing reminder of Tejon’s ecology — an ancient, open land where the flora and fauna of four major ecoregions come together. Such a diverse blend of ecosystems cannot be seen elsewhere, and it is this land that the Tejon Ranch Conservancy is charged to “Protect, Enhance, and Restore,” a duty we feel every time we step behind the gates.

Poppies in the Antelope Valley (photo by Mitchell Coleman)

At the Conservancy, it has been “all hands on deck” since wildflower season started. Hundreds of visitors have come and gone, most commenting “We can’t wait to come back!” The lower-elevation areas are beginning to senesce, so we now shift our attention to the coming bloom in the Ranch’s high country which offers opportunities for interesting scientific and botanic observations.

One of the most impactful experiences I have had this season has been leading student groups out on Tejon Ranch. During my so-called “downtime,” I have been teaching ecology and botany classes at Bakersfield College and CSU Bakersfield. One of the neat things about being faculty is that I can build field trips to Tejon Ranch right into my syllabus. Thus, students who might never have considered making such an outing find themselves amongst fields festooned with poppy (Eschscholzia californica), owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta), goldfields (Lasthenia spp.), popcorn flower (Plagiobothrys spp.), and many, many more. Most students do not realize how much open space and plant diversity there is out on the Ranch.

A Bakersfield College Intro to Biology class learning about patterns of plant diversity on Pescado Ridge (photo by Paula Harvey)

Owl’s clover and goldfields (photo by Mitchell Coleman)

We ask ecological questions like “why is this species growing here, but not there?” or “why have we only seen pronghorn antelope in open grasslands and not woodlands?” Mostly, however, I just let them discover for themselves. They need to take it in, as do we all. Often at the end of our tours, I return students back to their vehicles and they don’t want to leave. Indeed, many ask to come back on their own time! This is music to my ears, as I think to myself, “mission accomplished”, we’ve educated and inspired once again.

There are many ways to inspire a love of nature. We are still fresh from last month’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) workshop taught by renowned naturalist John Muir Laws. Nearly 100 teachers, educators, and enthusiasts spent two days with him on the Ranch, learning about his approach to enticing people to nature.

Striped adobe lily in the Tejon Hills. This is a rare species with less than 20 populations endemically distributed across the west-facing slopes of the southern Sierra Nevada (photo by Mitchell Coleman).

Sample of a student’s nature-journaling exercise

As a scientist, the “A” in “STEAM” is a new one for me. Much of Jack’s approach involves nature journaling in the same vein as Charles Darwin during his now-famed voyage on the Beagle. To journal effectively, you must sit down, notice, wonder, and reflect on something of interest. Then you begin to draw. You can spend hours on a single flower and hardly notice the passage of time. It’s a powerful method, one which emphasizes patience and an eye for detail. It’s not surprising that meaningful scientific observations can be gleaned from this practice. Students on the Ranch have subsequently been asked to go off by themselves to journal on nature. We’ve had some great results.

CSU Bakersfield ecology students engaged in a nature-journaling exercise (photo by David Haub)

To say the least, it has been (and still is) a great season. With an eye toward late spring and early summer, there is no need to take a deep breath to get ready for the next plunge. We’ve been taking plenty of them this whole time. Longtime visitors and newcomers alike, the Conservancy invites you to visit this regional treasure. Let’s experience the Ranch together!


Mitchell Coleman

Tricolor gilia (photo by Mitchell Coleman)

Photo by Ben Teton

A quarry of color

The Conservancy Members' Picnic

Photo by Joel Reynolds

In mid-April, Tejon Ranch Conservancy members were invited to a wildflower tour and picnic on Tejon Ranch. About thirty members took advantage of the sunny warm temperatures on the Antelope Valley side of the Ranch.

"I was transported, literally and figuratively, to the floral wonderlands of the western Antelope Valley with fellow nature lovers to admire and photograph the stunning display, free of crowds and traffic. A delicious picnic completed a perfect day." - Sharon Moore

The diversity of flowers was unlike previous years. Conservancy staff and some of our most knowledgeable docents provided information at numerous locations along the contoured stretch of land where the Tehachapi range meets the desert floor.

“It was the best flower day ever! Our guides (especially Ellery) knew all the best spots for viewing and could name every flower. We were treated to a spectacular lunch up on the mountain, complete with wine. All in all it was one of the best days I’ve ever had!” - Phyllis Alexander
Richard and I think that our wildflower tour and picnic was one of the best outdoor days we have ever spent. We have never seen the quantity and variety of flowers that we saw. A day to remember! - Maria Grant
Photo by Joel Reynolds

The day included a delectable alfresco picnic lunch with linen tablecloths and fine china in the oak-studded side canyon known as Canada Del Agua Escondida below the Ranch’s scenic Blue Ridge. Members had the chance to meet and mingle with one another before the tour continued on its way in search of the Ranch’s colorful quarry.

