Cambrian: Opinion

Recent rains have brought about a fresh look at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

Hikers enjoy rejuvenated flora from recent rains at the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.
Hikers enjoy rejuvenated flora from recent rains at the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.

We’ve had our first good rains of the season, freshening a few of summer’s lingering wildflowers on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. We’re also seeing the bright green of new plants showing through the golds and browns of the dry summer grasslands.

Seeds planted in our restoration areas along the Seaclift Gully and the Bluff Trail will begin to sprout bringing native wildflowers and grasses to once barren soil. The rain feels great to all after such a long dry spell.

In the forest, many of the understory plants have gone through their cycle of growth, flowered and cast their seeds to take hold during the winter rains and restart a new cycle of growth in the spring. The evergreen pines and oaks provide protection to these plants until they are stable enough to survive on their own.

Before too long we will again be looking at mushrooms on our walks through the forested areas. Amanita Muscaria, the beautiful red topped fungus with white spots is poisonous to people, but the deer nibble them without seeming to be bothered. There are edible mushrooms, too, but not only is it best to leave identification to experts, you shouldn’t collect them on the preserve. Because of the protections of the conservation easement picking of specimens is only to be done for educational purposes like educational field trips or the Cambria Wildflower Show.

Even though we live in a small, beautiful community, it is easy to get caught up in the demands of work, seasonal expectations and other concerns, but some time in nature can be the perfect antidote. Sunday night, my special treat was watching the white-tailed kites on their evening hunting rounds.

There were only two, but in October, friends and I counted 18 in one evening walk. They are truly elegant birds; about 16 inches in height with a black shoulder patch above a gray back and sides with a white head, underparts and tail. Skilled at soaring and also flying swiftly, these birds hover while hunting and slip rapidly down to catch their prey. According to the “Local Birds of San Luis Obispo Quick Guide,” they can be seen all year in our area, but I seem to notice them most in the fall. At one time these lovely birds were near extinction but seem to be making a recovery.

The Ranch offers rich territory for these and other wildlife sightings. Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve offers a series of monthly docented “Walks on the Ranch” to help you better appreciate the great diversity of life on the preserve. Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve (FFRP) offers a guided Forest Loop Trail walk and a Bluff Trail walk at least once each month, sometimes more often.

Other, more specialized, walks are scheduled on a monthly basis too. You will have a chance to walk with experts in subjects such as archeology, birds, mushrooms and marine mammals. Our next single topic walk will be Saturday, Jan. 26. It will give you the opportunity to join zoologist Kara Hagedorn and Sunshine, her red-tailed hawk. Kara will talk about the role of raptors on the preserve and her adventures with Sunshine, who is unable to be released to the wild.

For more information on our “Walks on the Ranch” series and to make reservations, please visit

For more information about the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve and FFRP, please visit We also have an office at 604-D Main St. that is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays staffed by volunteers to answer any Ranch questions you might have.

Jo Ellen Butler is executive director of Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. Ranch Update appears quarterly and is special to The Cambrian.