June 2016                                                                               
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Welcome to another edition of Habitat Happenings, a newsletter provided by San Diego Habitat Conservancy (SDHC). We have been quite busy! In addition to working on securing and managing new preserves, here is a quick rundown of what we've been up to.

In February, we received the BIG NEWS we've been waiting for! SDHC has been accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission! SDHC also welcomed Chelita Borbón to the Board and hosted the long-awaited Birds & Brews Tour, a unique event that we hope to make an annual occasion.

In March,  Don once again hosted members of the Plein Air Painters Association of San Diego (PAPASAN) at several of SDHC's preserves, resulting in plein air masterpieces that were featured as part of Friday Night Liberty in May! We are always excited to open our doors and join our neighbors to celebrate the union of art and nature. 

In April, Jim and Sarah were kept quite busy with the start of surveys for the coastal California gnatcatcher and least Bell's vireo. Learn more about what these gnatcatcher surveys entail later in this newsletter.

In May, the Board of Directors held their annual meeting after a brief tour of our newest preserve, Mission Vista High School (MVHS) Preserve. Eric Mondero, Ken Little, and Trish Jones Mondero were all reelected to their roles as President, Treasurer/CFO, and Secretary, respectively. A big thank you goes out to all three with a special shout out to Ken who has been on our Board of Directors since 2004! 

No tree tobacco is safe when Jim's around.

After the rain at Quarry Creek 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.
SDHC is Nationally Accredited!

"Accreditation is the single-most important step the land trust community has taken in the last decade to advance the quality of land trust operations and secure the public’s trust.”

Rand Wentworth, former LTA President
On February 16th Sarah received the news we've all been hoping for - SDHC has been accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission (LTAC), the most prestigious mark of distinction in the land trust community! Of the thousands of land trusts nationwide, only 342 have received accreditation with the LTAC since the program began in 2008. SDHC is 1 of only 6 land trusts in Southern California to have ever received accreditation, and is the first and only accredited land trust headquartered in San Diego County.

SDHC staff and Board of Directors spent over 300 hours preparing for accreditation since 2013, updating record systems, perfecting SDHC’s standards and practices, reviewing and adopting policies, and meticulously documenting every detail about the organization for complete public transparency. Going through the rigorous process strengthened our organization and has prepared us to take on more and bigger conservation projects! We are excited for all that the future holds for SDHC.
Welcome Our Newest Board Member

SDHC is delighted to introduce our newest Board member, Chelita Borbón. Chelita currently serves as Environmental Restoration Project Manager for HELIX Environmental Planning’s Construction Group where she works with both government agencies and the private sector to coordinate habitat restoration projects. Chelita enjoys being involved in her community which is evident by her past work with the Tijuana River Estuary Project, her involvement with the KPBS documentary "Everything Comes from the Streets," and as a mentor of students at the Barrio Logan College Institute. In her short time on the Board, Chelita is already actively involved in both the Education and Outreach Committee and the Land Management Committee. SDHC is thrilled to add Chelita’s diverse skills, passion, and interests to our Board. Welcome, Chelita!
Birds & Brews Tour
On Saturday, February 27th, SDHC Board member Bob Leiter teamed up with Preserve Manager Jim Rocks and Executive Director Don Scoles to host our first Birds & Brews Tour in Escondido. Attendees enjoyed tours of Eureka Springs Preserve and Vallecitos Ridge Preserve followed by a guided tour of Stone Brewing Company's Escondido production facility and a beer tasting. Jim and Don led the preserve tours and provided information on such topics as native species and habitat types, the challenges of land management, and the key role communicating and collaborating with fellow land managers can play in successful conservation. Attendees included winning bidders from SDHC's 2015 Virtual Gala and several of SDHC's invaluable volunteers. A big thank you goes out to Bob, the mastermind behind this unique and successful event!

The Birds & Brews Tour crew at Eureka Springs Preserve. 
California Gnatcatcher Surveys

Coastal California Gnatcatcher
photo credit Richard Bledsoe
Habitat Manager Jim Rocks and Program Coordinator Sarah Krejca were busy this spring with surveys for the federally threatened coastal California gnatcatcher, a small songbird that has a range spanning from coastal Southern California through Baja California. Generally, if a coastal California gnatcatcher has previously been detected at a site that is being conserved, "protocol-level" surveys for the bird must be performed once every three to five years by the land manager.
These protocol-level surveys must be led by a biologist who holds a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and be conducted between 6am and 12pm during the bird's breeding season. Before applying for a permit, a biologist must first complete a minimum of 40 hours of "contact" time, i.e. time spent observing the species in the wild. Since a coastal California gnatcatcher survey lasting up to six hours may only result in an hour of contact time (or none at all!), obtaining this certification requires true dedication. Jim holds a current permit while Sarah just recently applied for her permit, having reached her 40 hours of "contact" time this spring.
Performing a protocol-level survey requires endurance, patience, and good listening skills. Being able to recognize the songs and calls of this small bird is key, as they rarely fly above brush level and can therefore be difficult to see. Their calls sound similar to the blue-gray gnatcatcher (a more common variety of gnatcatcher with an overlapping range) and it is important to be able to tell the difference to avoid mistaking the two. Often, you will hear the call of the coastal California gnatcatcher described as sounding like a kitten's "mew." When conducting a survey, a biologist will slowly walk the site, stopping often to listen for calls and observe the surroundings with binoculars. Once a coastal California gnatcatcher is located, surveyors use the bird's movements and behavior to help determine if there may be an active nest nearby.

Sarah and Leni (volunteer)
surveying for coastal California gnatcatchers at Vallecitos Ridge Preserve
These threatened birds have been documented at 8 of the 12 preserves that SDHC currently manages. Coastal California gnatcatchers dwell and forage almost exclusively in sage scrub habitat, eating insects and occasionally small berries. Although near the brink of extinction at the time they were federally listed as threatened in the late 1980s, their populations have been rising, in part due to extensive measures taken by local governments and conservation agencies to preserve key areas of sage scrub habitat. However, populations are still relatively small and vulnerable. Habitat loss due to development and growing human populations poses a significant risk to gnatcatcher populations. Nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds and predation by western scrub-jays are additional natural stressors. Continued conservation efforts will be required to give this species the best chance of recovery.
Four coastal California gnatcatcher nestlings observed this season.
SDHC on Youtube
SDHC is now on Youtube! We currently have 2 videos on Youtube which can also be found on our website, here and hereWe plan to continue to create more video content for you and are always looking for volunteers to help with these efforts. Contact us at if you would like to help. Thank you and enjoy!
Get to Know San Diego Habitat Conservancy

Get to know a little about SDHC through interviews with our Executive Director, Habitat Manager, and Board of Directors
A Day in the Life of a Habitat Manager at Bridges & Santa Fe Creek Preserve

Ever wonder what we get up to out in the field? Learn more about the day-to-day challenges, responsibilities, and perks of being habitat managers here in Southern California.
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 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
Chelita Borb
Dave Claycomb
Joe Duffel
Robert Leiter

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

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:

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