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February 2016                                                                               
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Welcome to another edition of Habitat Happenings, a newsletter provided by San Diego Habitat Conservancy (SDHC). 

In November, SDHC launched our first ever Virtual Gala! Through the use of technology, we celebrated all of our volunteers, partners, and friends that have helped us protect and enhance San Diego’s unique environment over the past year. The Gala consisted of a series of emails, the debut of a new video showcasing our work, and an online auction. Thank you to everyone who contributed during the campaign! Your support is, as always, truly appreciated by everyone here at SDHC.

In December, we were excited to see the start of restoration work at Mast Park, a pending project in the City of Santee. We also performed a nocturnal survey at Bridges & Santa Fe Creek Open Space Preserve, with interesting results! Read more about both Mast Park and the survey at Bridges later on in this newsletter.

In January, we received funding to begin managing Mission Vista High School Preserve in Oceanside,
Sonata Property Preserve in Carlsbad, and Ryan Smooth Tarplant Preserve in Santee. These preserves are key components in establishing an interconnected County preserve system. Learn more about these preserves below.


Roadrunner spotted at Carlsbad Raceway.


View during January site visit to Lonestar Preserve.


Our vision is a healthy natural environment
that engages the commitment of people and 
communities, creates a legacy, and improves the quality of life for all living things.
Restoration Efforts at Mast Park
     

Restoration work at the Mast Park Wetland Preserve, a pending project in the City of Santee, has begun! The 12.7-acre open space preserve will serve as mitigation for six nearby development projects. Restoration efforts include the creation and enhancement of native riparian scrub habitat which will support wildlife and sensitive species and create natural water filtration and flood control systems to  improve the health of the San Diego River.

HELIX Environmental Planning is conducting the restoration efforts, which include grading 35,000 yards to create ideal soil conditions for native plant growth, and installing over 15,000 native riparian plants, all of which were either collected locally or grown in HELIX’s nursery. Now that the initial phase of restoration is complete, HELIX will continue monitoring the site for a period of approximately five years, allowing the newly installed habitat to develop and become self-sustaining, after which SDHC will begin actively managing the site.

SDHC's long-term management tasks will include monthly monitoring visits, tracking vegetative health, surveying for sensitive species such as the endangered least Bell’s vireo, removing trash and invasive species, and conducting community outreach. All other access to the preserve will be limited under a restrictive covenant to protect native habitat and sensitive species.
Nocturnal Wildlife Survey at Bridges  & Santa Fe Creek Preserve
By now you probably know a little about SDHC's 112-acre Bridges & Santa Fe Creek Open Space Preserve. Located in Rancho Santa Fe, nestled between other conserved lands and bisected by Escondido Creek, Bridges is an important riparian area and wildlife corridor. Once annually, SDHC performs a night survey at Bridges to search for owls, amphibians, and other nocturnal animals. This year, the survey was performed in December by SDHC's Habitat Manager, Jim, who was accompanied by SDHC's Program Assistant, Danielle. 

Jim and Danielle arrived at the preserve at dusk, strapped on headlamps, and walked along the creek and into the uplands listening for wildlife. Almost immediately, they heard the resident pair of 
great horned owls! Although they were not able to locate the great horned owls and make a visual confirmation, Jim and Danielle
 did locate an owl's roosting spot: a convenient-looking tree branch near the water surrounded by owl droppings and small bones. Jim also found what appeared to be scat from a gray fox which, if confirmed, would be the first sign of this mammal's presence within the preserve.
Jim and Danielle also searched the creek for particularly destructive exotic pests, namely crayfish and bullfrogs, but oddly, both critters appeared absent, even in places where they are regularly seen. We'd love to say that this can be attributed to the aggressive hunting techniques of the raccoons on-site, but unfortunately it's most likely that these critters were staying warm elsewhere due to the cold temperatures that night. Next year's nocturnal survey will be conducted in the spring to increase the chances of seeing more wildlife.

Bridges & Santa Fe Creek Preserve, 12/30/15
 
SDHC's Newest Preserves!
SDHC is excited to have recently received funding to provide management for three new projects, increasing not only the number of acres we manage but also the diversity of sensitive species and habitats. 
 
Mission Vista High School Preserve
 
Mission Vista High School (MVHS) Preserve in Oceanside consists of an onsite portion and an offsite portion set aside as mitigation for construction of MVHS. The onsite portion, comprising 19.3 acres, is located adjacent to the high school site while the 15.7-acre offsite portion is located about two miles to the south on Darwin Drive. The habitat at MVHS Preserve consists mostly of coastal sage scrub with some riparian areas. Coastal California gnatcatchers have been observed at both sites and two pairs of the federally endangered least Bell’s vireo have been seen at the onsite portion. SDHC will immediately begin long-term management duties at MVHS Preserve with monthly monitoring visits.

