Archive for the ‘Jaimie Baxter’ Category

by Jaimie Baxter

This post is the fourth in a year-long series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Read the previous post here.

Baker's larkspur

Baker’s larkspur in bloom near Soulajule Reservoir (Doreen Smith 2000)

When you think of a species in peril, what comes to mind? In the San Francisco Bay Area, most would say the mission blue butterfly (Aricia icarioides missionensis) or the coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). These two species are well-known in the Bay Area for their dwindling numbers and declining habitat. The mission blue butterfly was Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s (GGNRA’s) “Species of the Year” in 2011. This meant that educational programs, events and restoration activities throughout the year on GGNRA lands were focused on this sensitive species. As for the coho, these salmon gained front-page real estate in the San Francisco Chronicle more than once for their spectacular spawning rituals. So, what about the lesser-known endangered species? The ones that are not awarded “Species of the Year” but still face habitat threats and alarming declines in population numbers? Endangered species such as the Baker’s larkspur (Delphinium bakeri) have not received the same attention, but they face the same threat of extinction.

The plight of the Baker’s larkspur has been mentioned in past MMWD blog entries, yet much needs to be done to spread the word about this species that only has one small, wild and natural occurrence in the entire world. This population exists on a steep slope in an oak woodland near Soulajule Reservoir in West Marin. Habitat conversion, grazing and roadside maintenance activities have contributed to declining numbers of Baker’s larkspur populations in other areas. Early in 2010, the Marin Municipal Water District, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the UC Botanical Garden partnered to find suitable habitat in which to plant nursery-propagated specimens of the endangered Baker’s larkspur. Along with members of the California Native Plant Society, these partners planted the larkspur at three sites near Soulajule Reservoir. Directly after the planting, monitoring efforts were encouraging, and optimism filled the air for this fragile, blue-and-purple flower.

Slug fence

Holly Forbes of the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden demonstrating how to build a banana slug fence barrier to be placed around Baker’s larkspur planting locations (Jessica Missaghian MMWD 2012)

Unfortunately, the latest reports state that, while some one-year-old plants survive, it’s too early to know if they will continue to survive the years to come. Holly Forbes of the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden says, “The banana slugs are eating the adult plants. I guess the larkspurs are just so tasty we need to find sites the slugs can’t reach.” Banana slugs are native to Marin County, are often yellow in color and sometimes spotted with brown—just like an overripe banana. To them, the Baker’s larkspur is tasty and because of this, MMWD, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the UC Botanical Garden attempted to make banana slug cages to protect planted areas. As Holly mentioned in her recent report, the banana slugs are still making dinner of the larkspurs, unfortunately. So, not only have the Baker’s larkspur faced immense pressure from human disturbance, they are now being preyed upon by banana slugs. When will these attractive wildflowers get a break?

Although the mission blue butterflies and coho salmon get the most attention, there are other species disappearing in our wake, other species such as the Baker’s larkspur. But we’re not giving up! Despite initial problems with predators, we hope to gain the upper hand on the banana slugs and help the Baker’s larkspur survive and flourish.

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by Jaimie Baxter and Janet Klein

The spring season provides us with a plethora of presents—wildflowers, gorgeous weather and new offspring of our favorite wild animals. If you are lucky enough, you may have the opportunity to witness a northern spotted owl fledging and its mother sitting together on in a tree or a doe licking her fawn clean in an open meadow.

Imagine this scenario. It is early morning and you are running along your favorite trail. Your ear buds are in and your running pace is set. You look to your left and East Peak is glowing in the distance. You look right to the open grassland, and suddenly you see a baby fawn sitting all alone in this open field. You are in awe of the cuteness of this small, brown-and-white-spotted creature. You stop running and tiptoe closer to it. As you get closer, you realize that the mother is nowhere in sight. She must have abandoned her young, or worse, been eaten by a mountain lion. Your mind goes into protection mode and you think that someone must do something. Since you are the only one around, you think it’s up to you to take this fragile fawn to an animal rescue center. STOP!

