It was a busy and productive year for More Mesa. As is our custom, below are the highlights for the year 2013.
More Mesa Sold
More Mesa was sold to a Saudi investor in mid-December of last year. Obviously MMPC is disappointed that the seller offered the property to the community for $35 million, but subsequently sold to the new owner for $25 million. However, it is important to remember that, even though we do not know the buyer’s plans, the legal instruments that govern More Mesa have not changed. Whoever owns the property must comply with the policies, standards and regulations of the County’s Goleta Community Plan and the California Coastal Act. This means that development will be restricted, public access will be maintained, and the habitat areas covering most of the property must be protected.
Citizen Scientists Busy At Work
iNaturalist: Early this year we introduced a new educational resource to our website, “More Mesa Natural Resources” on iNaturalist. With this new feature, supporters who report sightings become part of a well organized Citizen Scientist movement.
Sightings Reports: Unusual sightings were a real highlight of 2013. For example, a fox reported in July and a rare weasel in September. In addition, there were various sightings of our signature bird, the White-tailed kite. A total of three young were fledged on More Mesa. While this is a small fraction of the 8-12 chicks we observe in years with ample rainfall, our three chicks represent a third of all kites fledged in the entire Goleta Valley. Moreover, teams of kite observers noted that 2/3 of all the kite nests in the Goleta Valley were abandoned by late May. These data show, once again, how important More Mesa is to the survival of kites in our area.
Monthly e-mail Update Well Received
May of this year saw the inauguration of our Monthly e-mail Update. This report is sent to all our supporters who have supplied us with an e-mail address and contains the following information: potential development, answers to frequently asked questions, what’s happening on More Mesa, the past and ways that our supporters can help.
Plans for the 2014
- Symposium: Update to Symposium of 2003 – March
- Potential Forum: Views about More Mesa from Candidates for Second District Supervisor – Spring
- Dialogue with the new owner: We look forward to working with the new owner in a manner that not only protects the biological, aesthetic and recreational resources of More Mesa, but also addresses his interests, as well as those of other More Mesa stakeholders.
As always … thank you all for your wonderful support, and for loving this very special place.
Our warmest holiday wishes,
More Mesa Preservation Coalition
It’s Fall …
Folks who don’t live in our beautiful Santa Barbara area often make a big issue of the fact that they love the changing seasons, and note that we don’t have them here. We all know we do, but the changes are subtle and you have look more closely to be aware of them. For example, one of the family of our native trees, one much less represented on More Mesa, is the Black Cottonwood. And although they are relatively rare in the Goleta Valley, More Mesa can boast of three separate groves of Black Cottonwoods.
The most visible grove, on the east side, just south of the Cypress trees, has three very tall (65-70 feet), readily observable and spectacular examples of these deciduous trees. And if you look at the area surrounding these giants, you will see that there are also a sizeable number of younger trees, creating a delightful Cottonwood grove. A second grove with smaller, less noticeable trees is in one of the drainages in the middle of More Mesa and the third, very small grove is just west of the railroad cut.
Now, in autumn, the round distinctive leaves of the Cottonwoods are turning yellow and beginning to drop. The trees will be bare throughout winter, with leaves reappearing again in late February or early March … our spring. Moreover, these seasonal changes (phenology) of cottonwoods on More Mesa are now being monitored and reported to Budburst. There are indeed seasons on More Mesa!
On More Mesa, cottonwoods provide habitat for many creatures including Nuttall’s Woodpecker. This woodpecker eats cottonwood buds in the spring. and also nests in self-excavated cavities in cottonwoods, as well as in other native trees on More Mesa.
In the past we have talked about the magic of More Mesa – its plants, animals and habitats, experienced through their sounds, sights and scents. While individual sounds – bird calls, seal sounds, coyote calls, etc are often heard, they are all small parts of the overall “soundscape” of More Mesa. More Mesa, like every habitat on earth, has a unique sound signature of its own.
Bernie Krause has been recording soundscapes for many years, and has categorized the various components as:
- Non-biological sounds that occur in any given habitat; i.e. wind, waves and creeks
- Sounds generated by all the organisms in the habitat; i.e. birds, animals, insects and reptiles
- Sounds generated by humans; i.e. conversations, people talking on cell phones, bicycles, dogs barking and planes flying overhead.
Early morning and late afternoon usually offer the best times for hearing a rich and varied soundscape; raptors hunting, young calling, other birds preparing to roost, the sea breeze and the grasses rustling. Below is just a snippet of what can be heard, as given in Bernie Krause’s Ted Talk below:
In the Monthly News on this website, as well as in e-mail Updates to all our supporters, we have been discussing the importance of “Citizen Science.” For MMPC this “science” is done by those (professionals and avid non-professionals) who visit More Mesa and report sightings of rare birds, plants and animals. Their reports are important in helping us understand how the entire More Mesa ecosystem functions.
This month we share a most exciting sighting; one that was reported for two separate days, and on both sides of Atascadero Creek; the More Mesa side and the bike path side. This report, filed by photographer Eric Jacob is unique, as it is not only the first of its kind, but it is enhanced with some marvelous photos. Eric’s images document a California Long-tailed Weasel. Notice that the animal looks extremely healthy and, in one photo has captured a significantly large prey animal.
Eric Jacob has been added to the list of photographers on this site, and by clicking on his photo of a Snowy Egret on that page, the embedded link will direct the browser to a Flickr set of his images from “More Mesa, Atascadero Creek and Goleta Slough”. Eric Jacob also contributes photo observations to iNaturalist, and has added some interesting sightings – Steelhead Trout, Tree Frogs, and some usually overlooked plants such as Willow Weed.
The Good Work Continues
Last month we called on Citizen Scientists to help us document any evidence of kite nesting on More Mesa. That call has been answered … and with some very good news! We now have documented evidence that there are almost certainly two nesting pairs of kites on More Mesa this year. First, not one, as previously reported, but two fledglings have been seen on the west side of More Mesa. These two were recently observed hunting with their parents. And now, we have photographs of two fledglings on east More Mesa. And, in this case the two adults were also observed hunting nearby.
Although these numbers are smaller than average, they are very gratifying, especially in light of the drought conditions we have been experiencing. Indeed, most of the historical kite nests in the Goleta Valley have been abandoned this year, making chicks produced on More Mesa all the more important. We thank Wayne Kimbell for the eastern fledgling photographs below.