08 Jun What Spring Bring(ed)
“Would you rather have unlimited hot dogs but no video games or… ?
I can’t remember the rest, but it was a real conundrum.”– Boss man Eric
Here you are, once again, looking at my words. There are lots of them here, so I won’t waste any in the intro. I’ll just give some context and clarification. Context: I took the main picture when the power went out at the dorm, and I went on a walk (some lesson about being surrounded by constant beauty but never paying attention, etc.). Clarification: the leading quote came from a brilliant man. He fell victim to a busy day and the everyday stress of remembering anything conversational under pressure (he remembered later, and it really was a conundrum). That’s all!
March: Phleger Estate
Last time, one of my talking points involved setting up trail cams at Phleger to watch for wild hogs in the area. I’m pleased to report that we photographed zero pigs! Perhaps they’re camera-shy, bashful boars versed in sneaking around out of sight, or maybe they were never there, incorporeal apparitions leaving only tracks before disappearing like fog under the morning sun. But I think they were probably just a pack passing through, drifters driven by an unachievable desire to experience the whole world in one fleeting lifetime. Whichever way you look at it, we don’t have a hog problem, so it’s not something we need to act on.
That was the end of February. March began with another trip to Phleger, this time in the company of aquatic biologists. It was a two-part trip. In the morning, we hiked to a pond we discovered last time on our plant monitoring survey. We previously found California Red-legged Frog eggs in this pond, and the Aquatics wanted to see if it was a good breeding pond or just a one-time thing. The frog is a species of concern, and we monitor all the sites where we know it breeds (if you remember from my previous posts). We checked it out, and Darren (Mr. Aquatics himself) waded in to look around. There were many newts and newt eggs, but there were frog eggs too! We got a cautiously optimistic diagnosis that the pond might get more use. It’s much deeper than it looks, and Darren almost got his waders swamped.
In the afternoon, we went to the more forested part of the estate to inspect the changes caused near one of the creeks by January’s storms to see if it would impact a newly planned trail. There was all kinds of erosion and some mudslides that ended up in the water. The creek had to adjust its course in some spots; in others, it slowed and pooled (very inviting to wildlife) before tumbling down its new path. Besides that, there were lots of neat mushrooms.
Some days were sprinkled in when I joined other interns at their worksites to help with what they were doing. One day I went to the Gully, a runoff site for water; they are trying to restore it so the water moves slower. I helped Matt, Maya, and Lucy lay down a layer of hay to ward off aggressive invasive plants (they’re very eager to move into the disturbed soil). The soil wasn’t the only thing being disturbed, though; many small creatures were shocked to find us lifting the roof off their hiding spots.
One of the days, I joined the rare plant crew to monitor two wildflowers near Hawk Hill, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately, I took zero pictures of the plant we were looking for, but I got an excellent photo of a hawk on a rock.
We spent another day pulling broom plants near Wolfback Ridge with a nice view into the SF Bay and Alcatraz. Once we were through, we checked lupine plants for feeding damage from the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly, whose flight season is spring (more on that in the future). Through luck and many probing eyes, Steph spotted a larva on a plant! That doesn’t happen very often.
The rest of March wasn’t glamorous, but I had a good time. We pulled pin flags and row covers (a weakness of the thin white fabric) from the grass seed lines we planted in the winter. We organized our shop and de-winterized the water trailer to prepare for the dry summer. I took the work car to the dealer so they could fix a minor recall. And I studied the books to fulfill my dreams of becoming a certified pesticide applicator. Here are some partially related pictures.
April started with a new wetland project. The place had been recently disturbed (cleared of vegetation, more like), and I got to observe and assist as the higher-ups planned its long-term restoration. The park hydrologist came out to delineate the wetland to find the “official” boundary of the wetland (based on groundwater level, soil characteristics, and types of vegetation). We dug holes all around to see where the groundwater was higher or lower, and we looked at the soil from those holes to see the colors associated with being dry, saturated, or constantly changing (redox reactions for all the chemists out there).
Besides classifying the land, we have been taking advantage of the space by going after Cape Ivy, a non-native aggressive invasive plant that can take over a place and outcompete other plants. It’s hard to get rid of once it gets a foothold because it can regrow from even an inch of leftover rhizome (like a root). Rhizomes grow sideways in or above the top inch of soil, and you have to get as much out of the ground as possible without breaking it off. So that’s what we’ve been doing, following new ivy leaves to the ground and removing all we can. It can be very relaxed and meditative if you let it (I do). And I caught and released a snake and a frog while on ivy duty, which was very energizing!
The rest of April
This final section of the blog has delayed publication for at least a month, but I won’t let it go any longer. See if you notice a drop-off in quality from here on out (but don’t tell me if you do). In the rest of our jurisdiction, my team has been maintaining mulch around our plantings from the winter, including the endangered Hickman’s Potentilla tubes, which are doing very well! On the same hill, we replaced some pin flags with more sturdy stakes for experimental plots.
More unexpected car troubles struck me ☹. The “check tire pressure” light came on as I drove home one day, but I decided to wait until the morning. When dawn shone on her radiant face, I went to the car to leave for work, only to discover the rear tire had gone completely flat. I called the special service number for government vehicles, and they set me up with a tow truck later in the day. When the man in the rig finally pulled up, I heard a part fall off his truck. I did my best to keep a straight face, but you would be at least a little concerned if your tow truck had to fix itself before picking up your car. As he was fiddling with the newly-detached piece, the man told me he had everything under control, and I could leave. I did. The gentleman was not fibbing since everything was made right when I got the car back from the shop.
May has finished! My May was very busy with butterflies, but they’ll get their post later (sooner?). Besides butterflies, we pulled out the watering trailer to water all our little plantings. The California summer is a dry beast, so we like to give our little greens a helping hand to increase survival, hence the water trailer. We also want to be conservative with our water use, so any weeds creeping up on our plant plugs get removed with extreme prejudice.
I’ve been going to a training for nesting bird surveys! During nesting season, lots of the work in the park has the potential to disturb a bird’s nest and ruin its chances of survival, so surveys are carried out before work to make sure no birds have homes in the area. They can be very sneaky about their nests, which makes it hard to check out sometimes. In training, we worked on general bird knowledge and recognizing nesting behavior (like carrying food or visiting the same spot). I just like standing around and looking through binoculars.
I have a few more pictures, but that’s all the writing I have in me for today.