Feb 14, 2009 An Update From Candace By Candace Hale, Creek Naturalist
Fresh from a satisfying morning with the SPAWN Restoration team at Roy's Pools CLICK HERE FOR BLOG There's nothing like taking out your aggressions on invasive Himalayan Blackberry in the company of friends, monitored by a soaring Cooper's Hawk! I headed on up to Leo Cronin, hoping to soothe my fish-starved eyes with a glimpse of steelhead. They move on the big flows, motoring up through the turbulent, coffee-colored water to spawn, then return to the sea. Todd saw one jump the Inkwells the day before, so I was hopeful.
I ran into a Watershed Management college class who asked for a tour, and we had a wonderful time talking about large woody debris structures, alder "nursery trees," the "hungry water" dams create by starving the creek of sediment, rainwater harvesting, and the million other topics that come up on a beautiful day (by which I mean a WET day!) on the creek.
Someone asked why there's no fish ladder at Kent Dam. He'd seen ladders at other very high dams. I blanked , then had an "oh, yes" moment when Ann, the teacher, pointed out that a fish ladder would do no good -- because there's no habitat left behind the dam itself, only three big reservoirs devoid of spawning area. So interesting to realize yet again that a dam doesn't just block historical habitat (here, 50% of the watershed) -- it destroys it.
Which means that every drop of water we use from those reservoirs is doubly precious. Every drop we don't use is a drop that might eventually get over the top of the dam and down into the stream and the watertable, to be enjoyed by salmon and other wildlife. So look to your water consumption! Check your bill, and set yourself a competition -- how much can you reduce your monthly use of water just by being conscious? At my house, there are buckets in the shower and a big new rainwater harvesting barrel outside. What's in your water wallet?
Oh, and fish? No, alas. Saw two round pothole-shaped areas that could have been steelhead redds, but no flash of fin nor tail. And I got very excited when I heard a chittering noise, crying out "Kingfisher, kingfisher!" --- but it was only someone's digital camera. Drat!
It's raining again, and I will keep my fingers crossed that I will see a silver traveler before the season ends.
Feb 12, 2009 Spawner Update By Eric Ettlinger, Aquatic Ecologist
Marin Municipal Water District
P.O. Box 865, Fairfax, CA 94978
It's been four weeks since my last update and no news is definitely not
good news. I've been waiting to send out an update until we had seen
additional coho salmon, but I have no such news to report. Our last
observation of a live salmon was on January 6th. The rain we received on
Friday raised stream flows modestly, but that 43 cfs flow was still the
highest we've seen since late December. We had some hope that this was
the flow the coho had been waiting for, but surveys conducted on Monday
failed to find any coho, or even redds that could have been built by
coho. Yesterday's rain raised stream flows a bit higher again, but it's
still too soon for us to survey Lagunitas Creek again.
As an occasional optimist, I still have some small hope that we may see
another coho this season. Two years ago we observed the last coho of the
season on February 21st, which was the latest observation of a coho
recorded in Lagunitas Creek. Significant rains are forecast for this
weekend and through next week, which should encourage any spawners down
in the estuary to migrate upstream. Hopefully there will be a break in
the rain long enough to survey the creek, but if not we'll poke around
during the storms and see what's jumping. If any of you folks are also
out there looking for spawners, I'd appreciate hearing about what you
For the record, our coho salmon count stands at 43 live coho and 26
February, 2009 Watch SPAWN on NBC news talking about the dire coho season this year, click HERE
January, 2009 SF Chronicle article highlighting the coho crisis this year.
Jan 14, 2009 Coho Redd in San Geronimo Creek By Chris Pincetich
Today I had a good look at a redd located on San Geronimo Creek while touring the watershed with UC Berkeley researcher Dr. Stephanie Carlsen. The creek flows this winter are very low, and it was alarming to see how shallow the creek and its tributaries were at this time of year. Peak flows have not been sufficient to tumble the cobble along the riffles, so the disturbed cobble around the redd and trail of fine sediment below the redd stood out dramatically against the surrounding algae covered rocks. These coho must appreciate SPAWN's creek care and restoration efforts, because they chose to settle in front of a recently completed woody-debris project that is reducing erosion along the toe of the creek bank. We were on a mission to find coho carcasses, but despite our many efforts came up empty this day. SPAWN's collaboration with Dr. Carlsen may lead to a better understanding of where returning spawners were raised as juveniles by analyzing the strontium isotope ratio in their otolith bones.
