A DOZEN CONSERVANCY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS visited the Pacifica Foundation site of the KPFA Radio Towers overlooking Gwin and Claremont Canyons, with Jake Sigg, long-time advocate of native plant restoration in the Bay Area and author of the widely read “Nature News from Jake Sigg.” Jake helped us identify native plants and provided insights on the landscape, a naturally rough and exposed knoll overlooking much of the bay area to the west and Mount Diablo and the inner valley to the east.
The site had significant weedy invasions before undergoing regular stewardship by KPFA volunteers Bob Nelson and Robert MacConnell. Over the past several years, Bob and Robert have spent their Thursdays removing yellow starthistle, French broom and small eucalyptus (under 6 inches in diameter), all invasive species that can produce a monocultural landscape and increased fire danger. For fire safety reasons Bob and Robert regularly weed whack the knoll and for aesthetic and wildlife purposes they have piled slash left over from previous work into “habitat piles.” In 2007 they experimented with introducing some native plants, including madrone seedlings, but due to the dry climate that year most did not survive.
Recovery is slow but little by little the broom is receding and the eucalyptus grove maintained. The yellow starthistle, which was near the road, has been completely eradicated. Some parts of the site are showing a degree of natural recovery just by removing the exotic plants and letting the natives settle in on their own. Plants doing well on the site are wild cucumber, mugwort, California sage and snakeroot. A tiny flowering plant resembling redmaids, but white, was found and photographed. We are awaiting an identification from the folks at the Regional Parks Botanical Garden as to whether this might be a variant of the native redmaids or something else.
Our avid bird watchers were along on this walk and located the the handsome male American Kestrel, a recognized resident of the knoll, perched on the top of a Monterey pine. This same fellow appears in several photos in Kay Loughman’s photo gallery, Wildlife in the North Hills.
We are grateful to Jake for coming all the way across the Bay to share his knowledge with us, to Bob and Robert for their dedication to good stewardship, to everyone that showed up on a crisp Thursday morning, and to Bill McClung for setting things up so that this walk could happen.