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Photo by Tom Grey

Permanente Creek September/October 2019

Native Plant Restoration to Provide for Birds along Permanente Creek

Philip Higgins, Wildlife Preservation Biologist, Shoreline at Mountain View

Volunteers plant locally sourced native plants

Wetland ecosystems and riparian habitats are scarce in the Bay Area. Channelization of creeks, fragmentation of habitat, loss of habitat to development and loss of native vegetation to foreign cultivars and non-native invasive weeds have all contributed to the degradation of the rivers and creeks that once created abundant wetland and marshes along the San Francisco Bay. As a result, native bird species have lost nesting and foraging habitat. Birds and other animals lost not only habitat areas, but also wildlife corridors to move from one location to another. The City of Mountain View is partnering with Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society (SCVAS) and Grassroots Ecology to address the loss of wildlife habitat by restoring habitat along a section of Permanente Creek located within Shoreline at Mountain View. The project is funded by Valley Water (Santa Clara Valley Water District) 2016 Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Priority D3 Grant.
To attract cavity nesters to the restoration site, SCVAS provided 32 bird nesting boxes for the project. In addition, SCVAS provided two bat boxes. Grassroots Ecology collected seeds of local native plants from the Permanente Creek watershed, germinated them and grew the seedlings. Three hundred and seven volunteers spent 946 hours removing non-native weeds from the site, sheet mulching the area prior to planting, planting over 1,000 native plants of 30 different species, and installing nest boxes. The volunteers also removed trash from Permanente Creek. City of Mountain View biologists oversaw the project and have been monitoring the success of the plants. More importantly, the biologists conduct insect, wildlife and birds surveys to determine which species are attracted to the site to forage or to breed and raise their young.
We started implementing the Valley Water 3-year grant in 2017, and it will be completed in December 2019. Planting of the native plant species has occurred in phases since 2017 and was completed in March 2019. Already, the biodiversity observed at the site has increased significantly. Mammals, am- phibians, reptiles and invertebrates have been observed in greater abundance at the site compared to adjacent areas with predominantly non-native plant species. However, bird diversity at the site has been phenomenal, 33 bird species have been observed in the restoration area, including:

Bumblebee on Goldenrod

  • San Francisco Common Yellowthroat – a California subspecies of Special Concern that is endemic to the Bay Area and some coastal areas and breeds only in wetlands (wetland obligate species).
  • Song Sparrow - possibly the Alameda subspecies. The Alameda Song Sparrow is another subspecies of Special Concern that is endemic to California and its population restricted to the fringes of South San Fran- cisco Bay tidal marshes.
  • White-tailed Kite - have been observed at the site foraging on a regular basis. A pair of White-tailed Kites nested at Shoreline this year and produced four chicks.
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow and an Ash-throated Flycatcher - have also been observed at the site.
During 2019 alone, a total of 14 pairs of birds used the nest boxes: three pairs of Western Bluebirds, 10 pairs of TreeSwallows and a pair of Bewick’s Wrens. In all, there were 71 eggs, 58 nestlings and 55 fledglings.
Monitoring of the restoration site will continue. Biologists hope to learn which native plants best outcompete invasiveweeds and which native plants provide the best benefits
in terms of foraging and cover for wildlife. A few plants that show great promise: gumplant, marsh goldenrod, mulefat
and robust vervain are very attractive to pollinators and nectar seeking invertebrates. Gumplant and marsh goldenrod are also very attractive to seed eating birds.
Together, Valley Water, the City of Mountain View, SCVAS and Grassroots Ecology have created a viable resource for native birds and pollinators.

Bewick’s Wrens using nest box within monitoring site

Phase 1 of planting, taken one year after planting