Jan 10, 2008 A Special Creekwalk By Ms. Chris Lyons, teacher at Manor School
We were THRILLED today to see a salmon at Samuel P. Taylor park on our Creekwalk! Richard, our guide, was informative and very sweet with the kids. None of us expected to see any fish because everyone had been telling us there were so few this year. We still enjoyed ourselves and had a nice hike. As we were walking back to the cars, crossing the bridge, we looked down and saw two salmon swimming up the creek! We yelled for everyone to come over and we spotted some splashing further up the creek. Then one of them came back toward us and put on a little show. All the kids and adults saw it (and dashed across the bridge to see it on the other side when it went under) and were SO excited. It was a wonderful moment. Thanks so much!
Jan 9, 2008 Coho Update By Paola Bouley
As of today, we have a total of 24 coho redds observed and~43 spawners in the Lagunitas Creek watershed. This represents a 87% decline in the year-class, a really dire situation for the coho unless we get some good rains to bring more fish in to spawn. No rains predicted for the next two weeks though.
Steelhead have begun their spawning run and we are observing fish holding in deep pools on the mainstem. Check out a recent video of steelies spawning on Lagunitas Creek. Be sure to use "high quality" mode to view this, click HERE
And check out the Chronicle article over this weekend!
Jan 2, 2009 Watershed moments By Carissa Brands, SPAWN Naturalist
I had a small group of 8 last weekend, and although we didn't see any spawning salmon, it went very well. I could visibly tell that one woman in the group was having a 'watershed moment' as we were talking about watersheds and the fact that we all live downstream, and our human impacts on the survivability of the salmon, etc. I sent the group away with the info they would need in locating salmon in the future, and hopefully a call to action in their own communities and watersheds to make the world thrive-able for all species.
So even when we take groups out and don't see fish, I feel that it is an opportunity to educate people about our world and the urgency in restoring life in watersheds, not only for the salmon, but for life in these 'basins of relations.' I think that the woman having the watershed moment was seeing that she is no different than the salmon, or the creek, or the bulldozer. These are moments that I cherish: relationship building with perfect strangers...
December 29, 2008 Steelhead run begins By Paola Bouley.
Over the past few days numerous sightings of steelhead and their redds have occurred. Visibility is wonderful for viewing.
Watch steelhead spawning (use "high quality" mode) click HERE
As for coho, no new redds or fish have been documented since Christmas day, although surveys are still ongoing. We are beginning to get very concerned about this year-class of coho. Will we have a late run like we did back in the year 2000? Or have we lost the run this year? No one knows for sure just yet, but one thing is for certain... we need more rain!!
Please remember, the banks are officially closed to protect salmon from disturbance. So please observe posted signs and stay up on the bank in an area where you will not disturb the fish on their redds.
December 25, 2008 Salmon Leaping through the Falls! Welcoming the salmon home... By Paola Bouley.
See fish leaping through the falls, click HERE
This is the time to join a Naturalist-led creekwalk to view these magnificent fish!
With just under 2" of rainfall in the past 24-hours, stream flows in San Geronimo Crk and Lagunitas Crk peaked in the wee hours of this morning. At 8:30am (at about ~20- 30CFS) we saw lovely coho males (3-yr olds) and jacks (2-yr old males) leaping through the Inkwells (entrance to San Geronimo Creek at its confluence with Lagunitas Creek) as well as ~3-miles upstream at Roy's Pools up on San Geronimo Creek. Conditions were as close to perfect for upstream migration as I have ever seen.
Finally, the rains have brought the salmon home and given how dry the winter has been to date, we are expecting a burst of spawning activity to follow in the days ahead.
To register for a creekwalk visit our online registration site at http://spawnusa.org/. Download our "Where to See Salmon Brochure" at http://spawnusa.org/pages/page-46 and remember good creek ettiquette to prevent any disturbance to spawning fish. Stay off the banks, observe quietly from a distance.
See you on the creek!!
December 22, 2008 Coho pair holding, heading upstream
By Chris Pincetich
Following up on a sighting from Sunday's afternoon Creekwalk, I donned my rain coat and trekked up to the bike & hike bridge near the Irving Picnic area in Samuel P Taylor Park. Gazing into the waters from the bridge searching for coho is a very relaxing experience, whether or not they show themselves. This morning I was rewarded when one, and then another, beautiful adult coho swam into view, side by side, very casually swimming and enjoying their rest stop in a deep pool. Conditions were poor for photographs, but I tried anyway. The coho are on there way to San Geronimo Creek!
Excerpts from a spawning update by Eric Ettlinger, MMWD Aquatic Ecologist on Dec 9 2008.