"Thank you so much for the wonderful experience and sharing the beautiful land you help to preserve." - Naomi Nishi
Thank you for an amazing day. - Kathy Perkinson
Photo by Joel Reynolds
"My Tejon Ranch wildflower tour was like a dream. I didn't expect the semi-formal lunch alfresco. Your staff and volunteers were amazing." - Rob Briner
My experience on the Wildflower Tour was amazing. Our tour guide was Reema and she was very knowledgeable and very helpful. The variety of flowers was outstanding, one would think that Mother Nature was working over time. Thank you for allowing me to have such a unique experience. - James C. Burrow
I've been up to Tejon in previous years when the wildflowers were blooming, there was always something beautiful about it all. But, this year was simply "off the chain"! I was stunned, bedazzled, in awe. It surpassed all of my high expectations. - Louis Tucker
Photo by Chuck Noble
Frazier Mountain High School students on Tejon Ranch


By Operations Director Tim Bulone

Eighty-one is an interesting number. It is the atomic number for thallium; if you love semiconductors and fireworks, then 81 is definitely your number. If you are phoning a friend in Japan, then dialing the country code 81 is an absolute must for international relations. The fact that there are 81 provinces in Turkey may not impress unless you, yourself, are from the 81st province, Zonguldak.

Even if you are not 81 years old, setting off a Piccolo Pete while making a long-distance call from Zonguldak, Turkey, to a friend in Japan about your love of semiconductors, we hope what follows will interest you. It is a HUGE deal to us.

It was 81 of you who made a commitment, large or small, that put the Conservancy over the top in its Education Challenge Grant! You chose to commit to making outdoor learning accessible to even more students and teachers who know that retention is better and subjects more interesting when paired with real-world experience.

Eighty-one people felt it was important enough that they donated more than $40,000 to the challenge and in doing so, they triggered the $60,000 matching grant by our visionary and beloved benefactress to whom we are all so very grateful.

It’s evident from the first time a student sets foot on Tejon Ranch that something different, and even challenging is happening. Something she or he will remember the rest of their education and perhaps even their life, not the least of which is that nature is both a dynamic laboratory and a quiet sanctuary.

To the 81 of you who went beyond thinking “I should,” to the action of “I will!” thank you. Thank you for making this possible and thank you from the countless students who will meet, wonder, and learning at the same time, someday soon. And thank you, as well, to our strongest supporter and ardent benefactress for urging us to do even more!

Photo by Laura Pavliscak
The large, noisy fluff ball aka barn owl chick. (Photo by Vicky Bingaman)


Kristy Donati noticed something unusual beneath some trees near the Tejon Ranch’s Old Headquarters, where she lives. It was a large squawking fluff ball! When she approached, she noticed that the giant fluff ball had a large beak and large claws; she determined it was either a baby hawk or a baby owl. When she phoned the Conservancy, she said that it had been extremely windy the night before and suspected that the wind had knocked the chick from its nest in an oak tree.

We put her in touch with Vicky Bingaman, the rescuer who helped the Conservancy’s Ben Teton in 2017 with an injured golden eagle (treated, then released in early 2018 ). The two met up to make sure the large noisy fluff ball would get the attention it needed. Vicky determined it was a baby barn owl and took it to Mountain Aire Veterinary Hospital to be checked out. Thank you, Kristy, Vicky, and Dr. Cosko!

Photo by Laura Pavliscak

video: Bathing in public!

A golden eagle, after a bit of preening, moves out of view of a Conservancy wildlife camera.

Photo by Ben Teton

Public Notice

The Tejon Ranch Conservancy has been an accredited land trust of the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) for the last five years and is in the process of applying for re-accreditation. The land trust accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. A public comment period is now open.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, conducts an extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs. According to Conservancy Director of Operations Tim Bulone, accreditation is the gold standard that lets the public, our donors, and governmental agencies know we care about the lands entrusted to us to protect and steward.

The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications. Comments must relate to how Tejon Ranch Conservancy complies with national quality standards. These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust. For the full list of standards see http://www.landtrustaccreditation.org/help-and-resources/indicator-practices.

To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org, or email your comment to info@landtrustaccreditation.org. Comments may also be faxed or mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments: (fax) 518-587-3183; (mail) 36 Phila Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

Comments on Tejon Ranch Conservancy’s application will be most useful by June 30, 2019.

Click here to support the Tejon Ranch Conservancy


(661) 248-2400


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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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