July 2011

A teaching moment …
Although we have not had any documented fledglings at More Mesa, as yet, we have an amazing kite photo to share with you this month.  The image was taken by wildlife photographer Barry Rowan, late in May at Lake Los Carneros.  We thought it would be fun and informative to list all the things one can “read” from this single special image:

  • There are three kites; one of which has captured a prey item.
  • The bird with the prey in its talons is an adult …probably the father. We know the bird with prey is an adult because it is all white (except for the wing tips) and has red eyes.
  • We know the prey is a vole because of its overall size, the size of its tail and its color.
  • The adult is in the process of transferring the prey item to one of the fledglings.
  • The fledglings can be identified from the rusty patch on their chests and brown eyes.

From all of the above we deduce that this is a “teaching moment” for Dad, and, hopefully, a learning experience for the young.

For more extensive and detailed information about kites see the eleven part “Kite” feature on this web site at  White-tailed Kites.

Thanks to Barry Rowan for the use of this photo. More of Barry’s superb photos can be seen at: Wildphotography – Barry Rowan


June 2011

Russian Knapweed: Three Times a Charm?
Invasive weeds are extremely difficult problems in open spaces.  Getting rid of these interlopers, as soon as possible, is essential to preventing their spread. Since 2009, we have been reporting on efforts of County Parks (with some help from MMPC) to eradicate an area of Russian Knapweed on More Mesa. Russian Knapweed, is a noxious weed; one that is toxic to horses, spreads easily and rapidly, and is generally difficult to eradicate.

At the time of the first phase of the eradication process, in Fall 2009, there was about ¼ acre of this weed on County owned sections of the northwest part of More Mesa.  The first treatment seemed to have reduced the area and density of Knapweed, so a second treatment phase was undertaken in Late Spring 2010. Last month, a recheck of the area showed that there was not very much knapweed compared to previous years.  On the basis of this data, the third (and hopefully final) phase was carried out.

The More Mesa Preservation Coalition is proud to be a part of this important work on County owned environmentally sensitive land, as well as preventing the spread of Russian Knapweed over all of More Mesa.

open space

May 2011

Vernal Pools
With all the emphasis on water in last month’s news, it seemed most appropriate that our web site should include a section devoted entirely to a very special water feature of More Mesa; its vernal pool.  As described in the More Mesa Handbook, as well as in the Draft Updated Biological Resources Study, More Mesa has a rather large vernal pool in the southeast corner near the coast.  Indeed, this pool and every other vernal pool that still exists, are extremely important. Why?  First, because more than 90% of the vernal pools in the state of California have disappeared. And second, the pool at More Mesa is not insignificant.

We are happy to report that we are introducing this special feature this month at this link. Here you will find general information, such as the definition of a vernal pool and what life forms are found in vernal pools; especially those that live nowhere else. These basics are then followed by a few specific details on vernal pools of California, Santa Barbara and More Mesa.  We have also provided two references on vernal pools in Santa Barbara that may be consulted for even more in-depth information.

Finally, in each yearly “winter-spring” season we are hoping to report detailed data on pool size, condition and kinds of plants and animals that are living in the More Mesa Vernal Pool.

vernal pool 1
February 22, 2011: More Mesa vernal pool, SE corner.

vernal pool 2
April 23, 2011: Same More Mesa Vernal pool.

To view a slide show of photos or the vernal pool from this year, click here. By moving the mouse to the area above a photo, click on “Show Info” to display photo titles. To see the photos as thumbnails, click here.

April 2011

Water, water everywhere
The word for this month is WATER!  Here in Santa Barbara, we are currently at 167% of our average rainfall for the “Water Year” 2011.  Indeed 9.62 inches of the 27 inches of rain has fallen in February and March.  What this means for More Mesa is that the vernal pool on the southeast corner has almost reached both the coastal trail, and the north-south trail on the side of More Mesa abutting Hope Ranch.

In addition the emergent wetland that stretches from Hope Ranch toward the middle of More Mesa, has formed a fairly deep “pond” across the main north-south trail.  A wide, marshy expanse surrounds this pond.  In search of ways to circumvent the wetland, several looping paths have been cut by both walkers and emergency vehicles out on More Mesa for various reasons.   In general, the middle of the path, and surrounding areas, are very wet and muddy.

In spite of the water and the mud, a walk on More Mesa is incredibly rewarding this time of year.  Wildflowers are to be found in several places along the trails and the grasses are green and high.  And, there is evidence that kites are already nesting!

pond on trail
March 2011: A seasonal pool of water forms here in the rainy season.


Annual Water-aster, Symphyotrichum subulatum, photographed in the area shown in the photo above in October 2002. This native plant grows in coastal salt marsh, valley grassland and wetland-riparian. It can probably be assumed that the soils in this area remain moist for a period of time after winter rainfall, providing one of the habitats of choice for this aster.

March 2011

Although March is “coming in like a lion”, there are already many signs of spring out on More Mesa.  Grasses are green (and high), wildflowers are starting to make appearances and our special raptors are courting and nest building.  The east kite pair is especially busy.

Kite watchers may be interested in a story from 2004, when Lynn Watson was fortunate enough to observe a White-tailed Kite pair on Vieja Drive – from nest-building, chick fledging to eventual foraging by the family on More Mesa. This photo-illustrated, most special of kite tales, is now available on this web site at Vieja Drive White-tailed Kites, 2004 or click on the image below.

vieja kites
Story Summary