M A R C H 2 0 2 1
Members of Brothers on the Rise exploring the Sausal Creek Watershed.
Photos by Cesar Barrigan for the 2021 State of the Watershed.
Friends of Sausal Creek is a volunteer-based, community organization. We appreciate your support of our education, monitoring, and restoration programs in the Sausal Creek Watershed. 
Reviewing 2020
The 2021 State of the Watershed
Each year, Friends of Sausal Creek’s annual State of the Watershed invites us to pause and assess the important work that is being done by our community to further our mission. In response to the times we’re in, this year we encouraged community members, volunteers, and partner organizations to submit short videos, highlighting the work they are doing to steward the watershed. We received 13 submissions!
Several youth groups shared how they have been working in the watershed on removing invasive plants (Acorn Wilderness Explorers), propagating plants (Oakland Tech Ecology Club, Carmen Flores Recreation Center) and learning about the watershed ecosystems (Brothers on the Rise).
We heard from site stewards who successfully adapted to the pandemic conditions and demonstrated their innovative practices in caring for natives during a drought year (Sanborn Triangle), shared their history and progress in recovering open spaces (Marj Sanders, Montclair Friends of Montclair Railroad Trails, Beaconsfield Canyon) and demonstrated gains in addressing dumping and illegal discharges (Barry Place).
John Brega, May Chen, and Mark Rauzon reported on citizen science efforts in tracking the mysterious tree and shrub mortality in the region, in successfully recovering the endangered pallid manzanita, and documenting the fascinating lives of pollinators, respectively.
Together we watched this montage of unique contributions across the watershed which created a real sense of togetherness -- even over Zoom! The presentations highlighted the wide variety of ways that people care for the Sausal Creek Watershed, and reflections on how it has cared for us during a very challenging year. We want to acknowledge and express our gratitude to the dedicated Friends of Sausal Creek volunteers for the projects and stewardship activities they supported during 2020. Thank you to everyone who participated in this year's State of the Watershed; we are inspired to forge ahead in our work in the year to come.

If you couldn't make it to the event, you can still watch the State of the Watershed presentations on our website! And by special request, here is the State of the Watershed 2021 playlist with a soundtrack from the presentations.

We want to send a special thank you to everyone who submitted a video presentation:

Alan Tong, Sanborn Triangle
Alexandra Fiske, Oakland Tech Ecology Club
Barry and Sarah Stenger, Barry Place
Cesar Barrigan, Brothers on the Rise
Elaine Geffen, Marj Saunders Park
Jay Cassianni, FOSC Native Plant Nursery
John Brega, Tree and Shrub Mortality
Kristie Wyndham, Acorn Wilderness Explorers
Lin Barron, Montclair Railroad Trail
Mark Rauzon, Pallid Manzanitas
May Chen, Pollinator Garden
Richard Kauffman, Beaconsfield Canyon
Rodolfo Dominguez, Carmen Flores Recreation Center, Josie de la Cruz Park

Explore the Watershed
Bird Note: Pileated Woodpecker
by Beth Keer
Common name: Pileated woodpecker
Scientific name:  Dryocopus pileatus

According to the American Birding Association, 2021 is the year of the Pileated Woodpecker. How appropriate that after more than 25 years of hiking in the local parks, this was my first sighting of one.

On January 22 as I was hiking along the West Ridge Trail in Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park, I heard a loud and distinctive drumming very near me. I stopped dead in my tracks because my first thought was – it’s a Pileated Woodpecker! Several years ago (pre-pandemic) I had the delightful experience of watching a pair of them pretty much demolish a snag (a term for a standing dead tree) in the Audubon Society Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in southwest Florida. Large and flashy looking woodpeckers, they are somewhat infrequent visitors to our area. As I stood there in the trail, I looked up into a nearby dead tree and there it was! She (I think) was busy tearing apart the snag. As I watched for more than five minutes, the gorgeous bird tore huge chunks of decayed wood from the trunk and tossed them wildly in the air in her search for insects. I felt so very lucky to see such a magnificent bird. When a fellow hiker with a dog appeared on the trail, the woodpecker flew off calling in a most raucous way.

Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in North America, just slightly smaller than a crow. Their preferred habitat is mature forests across the eastern half of the US, western Canada, and the mountains of coastal and central California, including the Bay Area. They dig into snags with their strong beaks to find insects and especially carpenter ants. This is another good reason, where possible, to leave dead standing trees and fallen logs.