The 2008-2009 spawner season got off to a promising start when over six inches of rain fell on Halloween and the following couple of days. Stream flows jumped to over 130 cubic feet per second on November 1st, which is an unusually high flow for early November and held the promise of coho salmon, and maybe Chinook as well, migrating upstream earlier than usual. But by mid-November we had only seen four coho salmon holding in a deep pool in Tocaloma, and no sign of any spawners further
Last week we finally saw fish further upstream, and observed a redd upstream of the Samuel P. Taylor State Park campground. Of the 11 coho salmon observed on December 5th, 9 were holding not far upstream of Tocaloma, and two more were observed actively spawning downstream of Cheda Creek. To date we have observed three coho redds in Lagunitas Creek, which ties a record for the fewest coho redds observed by early December. We have not seen any Chinook salmon so far.
The current weather forecast is calling for rain (and even snow!)
starting on Sunday and continuing through the week. We'll see if we get enough rain to allow fish to migrate up into San Geronimo Creek and Devil's Gulch. Keep your fingers crossed.
Eric Ettlinger, Aquatic Ecologist
Marin Municipal Water District
P.O. Box 865, Fairfax, CA 94978
(415) 945-1193 ><))))º>
Nov 22, 2008 Soul-soothing restoration along Lagunitas Creek... and the season's 1st coho sighting!
By Paola Bouley and Mel Wright.
Today, 9 of us SPAWNers (volunteers) joined the Point Reyes National Seashore at the Giacomini Wetlands project to sow native plants across the newly created riparian floodplain area. As we watched the fog touch the treetops of Inverness Ridge and slowly making its way into the San Andreas rift zone of Tomales Bay, we shared good stories and planted a couple hundred willows, creek dogwood, red elderberry, coffeeberry, and snowberry. To top of this beautiful day, Mel Wright (SPAWN's Native Plant Nursery Manager) and Carrisa Brands (Giacomini wetlands restoration specialist and SPAWN Naturalist) saw what is likely the year's first coho salmon in Lagunitas Creek!
"This afternoon, about 3pm, I was helping plant willow at the head of White House Pool. I was talking with Carissa and looking at the water when we both noticed variations in the clarity of the water just below the riffle where there is a sudden change in depth from a few inches to several feet. In a clear area we both saw a salmonid 20 to 24 inches in length and very "silver". It had that coho look. The sighting was only for a couple of seconds. A few minutes later I saw it's tail as it turned."
Working at the restoration site today, I was reminded of just how sacred a process restoration can be. Digging into the freshly exposed soils, gently removing plants from their nursery containers, then carefully placing each species where it will hopefully grow to reach it's full potential and part of an ecosystem has to be one of the most rewarding undertakings we can take as human beings. Not to mention, the company of dear friends and community members undertaking this labor of love, all of whom share the desire to protect and restore wilderness for future generations of all species in our community.
Each tree we plant is a testament to the recovery that is possible for all our watersheds. So join SPAWN's restoration wordays, every Friday and Saturday morning - check out our updated calendar at http://spawnusa.org
Nov 8, 2008 SEARCHING FOR SALMON THROUGH THE GIACOMINI WETLANDS
By Paola Bouley, SPAWN Conservation Program Director
Today I kayaked where Lagunitas Creek meets Tomales Bay, still in search of the schools of still elusive migratory salmon. The area where salmon are most likely to be this time of year as they wait for more rain is down towards the more brackish reaches of the system through the newly restored Giacomini Wetlands. The Point Reyes National Seashore recently completed (in October 2008) restoration of over 600-acres of wetland and floodplain habitat along lower Lagunitas Creek, an area previously levee-ed and restricted from tidal influence since the early 1900s.
As I glided on the Creek among the tules, willow and box elder, I observed black-shouldered kite, northern harrier, and red-shouldered hawk hunting over the Giacomini Wetlands, as well as belted kingfishers, cormorant, western grebe, great egret, greater- and lesser yellowlegs foraging along the shores and in the channel of Lagunitas.
A rare treat were the five RIVER OTTERS that passed me by, as they foraged swiftly and silently through the Creek heading upstream. Could these be the same family of otters observed 10-miles upstream on Lagunitas Creek just a week ago? No one knows yet! The otters lives on Lagunitas Creek are still somewhat of a mystery to us, and we are considering ways to begin to study their behavior and distribution.
No sign of the very large school of carp (see entry below) seen in the area just last week, only highlighting how hard it is to sometimes see what might be in the water column (like salmon!) down along brackish and turbid reaches of Lagunitas Creek.
