Friday, December 14, 2018

New Year's Day Hike at Rockville Trails Preserve on Tues. 1/1/19


January 1, 2019 @ 9:00 am - 1:00 pm

New Year’s Day Hike:  Kick off the first day of the New Year with a hike through the hills between Suisun and Green Valleys. Participants will see sweeping views of Solano County and beyond. Residents and visitors are invited to take advantage of this opportunity if they can because Rockville Trails Preserve is otherwise closed. Up to six miles. Space is limited. Pre-registration recommended. Free.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Citizen Science Friday


December 14 @ 8:30 am - 12:30 pm Free

Get involved in science on our lands! Solano Land Trust staff will teach you all you need to know.

Signs that tell stories: Educational signs can enrich an experience for visitors from all walks of life. Lynch Canyon is a treasure trove of learning opportunities and stories just waiting to be told. SLT and County Parks staff would like to expand our informational signs, but first, we need an inventory of what we have. We are also interested in your ideas!

Calling for all experience levels! There are 9 named trails at Lynch Canyon, ranging from easy to difficult, and we need to hike them all! Ideally, we will break into teams, one team for each trail. We are hoping to form teams between people familiar with the trails and signs and those who are still looking to the signs for direction. We need experienced Lynch Canyon volunteers to help us catch those out-of-the-way signs. Staff and Lynch Canyon volunteers may be so familiar with the trails that we take for granted the wayfinding signs that a newcomer needs, so we are also hoping for fresh eyes. Do you have a friend who keeps meaning to get out and exercise? Please bring them! Do you usually hike Kestrel? Consider teaming up with someone who usually hikes North Ridge Trail.

What we will do: Meet at the Lynch Canyon parking lot. We will break into teams depending on turnout. Those who need to leave strictly at 12:30 will be teamed together and given a trail that they can finish on time. I will hand out the sign survey forms, maps, and GPS units. Each team will hike a trail and fill out survey forms, GPS the locations, and take pictures of the signs they see. Along the way, please note any areas that you think could use signs. If we do not finish all of the trails, I will ask for volunteers to continue the project on a different day. If it is sprinkling, we will still hike. If it is pouring rain, we will still meet so that I can hand out forms, explain what information SLT needs, and we can plan alternative days for the hikes.

What you need to bring: Weather appropriate hiking gear. Layers are your friends. Don’t forget your water bottles!

When you RSVP, please tell me what difficulty level and trail length you prefer.

RSVP for this Citizen Science event to Jasmine by replying to this message or email Jasmine Westbrook at jasmine@solanolandtrust.org.  If you RSVP and can’t come- please give me a call or text (707-718-3234) so we don’t wait for you. THANKS!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

People And Conservation


Citizen Scientists are vital to our work

This summer, Sue Wickham passed the Citizen Science baton to project manager Jasmine Westbrook and stewardship coordinator Ryan Lewis. Since then, Jasmine and Ryan have introduced Citizen Scientist volunteers to new projects and revisited several of the old.

Ryan has taken members of the group deep into Rockville Trails Preserve to sample invertebrates in the property’s only year-round stream and to monitor red-legged frogs at the Vallejo Swett Ranch. Jasmine has taken volunteers to Rush Ranch to help survey the site of an upcoming restoration project and to help check mammal traps to support Shannon Skalos’s Northern harrier study.

Sue started the monthly Citizen Science program ten years ago to engage volunteers with hands-on science and projects on our properties. From planting trees to recording phenology, Sue and the dedicated volunteer team have ventured onto trails once a month on Fridays for years. Now retired, Sue is showing up to help as a Citizen Science volunteer.

Does this sound like fun to you? You can join the Citizen Scientists list by contacting Jasmine Westbrook at jasmine@solanolandtrust.org. No experience is necessary, and you are not required to participate in every event. We would love to have you join the team. Our volunteers and supporters give in many ways. Thank you.

Photos by Sue Wickham.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

A New Beginning


Rush Ranch revitalizes veteran

It wasn’t the sight of the horses that triggered something inside of Brent Satterlee’s brain.

