Cranes and more

Photo Credit: Lon Yarbrough

By Tina Suarez-Murias of Save Our Sandhill Cranes | February 2022

Tina Suarez-Murias, AICP, is a certified planner by profession and a Board Member of Save Our Sandhill Cranes (SOSC), based in Sacramento.

On behalf of those who were able to visit the Isenberg Preserve on the ECOS Field Trip on January 21, I’d like to thank Mike Savino, a trained docent for the CA Department of Fish & Wildlife. He was able to take us into the restricted research/study area of the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve to observe the “evening fly-in” to one of the cranes’ overnight roosting areas. Mike also explained frequently observed crane behaviors and the special anatomical adaptions of these large, but elegant birds. Generally, the cranes arrive by October and stay through February, before flying north, as far as Alaska, where they breed and fledge their young during the summer.

The Reserve, also known as the Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve, honors Phil & Marilyn Isenberg for their efforts to protect this habitat for the Greater and Lesser Sandhill Cranes that migrate to this region every fall to overwinter until spring. The Reserve is split in two parts along Woodbridge Road off I-5, south of Galt. The northern portion is restricted to docent-led tours, but the southern portion is always open to the public for viewing the Sandhill Cranes and other waterbirds that utilize the large shallow ponds near the parking area.

It’s a visual and audible treat to be on the southern side of Woodbridge an hour before dusk when hundreds of cranes fly in after a day of foraging in nearby harvested farm fields. The viewing area has beautiful educational signs about the cranes and their behaviors, so you can share what you learn with your friends as you watch cranes land and dance. Cameras and simple binoculars add to the fun. With a higher-powered scope you can see the adult crane’s red head – which is blood-filled skin, not feathers! Watch for the resident barn owls that occasionally swoop through too!

Because the wet areas around Sacramento are on the Pacific Flyway, you can see all sorts of birds migrate through. Other migrating birds, such as snow geese, stilts, and so many ducks (!) visit Woodbridge, the flooded rice paddies, the Nature Conservancy’s Staten Island, the Yolo Bypass, and the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. Here’s a tip: Cranes always travel in pairs or groups, which helps you notice the difference from the large Great Blue Heron and the white egret, which are usually solitary in behavior when foraging in this region’s wetlands.

To watch crane families’ summer activities, I recommend this link to one of my favorite websites about Lesser Sandhill Cranes in Alaska: Featured Videos | Kachemak Crane Watch. Nina Faust, of Inspiration Ridge Preserve near Homer in Alaska, posts all her wonderful videos of cranes parenting and colts (baby cranes) learning to fly. The Greater Sandhill Cranes fly north to Modoc County to breed in the summer at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge Modoc National Wildlife Refuge – Modoc – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (fws.gov).

On another subject, the vernal pools of the Central Valley spring to life as winter ends. Both SMUD’s Rancho Seco and SPLASH south of Mather Field have trails around theirs and offer tours. The vernal pool habitat cannot be recreated easily. The pools are ephemeral and evolved over time in slight depressions underlain by hardpan (tight, compressed, clay soil) found in the Central Valley’s ancient inland sea lake bed. There are only one or two months each spring when the dormant plants and animals found in these otherwise desiccated pools can emerge and flourish in the water that ponds during the wet season. Be on the lookout for vernal pools in the undeveloped prairies and meadows near you! Take pictures and enjoy this disappearing habitat.

We do need to have better ways to “design with nature.” It’s difficult to balance the needs of a growing human population with the other non-human communities we need to live with too. It would be good if more people understood the trade-offs.

Comments re Sacramento’s Transportation Priorities Plan

On March 14, 2022, ECOS, along with several other environmental groups, submitted a letter to the City of Sacramento about the City’s Transportation Priorities Plan.

Once again, we write to implore you to act swiftly to take comprehensive and bold action to transform transportation in the City and the region. Such a transformation is nonnegotiable if we are to begin to respond to the imminent threat of climate change; it is also essential in fostering equity, addressing traffic safety, increasing the livability of our neighborhoods, and improving air quality.

Just a few weeks ago the Council held a workshop titled Climate and Transportation. Yet the Transportation Priorities Plan before you, which proposes analyzing 700 transportation projects that have been proposed by council members over the past twenty years, would appear to adopt the status quo and does not establish addressing climate change as one of the criteria. Our city is in dire need of a transportation plan that reflects the current century. Again, we urge you to direct your City Manager to set aside staff and resources to develop and implement a comprehensive active transportation and public transit framework for the city.

Click here to read our letter in full.

A Thank You to Our Web Developer

We want to take a moment to give special thanks to Website Creation and Maintenance owner and tech, James Israel, a local web developer who has taken the time to meet the exact website needs of the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS). In 2022, ECOS has undergone a number of organizational changes, which also required a restructuring of our website. In addition to these changes, we wanted to streamline the ways that visitors of our website interact with us. As part of the revamp of the ECOS website, James has taken on custom work (web design and web graphics), special deep-level coding and database connections, customized plugins, and custom API connections to outside apps like email newsletter companies.

ECOS recommends James! He provides creative solutions and offers affordable rates to non-profits. Contact: James Israel ht1[at]dcn[dot]org

Climate Change Committee meeting 4/14

Please join ECOS’ Climate Change Committee on Thursday, April 14, at 6 PM!

We will hear reports from our Committee’s three teams: Transportation, Land Use, Green Buildings.
We will review the status of climate action plans in our region – cities and counties.

We want your ideas for “task forces” that our Committee should establish.
e.g., Natomas team: need to strengthen the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan.

We want to learn about your concerns, to help us identify these task forces, that you might want to join!


Agenda

6:00: Welcome and Introductions

6:10: Transportation Team Report
John Deeter, Team Chair

6:20: Land Use Committee Report

6:30: Green Building Committee Report

Updates:
6:40: Transportation Ballot Measure for November election
6:50: Climate Action Plans

7:00: Introductions by folks new to ECOS, their interests; and ideas for “Task Forces”
Nancy Hughett (ECOS Organization Development Committee Chair)

7:45: Adjourn

Please take this Survey: Investment Without Displacement

Sacramento Investment Without Displacement (SIWD) is a coalition of social justice organizations and residents who support building healthy communities, affordable housing, preserving cultural traditions, and the stability of neighborhoods.

SIWD is conducting this survey to gather feedback from the community about a proposed City of Sacramento policy.

The proposed policy would require developers to enter into a community benefits agreement (CBA) for new construction if the developer receives money or incentives from the City of Sacramento.

A developer is an individual or company responsible for building homes, offices, retail or commercial centers, arenas, or industrial sites.

A community benefits agreement or CBA is a legally binding document that outlines community benefits (e.g., affordable housing, park improvements, job training programs) a developer must provide to reduce the negative impact of new development on the people who live near the project.

SIWD will use the information collected through this survey when advocating with the City that the proposed CBA policy reflects equity and what the community wants.

At the end of this survey you will have the option to enter into a raffle to win a prize (for example, gift card, t-shirt or hoodie).