Mission Vista High School Preserve (offsite portion)
Sonata Property Preserve
 
Sonata Property Preserve in Carlsbad serves as mitigation for development of La Costa Town Center and totals 2.98 acres, 1.57 acres of which is being enhanced. Merkel and Associates is performing the enhancement effort which includes relocation of approximately 1043 thread-leaved and Orcutt's brodiaea plants from the construction site, as well as monitoring these plants and weeding for six years. Brodiaea are sensitive, native herbaceous perennials that have declined in number to the point where many types are listed as endangered in California and threatened on a federal level. The primary reason for their decline has been loss of habitat due to development.
After the enhancement program is complete, the site will support southern willow scrub, valley grassland, alkali and freshwater marsh, and brodiaea habitat. SDHC will  conduct easement compliance visits three times per year until the enhancement program is completed, projected to be in 2018. Once enhancement success criteria have been met, SDHC will begin all other long-term management tasks.  SDHC is thrilled by the opportunity to manage a site that will allow this species to flourish.
Thread-leaved Brodiaea
Ryan Smooth Tarplant Preserve
 
Ryan Smooth Tarplant Preserve consists of 2 sites within the Edgemoor Mitigation Bank located in the City of Santee upstream of SDHC's Lowe's Preserve and the upcoming Mast Park Wetland Preserve. This 1.44-acre site serves as mitigation for construction of the neighboring Santee Riverview project, a mixed residential, commercial, and corporate office complex.
 Smooth Tarplant  
  ©2008 Benjamin Smith
                          
 A 5-year restoration program is underway which included moving approximately 7,500 individuals of smooth tarplant from the project site to the preserve area. Smooth tarplant is a plant that is endemic to California and further limited to the counties of San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino. Once restoration is completed in 2019, SDHC will take over management of this unique site and increase our presence along the San Diego River.
Species Spotlight
Tarantula Hawks
(Genus Pepsis)
If you’ve ever encountered one of these creatures, you probably haven’t forgotten. Something about tarantula hawks just screams “danger!” Of course, there is a reason for this – the intensely bright colors displayed by these insects is warning coloration, an antipredator adaptation that communicates to other species that they sting and are not good for eating. We humans should be sure to heed this warning: although usually docile, when threatened, female tarantula hawks can deliver some of the most painful insect stings in the world.

The above picture was taken at a site visit to SDHC’s Lonestar Open Space Preserve in Otay Mesa. Given the abundance of tarantulas present at Lonestar, it was not surprising to encounter a tarantula hawk. Adult tarantula hawks feed on plants and nectar, but female tarantula hawks also use tarantulas to feed their young. They will sting a live tarantula, wait until it is paralyzed, drag it into a burrow, and lay an egg on the spider. Once the tarantula hawk egg hatches, the larva burrows into the tarantula and feeds – often for weeks – until the juvenile tarantula hawk is mature enough to emerge and fly away.


Female Tarantula Hawk spotted at Lonestar Preserve
 

 
 
Tarantula at Lonestar Preserve
File Your Taxes and Support SDHC!

SDHC is once again partnering with H&R Block this tax season! Click on the photo to the right, print the referral form, and take it to the office when you have your tax return prepared. If you are a new H&R Block client, SDHC will received a $20 contribution from H&R Block. Thank you for supporting us and good luck filing those taxes!
Become a Member Today!
                   
Our efforts to preserve native habitat and biodiversity in San Diego County and to expand our education program can only be accomplished with the support of donations. As a dedicated member, you are helping to preserve those spaces that are unique to San Diego and you are helping to ensure that future generations may enjoy the same beauty that never ceases to astound and inspire us. Please make your voice heard by becoming a member today!
 
Go to www.sdhabitat.org to join. Make a minimum $35 donation
                                              and receive a lightweight SDHC t-shirt.
                                                
Eric Mondero, President
Kenneth Little, Treasurer/CFO
Trish Jones Mondero, Secretary
Omar Acosta
Dave Claycomb
Joe Duffel
Robert Leiter

Dan Root
Christina Schaefer
Don Scoles, Executive Director
Jim Rocks, Habitat Manager
Sarah Krejca, Program Coordinator
Danielle Phillips, Program Assistant 

Volunteer at SDHC!
Join us! SDHC has volunteer opportunities on
the Board of Directors as well as in fundraising and filmmaking!
See our website for details.
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2770 Historic Decatur Rd., Suite 205, San Diego, CA  92106
Phone: (619) 365-4839 ~ Email: SDHC@sdhabitat.org


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