“It was the smell of manure and earth that started to bring back memories,” says his wife, Kristi Satterlee. “It was like a fog lifted, and he just woke up.”

Brent had spent 20 years in the US Army as a combat medic. Toward the end of his successful career, the otherwise strong and healthy man started showing signs of early onset dementia.

Although Brent and his good friend Kristi had known one another for thirty years, they rarely saw each other. Three years ago, they were reunited at a birthday party for Brent. Kristi was shocked to see how much he had declined due to the disease. He was dangerously thin and heading toward assisted living because he could no longer care for himself. The couple ended up marrying, and Kristi was determined to turn Brent’s health around. Her strategy included walks in nature, which prompted her to research local open spaces like Rush Ranch.

Memories of the land

Kristi knew that Brent had spent part of his youth on a large ranch in Northern California. On their first visit to Rush Ranch, she saw something spark in Brent while they were standing in front of the stallion barn. She talked to Monatte, the Rush Ranch steward, who told them that Access Adventure has a wounded veteran program. They signed up.

Brent started to visit Rush Ranch two days a week, where with Kristi’s help, he fed the horses, mucked the stables, and worked with Virgil, a long-time volunteer at Rush Ranch. Visits to Rush Ranch gave Brent something to look forward to.

“He started feeling like a man again. Everything about him sparkled, and he became alive,” says Kristi.

Sometimes the connection was quiet. On sunny days, Brent liked to nap in the grass outside of the paddocks and put his hand inside the fence. The mares and their foals would watch him and nudge his hand.

His renewal was evident at home, too, Kristi says. Before spending time at Rush Ranch, Brent had been put on palliative care, one step before convalescence. He was losing his language skills and was on a downhill slide. Since his visits to Rush, he started putting on his own shoes, taking out the trash, helping with dinner, and being more independent in general. Kristi and Brent hope that sharing their story will encourage more veterans to visit the ranch.

“We can’t change the outcome of his disease, but we can change our outlook on it,” says Kristi. “Being here lights him up, and he’s not in the gloom of his horrible diagnosis. It gives him hope, and his quality of life has gone through the roof.”

We are encouraged that this chance encounter at Rush Ranch gave Brent a new lease on life and hope that others will connect with nature as well. We are grateful for the generous support of donors and volunteers who contribute to the quality of lives, often without realizing the impact.

Brent and Kristi Satterlee’s story first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Vistas, a bi-annual print publication of Solano Land Trust that is exclusively for members and supporters. Become a member to support Solano Land Trust and receive Vistas with its uplifting content.

 By Aleta George. Photos by Tom Muehleisen.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Welcome Home Blanca


Shannon Skalos was thankful for something unusual this Thanksgiving.

Blanca, a female Northern harrier equipped with a transmitter, returned to her winter home in the Suisun Marsh on Thanksgiving Day. The raptor touched down at Grizzly Island on the holiday after an 8,300-mile roundtrip migration to the Arctic Circle, a journey that marks the longest recorded migration of a Northern harrier.

UC Davis doctorate candidate Shannon Skalos is researching Northern harriers in the Suisun Marsh and tracking their migrations. Blanca clocked in with the most incredible journey of the eight wintering females Shannon has been tracking. In the spring, Blanca left Suisun Marsh on April 1 and arrived in Anchorage, Alaska, by May 19, says Shannon. She continued northward to the arctic tundra where she likely bred and nested. Blanca’s transmitter revealed that she began her return migration on July 24, and stopped several times along the way to rest and refuel.

The brackish tidal marsh at Rush Ranch, part of the larger Suisun Marsh, offers all the comforts of home for a Northern harrier.  These small raptors have adapted well to living in marshes and have earned the nickname “marsh hawks.” They hunt in the open marsh and grassland habitats.

