Join us for a fun summer evening BBQ at Dry Creek Preserve!
Kick off your Fourth of July weekend with an easy (and hopefully breezy) summer evening outside along the river at Dry Creek Preserve. We hope to see you there. Click on the image below to view full size invitation. And please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For all of you photographers out there who are planning to submit photos to our photo contest, this will be a great opportunity to get onto an SRT preserve, typically closed to the public. It will also be a good chance to take pictures of the all-too-often underestimated beauty of the valley summer landscape, as well as take pictures of families enjoying nature.
Where: Dry Creek Preserve is located on Dry Creek Road, near Woodlake adn Lemon Cove. From Visalia, travel east on Highway 198 to Highway 216 (about 17 miles). Follow Highway weat toward Woodlake one-half mile and turn right (north) on Dry Creek Road. The preserve is located two miles down on your right.
Don’t forget to bring a chair and/or blanket to sit on, sunscreen, insect repellent, water/beverages (sorry, no alcohol), and comfortable shoes.
by Laura Childers, SRT Environmental Education Director
The James K. Herbert Wetlands Preserve is a special place. It is one of the few remaining pieces of the San Joaquin Valley grassland habitat that used to dominate our entire region. During the spring, vernal pools dot the landscape, housing rare species of plants and fairy shrimp. Burrowing owls are one of the rare wildlife species that abound in this habitat, along with the northern harrier and golden eagle.
Fire has long been a dominant force on the landscape here, and native plants have developed under its influence. The plants and their seeds are strengthened by the fire while the non-native plants from areas outside California are severely weakened or killed. Consequently, fires help propagate the California plants that we all know and love, such as the poppy and other native wildflowers.
The controlled burn at Herbert Preserve was organized by SRT’s biological consultant, Bobby Kamansky. With the aid of four energetic volunteers, we were able to successfully burn 150 acres of the preserve.
As you may imagine, the dry grass — dominantly non-natives originating from Spain and Italy — quickly caught fire. The fire crept along the grass, leaving behind a trail of scorched earth and the native spikeweed, which has lovely yellow flowers and thrives in the fire. It was very interesting to see the dry grass catch instantly while the native flower seemed almost untouched by it.
Many thanks to our wonderful volunteers! Teri, Jeanne, Luis, and Beth– you all are awesome!
by Laura Childers, Environmental Education Director, SRT
The school bus squeaks to a halt, and a class of fifth grade students hesitantly piles off, looking around shyly at the vast expanse of meadows and woodlands surrounding them. I can sense that most of them have rarely left the agricultural landscape of Selma, their home town, and are slightly nervous about exploring this mythical “Nature” that they’ve heard so much about from the Discovery Channel. The students divide into small clusters of friends and giggle nervously about the field trip that’s just begun, speculating quietly about whether or not anacondas, tigers, and Big Foot are lurking in the darkness beneath the trees.
Before they know it, the kids are divided into two separate groups and will not be seeing each other again until lunch time. Volunteer Naturalist Steve Ny leads one group of students and heads straight for the Sycamore Trail, a favorite hiking trail at the preserve. I take leadership of the second group, and away we go!
My eyes open wide, and I whisper urgently to the kids, “Okay guys, the first thing that we are going to do today is look at animal bones!”
At first, their expressions morph into affected adult behavior, namely feigned boredom, cartoonish revulsion, and — underneath it all — the pure, child-like curiosity that fifth graders ultimately cannot suppress in themselves, though they would like to think they’re already grown up (and thank goodness they are not!).
If there is anything I have learned about children through my position as the Education Director, it’s that they love the macabre. Learning about the dialectic between life and death in nature, the cycle connecting all things, is an essential part of not only learning about how nature works but also learning about life itself.
We gently handle the bones of real elk, wild hogs, cows, coyotes, and foxes, turning them over and over in our hands to see that, yes, that is where the eyes went, that is where its ears were. I ask them, “Why do you think its teeth are shaped the way they are? Why are its eyes where they are on its head?” It’s a game of exploration, building familiarity with wild animals by handling them in a way they never could otherwise. We feel the snakeskin, wondering about what it would be like to have to change your skin and not just your clothes when you grow bigger. It allows the children to relate to the creatures who share our world with us.