If you’d like to learn more about the Pileated Woodpecker, download my favorite birding app, Merlin, and enjoy the photos and the sounds. Stay alert. They are here in the Bay Area. The eBird platform shows several recorded sightings in both Joaquin Miller Park and Redwood Regional Park. If you are lucky, you may get to see or hear one! In the meantime, here is a short video of my experience with a Pileated Woodpecker
Kudos Corner
This month's Kudos go to the awesome folks at buildOn Oakland, who have been continuing to volunteer with the Friends of Sausal Creek in a virtual capacity! Last month, 25 buildOn students from high schools around Oakland created infographics to describe native plants that can be commonly found in Dimond Canyon Park. We hope to post these around the watershed and promote awareness of the amazing native plant diversity we have right here in Oakland.

Thank you, buildOn!
Friend of the Month
25 Years: Friends of Sausal Creek
Co-founder Eleanor Dunn
On this 25th Year Anniversary of the Friends of Sausal Creek, we want to spotlight the stories of some of the founders and their vision for the future of the watershed.

Over 25 years ago, Eleanor Dunn moved into the Dimond neighborhood. When describing her first encounter with Dimond Canyon Park, she notes she “randomly found it”. At the time, Eleanor says that Dimond Canyon Park was considered by her neighbors to be “abandoned and creepy”, however Eleanor walked her dog there daily. “People thought I was nuts to go there,” she explained, “but I felt like it was a beautiful treasure”.

After spending time exploring the watershed, Eleanor became involved with a group of people who were meeting at the library and taking on little tasks to improve the canyon. This group eventually became the Friends of Sausal Creek.

Sam Cohen, an early president of the Friends of Sausal Creek, had a bold vision for the watershed. At the time, the creek above El Centro Ave. -- where Dimond Park transitions to Dimond Canyon Park-- was channelized by WPA structures. The natural flowing creek that we know today was in concrete channels and railroad pipes, but Sam saw another future for it. He advocated for taking the stream out of the concrete and returning it to a natural channel. Meanwhile, Eleanor was hard at work coordinating with the city to make dog bags available to the public at the trail entrance to prevent contamination of the creek.

Within a few years of the founding of the Friends of Sausal Creek, the City of Oakland needed to repair sewer lines under Leimert Bridge. This repair provided an opportunity to restore a section of the creek in Dimond Canyon Park. The restored creek channel you can see today is due to the advocacy and vision of members of Friends of Sausal Creek.
While recounting this story, Eleanor laughed and remembered that it took about as long to return the creek to a natural channel above El Centro as it did to figure out how to keep a supply of dog bags available in the park (an effort which lasted about 5 years).
The dichotomy between achieving large and small projects is what still defines Friends of Sausal Creek’s work today. "We must be able to both dream big and do the everyday work to take care of the watershed," Eleanor reflected. Over the course of 25 years, many things have changed, but the overall vision for the organization remains the same. Everyone’s big and small efforts throughout the watershed create a more robust ecosystem which is at the heart of this work: to protect the watershed for wildlife and to make it more accessible to the public.

When Eleanor was asked what she would like to see the Friends of Sausal Creek achieve in the next 25 years, she answered by considering the whole watershed:

“One of my hopes has always been to connect the watershed from the highest ridges, through Dimond Canyon, to the bay. Connecting the city through nature provides an opening for everybody to enjoy the creek. Friends of Sausal Creek can help create connections to the creek, particularly in the lower watershed, and by doing so be part of the continuous process of creating a connected and walkable watershed across the city. To be a part of connecting nature along the streets, through green corridors for wildlife, and to be able to walk from one end of the creek to the other is my hope for the next 25 years of Friends of Sausal Creek.” 
Thank you, Eleanor, for all you have done and continue to do for the watershed and Friends of Sausal Creek! 

Eleanor Dunn is the Vice President of Friends of Sausal Creek Board of Directors and a veterinarian.
If you would like to nominate a Friend of the Month, contact education@sausalcreek.org.
Event Calendar
Upcoming Friends of Sausal Creek Events:

FOSC is now accepting volunteers for outdoor and distanced workdays on a limited basis. Contact the listed event leader from our events calendar to sign up!

Online Events of Interest from other Organizations:

Presented by the Western Rivers Conservancy
Every Wednesday in March 6 p.m.

Presented by the California Native Plant Society
March 4 at 5:30 p.m.

Presented by Environmental Volunteers
March 6 at 11:00 a.m.

Presented by Dr. Max Liboiron and the UNC Charlotte Center for Professional and Applied Ethics
March 22, 10:00 a.m.

Get Involved
Our mission is to restore, maintain, and protect the Sausal Creek Watershed. We educate future generations, involve the community in local environmental stewardship, and collaborate with agencies and other nonprofits to have a positive impact on the local ecosystem. 
We need more Friends of Sausal Creek -- learn more about donation options   
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Connect with us:

Anna Marie Schmidt
Executive Director

Jay Cassianni
Restoration and Nursery Manager

Jackie Van Der Hout
Community Education and Restoration
Photo Credits: Cesar Barrigan, Mark Rauzon, Beth Keer, Eleanor Dunn, buildOn