Wildlife

Wildlife Impacts have not been evaluated.

No one seems to be aware of the wildlife using the forest. Eucalyptus is a valuable resource for bees, because it blooms year round. Eucalyptus honey has a distinctive flavor. The blackberry undergrowth provides cover for small birds and animals, as well as edible berries. UCSF says the underbrush removal will take place after the nesting season. Very well; but what happens the following year when there are no nesting areas for the birds?

Owl at dusk looking down

The dense forest provides cover for all kinds of wildlife. Reducing the forest cover is likely to harm these birds and animals.

Great Horned Owls are known to nest there; an article in the March 09 Nature in the City newsletter describes a crow attack on an owl’s nest. We saw the pair in February 2010 at dusk, hooting softly to each other… here are the photographs.

Second great horned owl

Raccoons are regularly visible, and skunks and opossums have been seen. One Forest Knolls resident saw a fox, and someone saw a coyote.

Pygmy Nuthatch (Photo by Harry Fuller)

Pygmy Nuthatch (Photo by Harry Fuller)

No one has made a study of birds, but juncos, chickadees, sparrows, and Northern Flickers and Downy Woodpeckers are clearly using the forest. In nearby Alamo Park, a pygmy nuthatch was observed on a eucalyptus tree, and a report on the Interior Greenbelt (contiguous to Sutro Forest) says they nest there.

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Updated to Add:  Keith McAllister sent us this list from a day’s birding around the forest in late March 2010. (See our March 29th post for illustrations.)

Birds seen and/or heard in Sutro Forest (including Green Belt forest south of Clarendon)

Cooper’s Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Band-tailed Pigeon
Anna’s Hummingbird
Allen’s Hummingbird
American Robin
Northern Flicker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Hutton’s Vireo
Steller’s Jay
Scrub Jay (on house in residential area)
American Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Pygmy Nuthatch
Winter Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Bushtit
Hermit thrush
Varied Thrush (or Song Sparrow mimicking Varied Thrush?)
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing (in pine tree at forest/Twin Peaks boundary)
Townsend’s Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Lesser Goldfinch
House wren
Red-masked parakeet (flying over)

Bird’s seen in Native Plant Garden on Mt. Sutro
(These birds were also seen in the forest outside the garden.)
Anna’s Hummingbird
Allen’s Hummingbird
Bushtit
Band-tailed pigeon

Birds seen on Twin Peaks
Common Raven
White-crowned Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow (maybe, or maybe immature White-crowned)

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According to David Suddjian of Biological Consulting Services, and a wellknown bird expert, around 90 species of birds regularly use eucalyptus forests. In his unpublished paper he examines the relationship between eucalyptus and birds in the Monterey area.

And from the birding blog of Harry Fuller, a paean of praise to the blackberry:

“The much-maligned invasive Himalayan blackberry is rampant here and beloved of birds and amblers alike. Native plant purists descry its spread and robustness, the birds seem to primarily notice the fruit in season, the protection of the brambles year round. The sun-warmed blackberries near the creeks are most luscious, seductive in a way that is probably illegal in several states. Fructose raised to a transcendant height. The birds have an even keener eye for the ripe ones than mere humans. And I watched in awe as a Western Tanager slurped down a berry as big as my thumb, protected from human intervention by several yards of stiff berry canes with their protective thorns on sharp display.”

9 Responses to Wildlife

  1. Evan Elias says:

    I spend many hours in the Interior Green Belt of Mount Sutro, and have observed hummingbirds, yellow warblers, Stellar’s Jays, bushtits, song sparrows, red-tailed hawks, and have heard bird songs that I cannot identify. This is only within a very small area, so there is plenty of biodiverse bird life in this beautiful forest.

  2. The Garden Coach says:

    Folks in the naturalist community know exactly what birds are regularly seen in Sutro versus other parks/natural areas. Do a species count on Twin Peaks and then Sutro. Any birder alone will tell you where the biodiversity. It’s Twin Peaks by far!
    If we actually get to help the eucalyptus on Sutro, there will be more species of trees that will grow and greater biodiversity and food sources for the the birds/wildlife.

  3. savesutro says:

    Garden Coach, actually Twin Peaks is not very rich in bird species, because there is not much food or cover. The main native species is the white-crowned sparrow. It can be good for hawk-watching because they fly overhead. Redtail hawks and Coopers hawks also hunt on the hills, but they roost and nest in the eucalyptus. You also get Brewer’s blackbirds. Removing the Sutro Forest eucalyptus will reduce actual biodiversity, and destroy an existing habitat. If you compare the number of birds in the Native Garden on the summit of Sutro to the numbers calling in the forest around, you’ll see what I mean.

    Sutro Forest – and the surrounding areas as a result – is actually pretty rich in birdlife. Read the comment just above yours. Or check out Craig Newmark’s blog. He lives just below the forest, and takes photos of birds who visit his feeder.

  4. NatureLover says:

    I just noticed that the photo was taken by Harry Fuller. I am a big fan of Harry Fuller. He was (I think he’s moved to Oregon) a well-known birder in San Francisco for many years. Active in the Audubon. While earning his Ph.D. he wrote a little book about the natural history of San Francisco, which is full of good sense. I took a course from him at the California Academy of Sciences about the natural history of San Francisco and read his book. He says that there are many birds in San Francisco that would not be here if it weren’t for the non-native trees. He listed them in his book. He had fear in his eyes when he said quietly that although he understood many people want to eradicate all non-native species, he was not willing to part with the many birds that are here only because of those trees. For him, it just wasn’t a fair trade.

    Here, here!! Anyone who is a serious, knowledgeable birder values all the trees of San Francisco, whether they are native or not!

    The hype about biodiversity is nonsense. There is far more variety here as a result of the non-natives. Just because nativists don’t value them, doesn’t mean they don’t contribute to biodiversity.

  5. savesutro says:

    Gosh, I didn’t know all that about Harry Fuller. I just came across his birding blog (which is great, and also linked from the front page). He was very kind about helping identify the woodpecker sounds, and about letting us use this photograph on this page.

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  9. Jonathan says:

    “There is far more variety here as a result of the non-natives. ”

    But those non-natives are species you can find all over the country. The natives that we are losing don’t live anywhere else. We’re in danger of losing multiple species of endemic butterflies, amphibians, and reptiles due to habitat loss, and I’m sure there are plants and mammals and other arthropods that fall into that same category. This concerns getting a few more non-native species in San Francisco, when entire species and overall biodiversity is at stake.

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