Sunday was the second habitat restoration day at Sibley. I was unable to make the first one, in December, but the project is in an early enough stage that these photos should work decently well as “before” pictures. Especially if, as seems possible, the draw we are working in is eventually cleared sufficiently to allow for regeneration/replanting of native grasses and, as the ground is quite mucky and already has rushes growing in spots, perhaps even some seep-loving species.
This draw, which is also the headwaters of Round Top Creek, begins at this gate along Skyline Trail where it heads westward from the staging area (click on images for full-sized views):
The weather was perfect, with warm sun, blue skies and a light misty ground fog that made everything look soft and beautiful. Soil conditions were perfect, too, with the ground soft enough that even the big broom plants were pretty easy to lever out of the ground with the big weed wrench.
We spent the morning pulling broom in the area to the right of the trail in the above photo. This next photo sequence begins with views looking westward from the trailhead, with the remainder taken from maybe a hundred meters down, sweeping leftwards (westward and gently downhill) across today’s general work area:
As you can see, some of the broom is quite large, with heights of maybe ten feet and trunks with diameters of several inches. The majority are smaller, however, and nowhere is it quite as impenetrable as it can be at Wayside down in Redwood Cyn. The broom is interspersed with very large coyote brush which we left in place, so today’s before-and-after photos are not particularly dramatic though we got a lot pulled. There is also a fair bit of poison oak, native honeysuckle, and an abundance of big, healthy native California blackberry canes, Rubus ursinus. To our surprise (and delight!) there was no sign of either of the two invasive blackberries that are so often present in this region.
Nature chimed in a bit this week, too, felling this large nonnative pine (in the above photos) and taking out some eucalypts with it.
There are still plenty of eucalypts and pines around the periphery of the draw, but there is a large enough area clear of trees that native grasses might certainly make a go of it if the broom gets cleared and the coyote brush is opened up a bit.
We kept finding the aforementioned rushes (Juncus patens) among the broom as we were pulling, suggesting some degree of dampness year-round, and the large, deep divot made by the fallen tree’s root ball held some standing water. A conversation with one of the rangers suggested that this root ball and divot might be left in place, in which case it will be interesting to see if it becomes a mini seasonal wetland, as seems possible. Other forbs present in the area include strawberries, sanicle, yerba buena, and an emerging sprout of what appeared to be cow parsnip.
As for the bigger picture of what is going on here, this particular location in Sibley is right next to Skyline Boulevard so it must be in one (or more) of the multiple fire management zones that overlie the urban/wildland boundary. Replacement of eucalypts and pines with natives is often a good fire-mitigation approach in such zones, so it will be interesting to see how things progress here.
Technical Appendix: Additional Images and Info for Restoration Workers
In other words, you might find this part boring if you weren’t there. : – )
Here is a panoramic video of the entire draw, beginning with a view of the trailhead and panning left (anticlockwise) across today’s work site, across the westbound Skyline Trail, and then across the heavily hemlock-impacted area to the south of the trail, followed by scenes from the morning’s work:
I have a number of additional photos and videos of the site which will largely be of interest in future, as a benchmark for observing restoration progress over time.