Nov 3, 2008 RIVER OTTERS CRUISING THE CREEKS!
By Kevin Cook (SPAWN's WSP Intern)
Otters in Lagunitas Creek -seen on Nov 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5gcSv5mIVQ
This afternoon around 3 pm I headed out in the rain on a mission to see my first Coho spawner. I figured going in the rain would increase my chances. I started looking downstream from the inkwells along Sir Francis Drake on Lagunitas Creek and almost imediately saw a couple of river otters. I thought to myself that these sneaky predators probably have a sense of where the fish are better than me so I began to follow them upstream. I followed them all the way up past the shafter bridge on Lagunitas Creek and realized there were three of them. They were so playful together like little kids in the rain. I would get ahead of them where there was a nice clearing to view and wait for them. I took several video clips and saw one bring a fish that was about a foot and a half long onto a log and another joined in the feast. I was unable to identify the fish, but it was quite a site. Check out the video of the three otters.
Nov 2, 2008 A NATURALIST'S OBSERVATIONS ALONG LAGUNITAS CREEK
By Megan Isadore, SPAWN Naturalist
Wandering the banks of Lagunitas Creek around Shafter Bridge this morning, not really expecting to see coho, but hoping so after the last two days of deluge.....no spawners to be seen. But, I caught a whole flock of golden crowned kinglets busy among the maples on the bank, and stopped to consider them. Kinglets are wonderful birds; small, compact, plentiful along our creek, and easy to spot because they are such active creatures. They don't sit, they flit. They're never still, and best of all, the golden crowns and black masks are so vibrant that they're almost as easy to see as Townsend's warblers.
Golden crowned kinglets used to nest only far north in the boreal spruce forests, but these days they're nesting further south as well, into the spruce/fir forests of the central United States. They winter as far south as Mexico. One really great thing about these little birds is that despite their short nesting season, they manage to raise two sets of youngsters. They lay large clutches, up to 11 eggs. The female feeds her babies for only one day after they're born. Then she immediately begins laying her second clutch of eggs. The male takes over the feeding then, and finds time to feed not only the many hungry babies, but often also the brooding female.
Males have a beautiful orange tuft in the center of his golden crown, which is not always easy to see. Today it was, because the banks of Lagunitas Creek are high and steep in spots, which means the golden and orange crowns are often at eye level or below. Take a walk along the creek, enjoy the fruits of the season.
Nov 1, 2008 TRIBUTARIES BEGIN FLOWING AGAIN...
by Paola Bouley, Conservation Program Director
Yesterday, after receiving 0.7- 1" of rain overnight, we rambled down to Lagunitas Creek to an area just upstream of Tomales Bay and the recent Giacomini Wetlands restoration project to search for salmon. No sign yet, but we did see 100- 200 large carp (a non-native species). An incredible sight, given their size (fat) and high abundances.
Since Thursday evening we have received 5" of rain locally. Smaller tributaries that ran dry this summer are flowing again as of today. Surely the salmon will catch that scent!
Naturalists are already out in the field searching for signs of salmon. We're pretty confident these storms will spark the first upstream migration.
Stay posted, more updates on the way!!! And sign up for a Naturalist-led Creekwalk, visit HERE"
Oct 31, 2008
Three river otters reported by a neighbor heading through Roy's Pools on San Geronimo Creek!
Oct 17 & 18, 2008 Naturalist Training Workshop a Huge Success!
Over our two-day workshop we trained 25 new and returning Creek Naturalists, all of whom share a deep passion for our local watersheds and endangered salmon. Come on out with us for a creekwalk! Reserve your spot HERE. FAMILIES WELCOME!!
Naturalists will lead explorations along Lagunitas and San Geronimo Creeks in Marin County to look for spawning coho salmon and other protected streamside species. You'll learn about the ecology of Marin's magnificent coho salmon, our local streams, and what you can do to help restore local watersheds.
WHEN Creekwalks run November 15th through January 18th with 2 TOURS DAILY Saturdays and Sundays at 10 am and 1 pm. SPAWN is also organizing special trips on weekdays over the thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays!
Check out the calendar of trips and reserve you space HERE" or email Creekwalk@SpawnUSA.org, or call (415) 663-8590 ×207.
WHERE Lagunitas Creek watershed, West Marin County.
COST $10 for adults, $4 for kids, FREE to SPAWN members ($35 for a family membership), and no one is ever turned away for lack of funds.
Tours will proceed rain or shine! Bring binoculars, camera, hiking boots and rain gear if wet weather. reserve HERE"