We’re Winning!

endofseasonFor the last five years we have been trying to eradicate the Yellow Star Thistle (YST) from the Sonoma Overlook Trail. For the the last three years we’ve also been trying to do the same for the Montini Preserve. Today I ranged all over the SOT upper meadows and emerged with about half a bag of YST. This is a great improvement, and demonstrates that our campaign is making a difference. There is now so little on the Overlook that searching for it may almost be a waste of time, so now I will switch to the Montini, which is likely to still have serious infestations of YST.

This year we also started tackling the purple thistle, which has overrun the Montini but hasn’t yet done so on the Overlook. We focused on getting it off the sides of the trail, as that is a primary way that it spreads. Next year we will begin earlier in the year fighting the purple (YST comes on later in Spring than the purple).

If you want to help out, let me know. I have contractor bags and the only other things you need are a glove and persistence.

Signs of Spring

Spring is definitely in full swing. Wildflowers such as lupine and California poppies are in profusion, as are the butterflies that frequent the also prevalent Blue dicks (like the Swallowtail pictured).

The trail is mostly no longer muddy (until the next rain, at least), so now is a great time to get out and enjoy the warmth and the wildlife. Just keep your eyes peeled for rattlesnakes, as they have already been sighted on the trail. Other wildlife to look for include squirrels, deer, lizards, and wide variety of birds, from Red-Tailed Hawks to Red-Shafted Flickers to Great Horned Owls (all of which have been sighted from the trails).

Another sign of spring is, well, a sign. We just replaced the sign at the top of the trail that describes a little of the history of the area and names some of the surrounding sights viewable from the upper meadow. On the Overlook Trail, costs such as these are borne by the volunteer Stewards of the Overlook Trail group, which
collaborates with the Sonoma Ecology Center that serves as our fiscal agent. But anything that costs money to maintain or upgrade the trail and property requires us to raise money through events, donations, etc. If you feel so moved, please click on our “Donate Now!” link in the righthand column. Or, come to our next event at the Sonoma Raceway.

In any case, enjoy all of the sights of spring and stay safe out there!

Help Eradicate Invasive Plants in Montini Preserve

Friday, July 22 9:00am-11:30am

Field of Dreams/Police Station Parking Lot

What are Invasive Plants?Centaurea melitensis

Invasive species are, generally, non-native species that cause ecological harm to the biodiversity of an area. After human development, invasive species are the second greatest cause of habitat loss in the world.  In addition to displacing native plants and animals, invasives can increase fire risk and harbor pests.

Thanks to the work of our volunteers across Montini and Overlook Trail, we’ve made huge strides in suppressing the spread of many of the common invasive plants on our park land. However, it takes a community to constantly be vigilant and aggressive in maintaining outbreaks of yellow and purple thistles, harding grass and the other non-natives that threaten the ecological health of our lands.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6f/C._calcitrapa1.jpg/220px-C._calcitrapa1.jpg Come out on Friday, July 22nd and work alongside our restoration technicians to help keep our parks clean and free of the spread of invasive plants. Learn about native flora and the impacts of non-natives on our landscape and enjoy a nice day of hiking. We will be starting at the parking lot next to the police station and Field of Dreams off of 1st Street East.

Also in attendance will be Sonoma Ecology Center’s high school crew of  summer Enviroleaders. These students have been working through their vacation months, becoming young stewards of the land and leaders of their community.

Preparation

Volunteers should bring layered comfortable clothing, sunscreen, and a a water bottle.   We will provide gloves and trash bags if needed. Efforts to use reusable items are guided by a desire to reduce the overall event footprint. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

For any questions, please call Volunteer Manager, Tony Passantino at  at 707-996-0712 x124 or email Tony@sonomaecologycenter.org.

 
 

Once More Into the Breach

IMG_1263Lately I’ve been too busy with a more important project to get my daily hike in on the Overlook and Montini trails. But yesterday I cleared some time and made my way there. I knew that we were well into the season of the invasive Yellow Star Thistle, so I took along a feed sack to pull what I could.

Those of you keeping score at home likely know that the Overlook Trail Stewards have been waging war against this pest, and that war has been stepped up in recent years. Last year we were successful in eradicating it from the main Overlook and Montini properties. We knew it would be back this year, but we also figured that given how we beat it back last year it likely wouldn’t be as bad.

Having inspected a couple locations where it was bad last year I’m happy to say that it isn’t nearly as bad this year. We are indeed making progress, but we also know that this is a multi-year war and that it will require us to be vigilant and relentless.

This war is led by volunteer Steward Rich Gibson, who has called work days for groups to get together and take out both Yellow Star Thistle and Scotch Broom – another non-native that has a tendency to take over the landscape. Without efforts such as these our landscape would look very different than what it should be, and has been for centuries.

A Great Way to Celebrate National Arbor Day

mistletoeTo celebrate National Arbor Day, volunteer Steward Rich Gibson, a retired biologist, will lead a 3-mile hike of moderate difficulty on the Sonoma Overlook Trail while telling hikers about the trees and shrubs along the trail. This is not to be missed, as you will emerge from the experience with a much greater appreciation of the trees and shrubs you see not just beside the trail, but everywhere in Sonoma Valley.

There are two times to choose from:

  • Friday, April 29th at 5:30 pm
  • Saturday, April 30th at 9:00 am

For either day meet at the main Overlook Trail trailhead next to entrance of Mountain Cemetery. Be sure to bring water, sturdy shoes, and sun protection.

For more information leave a message for Rich at 707-939-0280.

 

Flowers Everywhere

P1000924If you like flowers, then now is the time to hike the Overlook and Montini trails, as they are going nuts. From California poppies, to Lupine, to you name it, they are out in great profusion. The picture to the right was taken just a few days ago on the Overlook Trail, where you can see both Lupine and Poppies hanging over the trail.

There are many other flower varieties out at this time, and others on their way. Spring is in full flower, and it is awesome.

However, keep in mind that other plants are going crazy right now, and among them is poison oak. Although we recently cut it back, it is still growing and we will likely need to cut it back again soon. Also, since the grass is growing like mad and often over-hanging the trail, keep an eye out for ticks. They like to climb up onto the tips of grasses where wildlife (and we count) are walking by so they can hitch a ride.

For tips on what to do if you are bitten, see this earlier post where I describe my own experience.

But by and large, it’s all good out there on the trail, and experiencing our wildflower bloom is well worth any slight risks.

Poison Oak Mitigation

poisonoakWe are once again in the season when poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobumattempts to run rampant on the trail, threatening hikers with itchy rashes that can spread over one’s entire body (believe me, I’ve been there). So now is also the time when we stewards work to mitigate this threat. In the past, we have sprayed the edge of the tray to kill it off, but recently we have been taking a more ecologically friendly approach by simply clipping it back.

This is potentially dangerous work, but with appropriate precautions one can do it without harm. Last year I got one small spot of itchy irritation that I was able to manage until it subsided. This year (knock on wood) so far I’ve been itch-free.

As I’ve been doing this over the last week I’ve received a lot of complimentary feedback from grateful hikers who know how annoying such a rash can be. This helps make the labor worthwhile, as you know from even just several hours of work you can make a real difference.