Conservation Corner July/August 2018
By Shani Kleinhaus and Mackenzie Mossing
Bye Bye Measure B!
As we write this we are celebrating a huge victory for San Jose and Coyote Valley. The proponents behind Measure B failed to fool voters with their $6 million-dollar deceptive campaign, and the measure was voted down after a long battle that staked the community against deep-pocketed developers. At the same time, Measure C passed with a wide margin – protecting Coyote Valley from residential sprawl. This is truly a tale of David versus Goliath and, as is usually the case, David won! We wish to thank all of our supporters, hard working volunteers, and San Jose’s leaders for uniting together on this important issue. We are ready to continue the fight to protect Coyote Valley’s birds and wildlife, and we hope this was a lesson learned that San Jose’s open space is not up for grabs.
Great Egret in Coyote Valley by Chuq Von Rospach
Burrowing Owl by Peter Hart
The Plight of Burrowing Owls
In the past decade, Burrowing Owl populations in the South Bay plummeted. Despite efforts to reverse the trend, surveys show that fewer than 25 pairs still breed in Santa Clara County, and that number continues to fall. If immediate action is not taken, it is likely that these charismatic critters will be extirpated from our landscape. SCVAS is working diligently with biologists, Burrowing Owl experts, government agencies, and local jurisdictions to implement emergency actions to save our last Burrowing Owls.
- • Our environmental advocates met with the Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Charlton Bonham, in early May, and presented him with survey results showing a rapid decline in Santa Clara County’s population of breeding Burrowing Owls. We requested CDFW’s help in facilitating emergency measures to save the owls. Mr. Bonham requested that the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency, local Burrowing Owl experts, and CDFW collaborate to identify the priority actions necessary to save the breeding population. Since then, we have been working with the Habitat Agency to help present their top priorities, including overwinter rearing, followed by the release of Burrowing Owls.
- • In late May, the New York Times released an article focused on the conflict between feral cats and Burrowing Owls at Shoreline Park: nytimes.com/2018/05/26/technology/google-cats-owls.html. We are now collaborating with Google to find an acceptable solution for the cats. At the same time, we are also advocating with the City of Mountain View to install cat-proof fencing to protect owls at Shoreline Park. The conversations we are engaged in are challenging, and finding short- and long-term solutions that are suitable for all stakeholders involved may take time. We appreciate all of your support and understanding.
Protecting Nesting Birds
The Emily Renzel Marsh in Palo Alto includes an artificial freshwater wetland that has been used to polish effluents from the water treatment plant for over thirty years. It also creates a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife. In recent years, flow through the marsh has slowed to a stop as sediment and reeds have filled the pond. The City is now dredging and making repairs to the pond’s berms to stop leaks and prevent freshwater from entering and harming the nearby saltwater slough. Although we were promised that the vegetation would not be disturbed until after the nesting season, we observed equipment depositing soil on top of the reeds and causing great distress to nesting birds. We immediately jumped into action and again asked the City of Palo Alto to stop removing or covering reeds with dirt until the nesting season was over. The City agreed. At this time, the pond is drying out. Some work is still being done around the pond, with the supervision of a qualified biologist monitoring to keep nesting birds from harm. Six nests (Killdeer, Black Phoebe, and Marsh Wrens) were identified and are being protected.