Tejon RancH Conservancy eNews August 2019

On the Ranch

By Operations Director Tim Bulone

In the course of my work here at the Conservancy, I have grown used to seeing a number of unlikely things from my office window. This window looks out on our short yard to the fence that separates our office from the Tejon Ranch Company Film Office yard, which, in addition to the film office, hosts a barn and corrals, among other things.

I’ve seen cowboys on horseback working cattle in or out of the corrals, their dogs taking an active role in the proceedings as if they were in charge. I’ve seen film crews, actors, actresses, craft service folks, and security all going about their business, like any other job, as if glamour were just the name of a magazine. I’ve seen satisfied hunters with their quarry, stowing their gear and preparing for the trip home.

I’ve seen dozens of young cottontails, some small enough to sit comfortably in a cupped hand, and ground squirrels munching on greenery in the yard. I’ve seen all manner of birds, from squadrons of pelicans, to those incredibly golden Bullock’s orioles, to hungry hawks fighting over a delicious ground squirrel. Throw in the odd rattlesnake and elusive bobcat, and you get an idea how close our wild neighbors really are.

I’ve seen all the seasons as well, nearly whiteout conditions in winter, snow blowing sideways outside these panes; the lush and verdant hills of spring hosting any number of wildflowers; summer’s hot winds scouring the trees, making us restless; and the leaves in autumn, floating, dancing, skittering first here, then there.

Like the seasons, change is inevitable. And change is in our immediate future. The Conservancy will be moving to a new home soon and I will leave this window for another which will undoubtedly host unlikely wonders of its own. I’m convinced that those of us who seek wonder in life will find it. If not out our own windows, then somewhere else. But definitely always on Tejon Ranch.

Emmy Cattani, left, with Conservancy Board Chair Joel Reynolds.

P.S. We say goodbye and thank you to longtime Board Member Emmy Cattani of Cattani Farming. Emmy served as Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair while on the Board. We wish her the very best.

Photo by Ben Teton
2019 American Hiking Society volunteers on Tejon Ranch.


By Conservation Science Director C. Ellery Mayence

Round Two of hosting an American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacation was a success, though the invasive non-native plants that were pulled, chipped, or slashed over the course of four days would most certainly disagree.

Conservation Science Director Ellery Mayence, left, discusses the ecology of the Tejon Ranch with volunteers from the American Hiking Society.

Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management volunteer service typically involves maintaining or cutting-in trails, or building or renovating back-country structures. For the AHS volunteers, the Conservancy seized the opportunity to implement wildland weed control, whilst teaching the volunteers about the natural history and ecology of the Ranch and of the greater Tehachapi region. The primary targets were white horehound and bull thistle, though no one shied away from unearthing the odd short-pod mustard or perennial pepper weed.

Wildland weed control: Volunteers remove invasive species.
Many of the volunteers were long-standing friends from other AHS volunteer vacations, so the camaraderie amongst the group was impressive, as was everyone’s work ethic, attention to detail, and heat and wind tolerances. - C. Ellery Mayence

This year’s volunteers came from points throughout the continental U.S., including New Hampshire, Connecticut, Virginia, New Mexico, and Arizona—and believe or it not—The Golden State of California (one from nearby Thousand Oaks).

One of four days spent on Tejon Ranch.

The folks at Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area once again permitted use of their dormitory for accommodation, from which daily pilgrimages were made to Tejon. Thank you, HVSVRA!

Several of the volunteers were veterans of the Volunteer Vacation program.

Many of the volunteers were long-standing friends from other AHS volunteer vacations, so the camaraderie amongst the group was impressive, as was everyone’s work ethic, attention to detail, and heat and wind tolerances. Although it was not planned as such, the vacation happened to overlap with the end of the Ranch’s amazing spring wildflower display—echoing the words of John Muir: “when California was wild, it was the floweriest part of the continent.” As previous visitors to Tejon would certainly know, most of the Ranch remains wild and this will not change.

Volunteers hike in the high country.

After four days of working on the Ranch, the vacation culminated with an easy stroll to the summit of nearby Mount Pinos, offering views far and wide, and exposing the volunteers to habitat that does not occur on Tejon due to its slightly lower elevation.

Thank you, American Hiking Society, for organizing, and thank you, AHS volunteers, for a memorable and productive week. The Conservancy hopes our paths cross in the future!

Photo by Ben Teton


By Conservation Science Director C. Ellery Mayence

Photos by Docent Naturalist Chris Gardner

The Conservancy would like to sincerely thank Senior Docents Chris Gardner, Steve Justus, and Lou Tucker for single-handedly (or would it be triple-handedly?) canvasing both sides of the Ranch as part of the 2019 Breeding Bird Blitz. These gentlemen not only arrived at the Ranch pre-dawn, but traversed many miles of Ranch roads on back-to-back days in early June to document whatever birds were willing to be seen (and counted).

Photo: Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

To be completely up-front about what they observed, these two days were not all that birdy, as species counts can easily be double what they were. For novice birders, the number of species observed is, in part, a function of the number of observers, the weather conditions immediately prior to and during the survey, as well as the number of habitats birded.

Photo: Cactus wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

As previous birders of Tejon would anticipate, the Antelope Valley side was most diverse (37 species compared to 26 for the San Joaquin), though the San Joaquin side produced perhaps the most interesting sighting as of late—an osprey. The reason for this difference largely has to do with habitat complexity (or diversity); grassland, oak woodland, riparian, Joshua tree, chaparral, and piñon pine-juniper habitats all occur in relatively close proximity to one another (or in some locations overlap) on the Antelope Valley side. The San Joaquin Valley side, in comparison, is dominated by a mix of grassland and oak woodland, as well as riparian habitat.

Photo: Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Going back to the osprey sighting, some may be asking why would an osprey be hanging around on Tejon Ranch and where would it be foraging? Well, in addition to the California Aqueduct, which crosses the Ranch and supports populations of fish, there are two reservoirs on Tejon, one of which has resident fish. So, for a maundering or migrating fish hawk, food can be found.

Photo: Western bluebird (Sialia mexicana)

Once again, many thanks to Chris, Steve, and Lou for their assistance, perseverance, and hard work! The figures that follow show breakdowns of which species were observed on each day, noting these data represent species sighted on three or more occasions.

Photo: Tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor)

Additional sightings: Anna’s hummingbird, Nuttal’s woodpecker, willow flycatcher, phainopepla, lesser goldfinch, mountain quail, great horned owl, and golden eagle.

Photo: Sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus)

Additional sightings: black phoebe, phainopepla, black-headed grosbeak, Bullock’s oriole, golden eagle, and osprey.

Photo: Spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus)

Photo by Ben Teton

VIDEO: Wild turkeys at El Paso Creek

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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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