Darrel with fawn

MMWD equipment operator Darrel Patchin returns a “rescued” fawn to the hiding place carefully chosen by its mother before she went off in search of food. This Mother’s Day, please remember that most babies found in the woods are not lost.

Fawn season has kicked off with an unprecedented number of “kidnappings” this year: concerned folks “rescuing” newborns that appear to be completely alone, when mom had simply settled them down for a nap and gone off to graze. Of the fawns brought to WildCare already this year, nearly all appeared hydrated and recently fed, meaning an attentive parent was nearby.

What should you do if you find a fawn alone? Keep going—Mom will re-emerge when no people are around.

If you should happen upon an animal that appears injured, ill or otherwise in need of help, don’t attempt to provide that help yourself. It is never okay to remove a wild animal from its natural home on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed. Instead, contact the Marin Humane Society at (415) 883-4621. Their staff is prepared to assess the situation, determine if rabies or another disease is potentially involved, and take appropriate action.

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by Jaimie Baxter

Sprouting scientistsDo you love learning about Mt. Tamalpais and its plants and animals? Explore the northern side of the mountain, participate in fun activities and become a Citizen Scientist.

The Marin Municipal Water District believes that exposing youth to real scientific projects and the outdoors is the best way to instill environmental stewardship. And, lucky for us, the California Academy of Sciences does too! Citizen science is a big part of what we do on Mt. Tamalpais, so we welcome you to join us for a very special event on the first Saturday of May. What is Citizen science? In essence, it is “the study of nature by the people who live in it, which means YOU!” We encourage you and your families to join us in being environmental stewards to Mt. Tamalpais.

In 2012, the Marin Municipal Water District and the California Academy of Sciences teamed up to conduct a Botanical Bioblitz—a large scale  survey of every single plant species on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed. This multi-year effort involves citizens, botanists, nature photographers and students alike. Click here for more information about this project.

On Saturday, May 4, from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., MMWD and the California Academy of Sciences are hosting a “Sprouting Scientist” event at Lake Lagunitas in Fairfax. Both organizations will be on top of the dam at Lake Lagunitas to facilitate family-friendly, hands-on, science-based activities. Our Botanical Bioblitz, a real scientific project, is occurring on the same day, so families can come join the fun of collecting and recording all the plant species in the surrounding area. Come find out what it means to be a Citizen Scientist! Prizes will be handed out to all families who participate. The event is free, although the usual parking fee of $8.00 per vehicle still applies.

For more information, visit our website or contact volunteerprogram@marinwater.org or (415) 945-1128.

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by Jaimie Baxter

Volunteers on the Mt. Tamalpais WatershedThe month of June brings us the longest days of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere. The extra hours of day are loved by the flora, fauna, children and adults of the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed. This bountiful time of year provided us with the energy needed to accomplish so much.

On the first Saturday in June, we celebrated National Trails Day with a “trailgating” party on the watershed. Thanks to the efforts of forty volunteers, the Fern Creek Trail and Tavern Pump Road look absolutely stunning. The group replaced countless water bars and cut back excessive vegetation. After a morning of hard work, the group was rewarded with a pleasant lunch at the historic West Point Inn.

June’s habitat restoration event was a scorcher! However, we had a few dedicated restoration volunteers brave the heat and remove Douglas-fir at Lagunitas-Rock Road and Ridgecrest Boulevard. It seemed like Christmas in June with the smell of Douglas-fir perfuming the air.

On June 23, we hosted a centennial celebration on the watershed to mark MMWD’s 100-year anniversary. Close to 400 people took part in naturalist hikes and presentations on the sounds of Lake Lagunitas, tracks and scat, dragonflies and damselflies, beginning birding and much more. Tule basket weaving was taught and many watershed bingo games were played. Along with the fun events around Lake Lagunitas and Sky Oaks Watershed Headquarters, the California Academy of Sciences and MMWD watershed staff led a “bioblitz” on the southern portion of Mt. Tamalpais. The bioblitz brought botanists, citizen citizens, conservation photographers and others together to collect data on the mountain’s plant species. It was a tremendous success and loads of fun. There were beautiful specimens of tiger lily, coyote mint and many others!

