Catching Up with Stewardship: Fire Preparation, Dealing with Weeds, and More Fire Prep

del puerto canyon

Stewardship Update May 2021

Written by Haley Sutton, Land Stewardship Associate

Fire Abatement Is Finished!

Save Mount Diablo has completed fire abatement on all required properties for the season!

This month we finished Anderson Ranch, Marsh Creek 4 and 6, Oak Hill Lane, Lot 25, Thomas Home Ranch, and Big Bend, as well as a second pass at Smith Canyon and Marsh Creek 7.

Over the course of the last month and a half, staff utilized two riding mowers, one tow-behind mower, two push mowers, and six line trimmers. A big thank you to the Trail Dogs and Contra Costa Fire Department for supporting this effort. Staff have rejoiced with the completion of this annual project.

Photos by Haley Sutton

Noxious Weeds Must Go

With fire abatement behind us, staff have shifted to integrated pest management (IPM) tasks on various properties to tackle populations of noxious barbed goatgrass (Aegilops triuncialis) and medusa head grass (Elymus caput-medusae). These grasses are lime green against an otherwise golden and dry backdrop of other annual grasses, making them easy to identify from afar.

Up close, both grasses have many sharp bristles that can directly harm livestock and other wildlife, and outcompete native grasses, characteristics that lead to a high Cal-IPC rating. The most effective management technique at this stage of the grasses’ life cycle is to remove barbed goatgrass and medusa head by hand, pulling the entire grass from the soil and bagging it before throwing the bag in the waste disposal.

We are especially excited that a patch of barbed goatgrass located in a corner at Mangini Ranch that staff have been pulling for the past three years is being controlled and eliminated. The success of managing this patch is further motivation to target populations on other properties!

Barbed goatgrass (Haley Sutton)

Medusa head grass (Haley Sutton)

Mangini Wildlife

The clutch of kestrels at Mangini have hatched! With the support of a Mary Bowerman research grant, Brian Richardson of the Kestrel Campaign has installed additional cameras around Mangini to help us understand which wildlife are using the property and how they interact with the environment.

A second camera was added to the kestrel nest box to collect information on parent foraging behaviors amidst challenging climate conditions, and other cameras were placed at a few other locations that appear to have high wildlife traffic.

Young kestrels (Brian Richardson)

Spring Blooms

What are your favorite spring wildflowers? We received a few answers to last month’s question, and those include bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), butterfly mariposa lily (Calochortus venustus), and baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii). Answer this month’s question here.

Butterfly mariposa lily (Sean Burke)

Baby blue eyes (Scott Hein)

Bitterroot (Haley Sutton)

There’s More to Fire Preparedness!

Fire preparation does not stop with mowing around properties! An additional component to fire abatement and fire safety preparation is to ensure all fire roads have ample overhead space and are clear from fallen debris in the event fire trucks need access.

Some branches from tall junipers fell across the driveway at Big Bend, and at Curry Canyon Ranch a pine tree broke and fell, leaving the cut end sticking out into the road. Staff implemented new tools and methods to clear out the debris from the roads.

Step 1: Cut the fallen tree

Step 2: Move the cut log out of the road

Step 3: REJOICE!

Education and Outreach Update

Written by Denise Castro, Education & Outreach Associate

BioBlitz Follow-Up

Save Mount Diablo’s BioBlitz has concluded. It was a great year with lots of fantastic finds!

We had amazing attendance this year thanks to our partnership with the California Native Plant Society as part of their long-term Fire Followers Campaign. Within the two-week period, more than 100 observers collected over 2,500 observations from across the northern Diablo Range, many of which were uploaded onto iNaturalist and eBird.

Experts, naturalists, and the public gathered over Zoom a few days after the event ended on May 6th to share their BioBlitz adventures and most exciting finds.

Watch the BioBlitz Debrief here! To learn more about the overall BioBlitz event check out our BioBlitz web page.

Tufted poppy (Sean Burke)

Discover Diablo Program

Save Mount Diablo’s Discover Diablo program is back in action! We’ve had seven awesome hikes in May:

Hikers in del puerto canyon

Del Puerto Canyon Hike (Haley Sutton)

May 1 Medicinal Plant Walk led by Save Mount Diablo volunteer and East Bay herbalist Anna Marie Beauchemin. We had a total of seven participants join us on this lovely Saturday stroll, who learned a lot about the healing world of plants.

May 8 Shell Ridge Vistas led by Jean Vieth. Jean was joined by eight participants. Judging by all the post-hike survey responses, everyone had a great time! Many participants noted that they learned a lot about the history of Shell Ridge and the plants and animals found there. Everyone was super appreciative of the hike volunteers.

May 9 Mother’s Day Amble at Mitchell Canyon led by Steve and Carolyn Balling. This hike was joined by nine participants.

It was a super nice hike up the Mitchell Canyon fire road and onto the Globe Lily trail. There were some beautiful flowers in bloom, although the drought has affected the overall quantity. Nevertheless, all the participants had an amazing time!

May 13 Sauntering & Soloing led by Save Mount Diablo’s very own Executive Director, Ted Clement, on Mangini Ranch. This hike was joined by 11 participants.

Each participant was provided with a notebook and pen and directed through a series of meditation activities. In the post-hike survey, participants made a note on how this event was both soothing and yet very eye-opening.

May 15 Exploratory Hike Del Puerto Canyon led by Save Mount Diablo volunteer Frenchy Hendryx and Save Mount Diablo’s Land Stewardship Associate, Haley Sutton, and joined by 13 participants. This is the first time Save Mount Diablo has ventured further south of the Diablo Range for the Discover Diablo Program.

This hike was a big hit! The site was recently burned as part of the SCU Lightning Complex and participants got to see some super cool fire followers, like whispering bells. The views and the history of the place is very rich. There’s another hike coming up this December if you want to join: Dec. 11 Exploratory Hike—Del Puerto Canyon.

hikers posing

Mother’s Day Amble (Steve Balling)

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