Ecology Blog

  • SEC in 2019: A Look Ahead
    The new year is off to a glorious start in Sonoma Valley as storm after storm cycles through. And while the rain falls outside, we’re busy making plans for 2019, looking for new and better ways to achieve and sustain ecological health in this beautiful place we call home. One thing we’ve learned after 28 years of doing this – and living through transformative events like the fires of late 2017 – is that a systemic, rather than piecemeal, strategy is needed to affect real change. That’s why, for example, we’re pushing for post-fire rebuilds in Sonoma Valley to be fire smart, water wise and wildlife friendly, making drought-tolerant and fire-adapted native landscapes the norm throughout our Valley and County. We’ll continue to help property owners and land managers achieve these goals […]
  • The Value of Open Space
    When evaluating the worth of our natural open spaces, we often think in subjective terms: beautiful, healthful, essential to our quality of life. But a sweeping new report gets down to brass tacks, demonstrating that open and working spaces are essential to our fiscal health too. “Healthy Lands & Healthy Economies,” produced by economists and conservationists in Sonoma, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara counties, with contributions from many local experts including Sonoma Ecology Center, examines the economic value of natural places such as forests, wetlands, rivers, farms and parks and finds that land conservation provides a substantial return on investment to our communities. That means your nearby open space – such as Montini Open Space Preserve, shown here after recent rains – puts […]
  • Join Us for the Christmas Bird Count
    The Christmas Bird Count is an incredible cultural success story and the largest citizen science annual event in the world. First held on Christmas Day in the year 1900 as an alternative to the devastating “Side Hunt” tradition, today this nationwide birdwatching event provides essential data for scientists studying the health of bird species across North America. More than that, the Christmas Bird Count is a lot of fun for people of all ages! The Sonoma Valley count, led by Gene Hunn and the naturalists of Sonoma Ecology Center, includes a highly diverse array of habitats, making it one of the best inland counts in the United States, ranking in the top tier of counts every year. All people are welcome, from expert birders to beginners, in order to serve as counters, spotters, […]
  • The Sugarloaf Falls Are Running
    How about a holiday hike to your local waterfall? Recent rains have the water flowing – and falling – at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, the headwaters of Sonoma Creek. The trail to the falls is an easy two-mile loop, with some elevation gain. For directions ask at the Visitor Center or click here for a pdf directions and map.   […]
  • Survey Results Offer Snapshot of Valley Priorities
    Sustainable Sonoma was formed to take action on solutions to our community’s biggest challenges. First we have to know what the community’s top priorities are – and to that end a Valley-wide survey was conducted by Sustainable Sonoma over several months. Now the results are in, and the number-one priority can be summarized in two words: housing affordability. The survey, conducted over 20 “listening sessions” held around Sonoma Valley between March and October of this year, gathered input from specific neighborhoods as well as from Latinos, seniors, business owners, youths and other interest groups. An online version of the survey was available to the public, and in all cases the same nine questions were asked, eliciting responses on such topics as housing, health, land use, open space, […]
  • Oslo Event Puts Biochar in Spotlight
    Sonoma Ecology Center’s Biochar Initiative is headed to Norway. Raymond Baltar, our biochar program manager, has been invited to join a panel discussion on greenhouse gas drawdown strategies at a climate conference in Oslo, Norway in early January. The panel is made up of people featured in “Ice on Fire,” an upcoming HBO documentary produced by Leonardo DiCaprio which investigates ways carbon can be removed from the atmosphere and stored beneficially in ocean vegetation or in the soil – which is what biochar does. And yes, Raymond is in the movie too! “I have not seen the film yet,” he said, “but the fact that they are inviting me to attend the climate conference in Oslo, all expenses paid, where the film will be shown and where I will be on a panel to pitch investors and to attend a […]
  • Sorrowful, Determined, Thankful
    For Sonoma Valley residents, the worst part about the latest round of California wildfires isn’t the smoke itself – smoke which, due to the fires in Butte County, has caused the longest stretch of days of bad air quality in the Bay Area in recorded history. But for us, the worst part is seeing all that smoke and ash and knowing what it represents for the people of Butte County. Our hearts go out to them, and to communities around the state that are dealing with fire and its aftermath. Another terrible aspect of the current fires is the memories they bring up for Sonoma Valley residents, who only a year ago were reeling from record-breaking wildfires. Those records have already been broken: Butte County’s Camp Fire is now the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. […]
  • Fogbow in the Hills
    When there’s fog in the Valley, the boundary where sun and fog meet often creates interesting tricks of light, like this fogbow seen up in the hills on Thursday morning. Fogbows are formed by the same light-scattering process as rainbows. But fog is made up of much smaller water droplets than rain, causing it to diffract light differently. The result is bows that appear mostly white, with little or no color. The website Atmospheric Optics gives the following guidance for finding fogbows: Search when the sun breaks through mist or fog. Look away from the sun and at an angle of 35-40° from your shadow which marks the direction of the antisolar point. Some fogbows have very low contrast so look for small brightenings in the misty background. Once caught, they are unmistakable. […]
  • New Rains, New Landscapes this October
    This October is shaping up to be much nicer than last year’s! The month announced itself with a strong, warm rainstorm, bringing an unexpected 1.6 inches of rain to Sonoma Valley. That was enough to activate the seed bank, causing grasses to pop up and reducing (though not eliminating) the chance of further wildfires this season. It also gave us a lovely little rainbow, as seen above from Montini Overlook. Then on Oct. 8 – the anniversary of the start of last year’s fires – friends and neighbors packed Sebastiani Theatre for a special screening of “Wilder Than Wild,” a sobering documentary on wildfire and resilience. The event was well attended, the film timely, and the panel discussion afterward fascinating and encouraging. Overall the event was a great success, and reminded us, again, […]
  • Honoring the Heritage Maple of Sugarloaf
    Hundreds of years ago, a bigleaf maple sprouted on the banks of Sonoma Creek in what is now Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Today, as this magnificent Heritage Maple enters its twilight years, we are inviting the public to join us for an informative walk, a fascinating ceremony and refreshments in honor of its storied past – and of the post-fire renewal taking place all around it. The event is free and open to all. The maple, thought to be between 300 and 400 years old, was a sapling well before Europeans occupied California. Today it’s in its final stages, and last year’s fires dealt it a potentially lethal blow. And yet the burned park around it has sprung back to life, and within a year was fully reopened to the public thanks to Sugarloaf’s supporters and volunteers. “Just imagine the […]