By this time, the masks of adulthood they wore at the beginning of the field trip have fallen away. The kids squeal every time they see a squirrel pop out of its borrow or a bird fly overhead. We rally together and go search for insects, the tiny creatures that manage to dwell, mysteriously, in nothing but a parched, grassy field. We wonder at how the grasshopper’s shell matches the color of the grass so well; even his eyes are a grassy brown.
The woods still loom large in the eyes of the children, and they question me repeatedly if we are going to explore them during our hike. I tell them that we are going on an adventure into the forest, the wildlands of Visalia, and that we must stick together to learn about everything hidden within it. The kids grow silent when I tell them that if we are quiet, we may see some of the shyest animals of all — the coyote, fox, or deer.
Together, we creep along trails veiled by grapevines and valley oak canopies, green light filtering through to the forest floor. Lizards dart across our path, and lady bugs fly around us, sometimes landing on a lucky student. We hear the acorn woodpecker starting his summer storage of acorns in the stag trees and see apple-colored galls filled with tiny, sting-less wasp sprouting from the branches. The kids explore vine caves and tunnels, climb a sprawling sycamore tree, and even swing from a real grapevine just like George of the Jungle, the kids’ version of Tarzan.
Exploration is the key element of scientific discovery and learning, and the urge to explore is cultivated during childhood. Benjamin Franklin spent his youth wandering the woods of New England. Jane Goodall spent her childhood climbing trees in England with her trusty dog as her only companion. Would Benjamin Franklin ever have discovered electricity if he hadn’t learned the thrill of exploration as a child? Would Jane Goodall have dared to enter the jungles of Africa if she hadn’t spent years walking through forests alone? Personally, I doubt it.
I believe that the urge to explore is the most valuable thing we can give a child. One of the best places to teach them that is in nature because there are endless possibilities for discovery.
This spring, thirteen naturalists taught over seven hundred children how to explore and discover in the natural world. They are incredibly valuable to this community and the development of our next generation of leaders.
SPECIAL THANKS TO NATURALISTS:
You all are incredible, and thank you so much for teaching kids about nature this Spring.
THANKS TO OUR GENEROUS FUNDERS:
Southern California Edison
If you are interested in sharing your love of the great outdoors with youth, please contact Laura Childers to set up a training date at (559) 738-0211 x103.
The Sequoia Riverlands Trust native plant nursery at Dry Creek Preserve was damaged last winter in an intense wind storm. We owe many thanks to many different people for contrinuting their efforts to rebuilding the nursery. But one company, in particular, went above and beyond to provide critical supplies for the reconstruction project. We’d like to extend our hearty thanks to Ken Williams and the crew at Willitts Pump for donating the steel pipe used in the mid span supports of the nursery shade structure. Nearly a thousand pounds of steel now holds the mid section tight against the wind.
Teresa Douglass, writer for the Visalia Times-Delta, recently researched and wrote an amazing and comprehensive article about SRT’s six nature preserves, as well as the wonderful bird sanctuary at the Pixley National Wildlife Refuge. Please take a moment to read the whole article, found here. She also produced an informative video about why Kaweah Oaks Preserve and other nature preserves are so important. Below is just a short snippet of the article…
Likewise, Sequoia Riverlands Trust, a regional, nonprofit Central California land trust, manages its six nature preserves to benefit wildlife.
Conservation techniques include cattle grazing, controlled burns, creating ponds and even constructing a network of stream channels.
“Sequoia Riverlands Trust is here to preserve pieces of our past,” said Sopac McCarthy Mulholland, executive director at SRT. The six different SRT nature preserves range from Valley property to sycamore alluvial woodlands to foothills.
“Like pearls in a string, they link up to each other,” Mulholland said.
Today, we take a look at all seven of the Tulare County nature preserves.
And here’s another great article, written by Sabrina Ziegler of the Porterville Recorder, that comprehensively sums up the rich, informative, beautiful Native American cultural celebration at Kaweah Oaks Preserve last Saturday, May 29. This piece is also accompanied by a short and informative video.