Thank you to all of our volunteers for your hard work! We really appreciate all that you do for the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed, and if it could speak, I am sure it would thank you as well. And if you haven’t volunteered before, now’s a great time to start. We have a habitat restoration event on San Geronimo Creek coming up next Saturday, July 21. Did we mention ice cream will be served? And our next Trail Crew event will be Saturday, August  4. This will be Jessica and Jaimie’s (MMWD’s AmeriCorps members) very last event! Come join the fun and say farewell to them. Visit our Volunteer Program webpage to learn more.

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Water Walkers

Thank you to all the "Water Walkers" who helped us kick off our centennial year celebration!

by Jaimie Baxter

On Saturday, January 14, the Marin Municipal Water District kicked off a year of centennial events with a family-friendly “Water Walk” on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed.

Leaders of the Water Walk—including Craig Lauridsen of the Water Conservation Department, Ranger Matt Cerkel, and AmeriCorps volunteers Jessica Missaghian, Ben Schleifer and Jaimie Baxter—guided a group of 15 adults and children through the diverse ecosystems surrounding Lake Lagunitas. On the first few stops of the walk, the group learned about water conservation, water demand and the history of Lagunitas dam and watershed lands. Craig Lauridsen recited a quote written in 1880 from the banks of the now Lake Lagunitas: “The reservoir being filled to its full capacity in any wet winter, will hold more than enough water to supply all the present or perspective wants of San Rafael and vicinity for more than two years” (History of Marin County, J.P Munro-Fraser). Craig then asked the crowd if they knew how long the lake would sustain the current residents of Marin County. The answer? Only five days until Lake Lagunitas would be sucked dry.

As the walk continued, hike leaders discussed adaptations of redwood trees, the cooling effects of madrone trees and the foraging expertise of the acorn woodpecker. The leaders and participants shared other tidbits about the local flora and fauna throughout the trek. Concluding the walk was a discussion about the persistent invasive species of the watershed—including the American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), French broom (Genista monspessulana) and the red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)—and MMWD’s efforts to monitor and control them.

Hike Leaders

Our hike leaders

Our expectations for this water walk were greatly exceeded. We hope to see many more eager and enthusiastic faces at our centennial events in the future. Our next event will be a Leap Day Amphibian Hike on February 29. Please join us for another fun-filled event on the watershed!

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by Jaimie Baxter

We had a lovely past two months! September and October provided excellent weather to go along with our fun-filled events.

In September we had a small habitat restoration crew do big work at the Sky Oaks nursery, potting up native grasses. For our Annual Volunteer Appreciation BBQ & Trail Crew event, 44 volunteers came out to Phoenix Lake to finish the trail maintenance and bridge work we started on National Trails Day on the Gertrude Ord Trail. To celebrate their accomplishments, MMWD provided a BBQ lunch for all those who volunteered that day.


Our awesome habitat restoration volunteers at Lagunitas Creek

October’s habitat restoration day was also a success with at least 80 native plants planted by Lagunitas Creek. Also in October, Ms. Honda’s “Green Team” from Manor Elementary School helped MMWD collect and plant over 200 acorns. These oak trees will be planted next year for MMWD’s centennial celebration (more details to come later!). Mr. B’s fourth-grade class from Brookside School also joined MMWD this month for a victorious field trip involving the removal of French broom by Phoenix Lake, a water cycle game, a lesson on water conservation and an activity about the 7 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle, rot, refuse, rethink, repair).

We really could not have accomplished all this without the help of our wonderful and dedicated volunteers. Thank you to our volunteers for your hard work, and we hope to see all of you on watershed lands in November! In the meantime, check out some great photos we took at the events.

Thanks again,

The MMWD Watershed Volunteer Program Team
including our four new AmeriCorps interns Mike Horwitz, Ben Scheilfer, Jessica Missaghian and Jaimie Baxter

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