Shannon and her team have found that there is two population of harriers in the Suisun Marsh. Those spotted in the summer, breed in the marsh. Wintering birds, like Blanca, go elsewhere, usually north, to breed in the summer. Shannon is tracking females from both populations, using light-weight tracking devices that look like tiny backpacks. Until recently, GPS telemetry transmitters have been too heavy for smaller birds, and harriers are considered small raptors.

“The Suisun Marsh is one of the largest marsh habitats left in California,” says Shannon. “It is vitally important to all marsh and wetland adapted species, not just harriers.”

To look for Northern Harriers, we recommend Suisun Hill Trail at Rush Ranch. Female harriers are brown from above, while males are gray. Both genders have a distinctive white patch at the base of the tail, and beautiful banded patterns from below. Remember: Northern harriers have a white patch on their derriere!

By Jasmine Westbrook, Project Manager. Photo of Shannon by Billy Thein, USGS. Other images courtesy of Shannon Skalos.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Nature Hike at King-Swett Ranches December 1st 9am-1pm


December 1 @ 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Recurring Event (See all) Free

Come explore the hills between Fairfield, Benicia, and Vallejo. Solano Land Trust docents will guide you through this area, known as the King-Swett Ranches. They’ll share insights about the birds and other wildlife that call this area home, and give you a great workout! Take advantage of this special opportunity if you can because the King-Swett Ranches are otherwise closed.

You will meet the docent at the Park and Ride and then carpool to the trailhead from there.

REGISTRATION: RSVP Recommended

Please note! Registration opens approximately one month prior to the hike. Double check the date of the hike on the registration link.

WHAT TO BE PREPARED FOR: There is no drinking water at this property. There is usually no shade. A potentially strenuous pace hiking up to 6 miles up and down slippery, steep, and rugged hills that may be full of sticky seeds and thorny plants. Expect rough, rocky, uneven ground. Some travel may be off-trail. Sorry, no dogs allowed.

Meet at the (unmarked) Park-and-Ride lot, McGary Rd. & Hiddenbrooke Parkway, Vallejo, CA.

WHAT TO BRING: (1) A backpack with plenty of water and snacks.  (2) Boots or sturdy closed-toe shoes  (3) Long, sturdy pants and layered clothes (4) Protection from the elements
(5) Optional: bug repellent, your favorite gardening tools, and binoculars to enjoy the birds!
Note: Only really heavy rain may cancel.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Protected Lands: Rush Ranch



"Rush Ranch Wins Hearts." That could be the headline for any story about Rush Ranch. Whether you're a child or an adult, a hiker, birdwatcher, biologist, teacher, photographer, poet or painter, or just out for a picnic, this Solano Land Trust jewel will win you over.

Rising out of the northeast edge of the Suisun Marsh, Rush Ranch stretches across 2,070 acres of marsh and rolling grassland. Purchased in 1988 by Solano Land Trust, Rush Ranch provides recreational and educational opportunities to thousands of visitors each year. The Ranch, with its historical buildings and self-guided trails, is located approximately two miles south of Highway 12 on Grizzly Island Road.

With funding provided by the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Coastal Conservancy, Solano Land Trust has completed a new Nature Center to showcase the many natural and historical features of the property. Donate now to the Rush Ranch Stewardship Campaign.

Within the property’s boundaries is one of the best remaining examples of a brackish tidal marsh habitat in the United States. Once a continuous tidal marsh habitat, the greater Suisun Marsh is now a vast complex of wetlands owned privately by local duck clubs. Only about 10 square miles of the historic tidal marsh remains, one-tenth of which occurs at Rush Ranch.

What’s special about a brackish tidal marsh? It is an important habitat for fish, bird and plant species, including many that are threatened and endangered such as the salt marsh harvest mouse, Suisun ornate shrew, Delta smelt, Sacramento splittail, giant garter snake, California clapper rail, California black rail, Suisun song sparrow, and the American white pelican. Approximately 230 different species of birds have been seen throughout the marsh and grassland habitats, and plant communities range from spring wildflowers to native bunchgrass and marsh-adapted vegetation.