Posted inEnvironment

FFRP Brings Good News about More Butterflies, More Trees

It is not your imagination:  monarchs have returned in force this fall to the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.  To see monarchs (Danaus plexippus) clustering in the Ranch’s Monterey pine (Pinus radiata), take the short spur off the Forest Loop Trail to the monarch viewing area. The site is marked by a split rail fence.    

     Xerces Society volunteer Holly Sletteland reported more than 5,000 monarchs on the Preserve during the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count. That nearly three times more than last year, and the largest number seen since 2016, although still far below the 20,000 counted in 2015. Overwintering sites along the California coast are seeing similar increases in populations.

     Monarchs start to fly when they warm up so the best time to see them at rest is when temperatures are below 55 degrees. Monarchs cluster about 15 feet off the ground where the wind is calm, but morning rays can warm them up.  Look for mostly grayish closed wings, not bright orange. In flight, it is easy to spot monarchs when they are silhouetted against the sky or to recognize them by the large shadows they cast.

     In other good news, the annual Thanksgiving weekend tree planting brought out a record number of community members and visitors who planted around 350 seedlings in two hours. Volunteers included stalwarts from Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve (FFRP) to multi-generational groups of first timers.  Brian Morgan organized the event, making for a flawless day.  Carlos Mendoza and Martin Garcia from Cambria Community Services District pitched in, while West Coast Tree Service donated 500 gallons of water so the trees could start out with a good drink.  Greenspace donated dozens of seedlings left over from their San Simeon planting which supplemented trees grown in FFRP’s restoration nursery.

     This year’s planting was just inland of the Ridge Trail.  The new trees can be spotted among the grasses since, as two-year-old seedlings, they have a good deal of growth on them both above ground and with healthy roots.  The coming rain will help them to become established and continue to expand our community’s forest which has increased in area 25 percent since 2003.

     Please take special note that FFRP will be participating in Hospitality Night on Monday, December 5.  Stop on by the FFRP shop at 604D Main Street to sample some café de olla and sweet treats.

Posted inEnvironment

Scores of Volunteers Deftly Plant 1000 Seedlings

The task was for volunteers to help plant 1000 pine seedlings within a 12-hour timeframe.  The result was that scores of eager, committed volunteers got the job done in just under four hours. 

     Greenspace – The Cambria Land Trust achieved this feat last weekend with the guidance of Richard Hawley, Greenspace’s first Executive Director, and the numerous organizational skills of Karin Argano, its new Executive Director.  California State Parks once again asked Greenspace to grow and plant more of the area’s signature trees for an ongoing reforestation effort at Hearst San Simeon State Park just north of Cambria.  Around town, folks grew the seedlings at home using seeds from healthy Monterey pine trees and, among the cultivators, stalwart grower Jason Anderson outdid himself.

     According to Argano, the volunteer planters were “numerous and diverse, from seasoned volunteers to “it’s the first time I ever planted a tree!”  Both the kids and adults were excited to return and see the maturing forest, knowing that they planted those trees.  Brian Morgan of Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve brought volunteers.  This was “a huge help and we love the collaboration with this other eco-org in Cambria,” Argano said.  Other groups that were involved in the planting came from local churches, high school students from Arroyo Grande and Cambria, and students from Cuesta College brought by Jennifer Schriber, who teaches plant science there.

     Young trees planted by Greenspace supporters in recent years are now highly visible northeast of the Highway 1 and San Simeon Creek Road intersection.  Their 60 percent survival rate was tracked by volunteers from local high schools, Cuesta College, and California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly).  That number is considered satisfactory given that the seedlings are not pampered like a crop but instead released to capitalize on the distinctive microclimate along the coast.

     Reforestation is a key part of Greenspace’s mission, and additional seedlings are being grown throughout the year by volunteers.  In anticipation of future needs, and in conjunction with Earth Day 2023, seeds and growing racks will be available for volunteers to nurture at home.  It is reported that these signature “Pines by the Sea” (Pinus radiata) have grown along the coast for thousands of years. 

Planting Duos  (photo credit: Scott Anderson)
Posted inEnvironment

Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve Looking for New Board Members

The Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve (FFRP) is looking for people who are interested in filling one or two board seats that will open on January 1.  The organization is especially seeking those who have skills and experience in the fields of conservation, finance, and community outreach.  Diversifying the board is a continuing goal.

     Board terms are three years with the option to renew up to three times for a total of nine years of service.  The board consists of 12 members and meets on the second Tuesday of the month at 4:00 p.m.  Officers are the chairperson, vice-chair, treasurer, and secretary.  Members are covered by Directors and Officers Insurance.  The FFRP committees are Education, Executive, Finance, Marketing and Development, Nominating, and Ranch.

     FFRP has a working board, which means members have operational responsibilities.  Each board member is expected to serve on at least one committee and contribute time to the organization.  For example, some board members volunteer on the invasive plant removal, restoration, and trail programs.  Some organize and oversee educational programs.  Others direct finances, fundraising, and events.  Board members average 100 hours of volunteer time per year, including attending board meetings.  In addition, each board member must be a member in good standing of FFRP.

     The board is congenial and collegial, sharing a deep love of the Ranch and a commitment to the mission of protecting the beauty of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve and sustaining its diversity of life for everyone to enjoy.  A mutual love of the Ranch pulls everyone together.

     As retiring board member Ted Siegler says, “Service to the organization is a way to repay those who have come before and to contribute to future generations.”  For anyone interested in board service, please call (805-927-2856) or send an email (

Posted inEnvironment

Bird and Butterfly News from Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

A release of four juvenile California condors in San Simeon is planned for Saturday morning, November 5.  This will provide a rare opportunity to watch the reintroduction of endangered condors into their native habitat.

     The Zoom program coverage will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the holding pen doors opening at 10:00 a.m.  The birds may be shy, so coverage runs until 11:30 a.m. to give them time to leave their pen.     To register for this event, visit the Ventana Wildlife Society website at:  Then click on the register button to sign up.  

     Monarch butterflies have returned to their overwintering habitat along the coast.  To see them, visit Fiscalini Ranch Preserve’s monarch viewing area off the southwestern segment of the Forest Loop Trail.  Last week several dozen monarchs were observed behind the viewing area fence.  Roosting monarchs look a bit like Doritos.  Look for mostly grayish closed wings, not bright orange.  Monarchs start to fly when they warm up.  The best time to see them roosting is when temperatures are below 55 degrees (typically before 9:00 a.m.), so bundle up and grab the binoculars.

     In more bird news, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has come to the County.  This deadly variant is easily transmitted between birds, especially domestic fowl, waterfowl, and raptors.  HPAI causes neurological and respiratory issues in birds but is highly unlikely to be transmitted between birds and people.  To reduce the threat to domestic and wild birds, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends:

  –Reporting dead wild birds using CDFW’s mortality reporting form at:;

  –Reporting sick and dead poultry to the CDFA hotline (866-922-2473);

  –Preventing contact between domestic birds and wild birds, especially waterfowl;

  –Excluding wild birds from accessing chicken or other domestic bird feed and water; and

  –If visiting outdoor areas with large concentrations of waterfowl and other waterbirds, washing clothing and disinfecting footwear and equipment before traveling to other areas or interacting with domestic birds.

     To keep wild bird populations healthy, The Audubon Society recommends cleaning bird feeders every week or two by running them through the dishwasher or soaking them for 10 minutes in a diluted bleach solution followed by scrubbing them and letting them dry completely before refilling the feeder.  Hummingbird feeders need to be cleaned the same way every five days.  Birdbaths can be rinsed and scrubbed with a 1:9 solution of vinegar and water every other day.