In Mount Sutro Forest, May 2011

Last Thursday evening, we wandered around the forest. We hadn’t headed that way, but it drew us in, as it often does. Despite the recent habitat destruction here and on the Kill-Trees Trail, it’s still a magical place. Here’s our report.


The Gash — the long deforested patch left by the SF Water Department’s work there some years ago — has been an eyesore for years. It had begun to fill out a couple of years ago, but someone stripped down the eucalyptus sprouts that had returned. Now it’s  finally been allowed to heal, and fill in.  It’s looking better, though it’s still a clear view up to the Aldea campus and to the bright green water-tank beyond.


On the South Ridge trails, some of the vegetation that had been mercilessly slashed away is also returning. A few blackberries, native and Himalayan, were in bloom. We saw a lone Douglas iris and a purple cineraria.  Areas that haven’t been hacked had some bird sounds. 

It’s a brief reprieve until September 2011. That’s when the hacking is planned to start in earnest, with the felling of trees, the removal of blackberry, and the amputation of vines. This will certainly alter the habitat as well as the look and feel of the forest — unless it’s stopped.


forgetmenots in Sutro Forest
Spring with forget-me-nots 2010

We hope anyone who appreciates the lovely forget-me-nots that grew wild near the summit near the Native Garden entrance got a chance to enjoy them. Someone, probably the Sutro Stewards since they do most of the work there, has covered them deep in woodchip mulch. Presumably because they’re non-native.

Where the forget-me-nots were

(In better forget-me-not news, patches of blue are appearing along Clarendon Avenue on the Midtown Terrace side, where the vegetation has been trimmed back from the road.)

The Native Garden was mostly flowerless except for a few California poppies. But it’s green and lush now, and probably at its best. In summer, it turns brown and looks dead. The Sutro Stewards are replanting a meadow there in the hope of attracting “native pollinators.” The bushes are finally large enough to provide some cover for birds, and we hope we’ll see more wildlife action, avian and others, in future. Right now there’s still not much, though we’ve spotted a few juncos.

For bird-life, it’s the North Ridge trail (from Medical Center Way to the summit). It’s still quite dense vegetation, and that’s where we saw and heard more birds. We came upon a report recently where someone birded the trail and listed eleven species — including the Western Tanager, which wasn’t on our earlier lists here and here. We’ve added it in. It’s clear that if the forest is left alone, it will revive and regenerate, and the wildlife return.


We emailed UCSF about tree felling around the Surge parking lot behind Edgewood. Nine trees, one of which had actually fallen in a storm, were slated for removal. They assured us they were being careful of birds because the nesting season is now in full swing. From Damon Lew, Assistant Director, Community Relations:

“I checked in with Facilities Management (FM) about this and it turns out that with the storms we had several weeks ago there was a tree that came down near one of our Edgewood neighbor’s property. At that time they identified several more dead and decaying trees that were potential safety hazards and the removal of these trees is the work you saw taking place. FM and the vendor were both aware of the nesting season and they are examining the trees before performing any work to ensure that there are no nests present. It seems that the trees that they are working on are in such poor health that the canopies are bare so it is easy for them to spot any nests.”

When we enquired about the number of trees, he sent us this response:

“Four trees needed to be removed last week. All four were on the edge of the parking lot or the edge of Farnsworth trail. An additional five trees will need to be removed on May 7th. These are either on the edge of the parking lot or near the Surge stairs.”


Even though we lingered after dusk, we didn’t hear the Great Horned Owls… we’re still hoping they haven’t gone away. (In more hopeful GHO news: they are nesting successfully at Stow Lake and Glen Canyon; both nests have hatched young this year.)

Dusk, mist, Great Horned Owl - March 2010

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4 Responses to In Mount Sutro Forest, May 2011

  1. Keith McAllister says:

    Wow. Your forget-me-not photos show that two pictures are worth ten thousand words. How could they possibly be proud of what they’ve done?

  2. milliontrees says:

    The demise of the forget-me-nots is also an illustration of the often contradictory agenda of native plant advocates. The stewards apparently have an interest in native pollinators. Most native bees nest in the ground. The heavy mulch that has replaced the lovely forget-me-nots will prevent native bees from nesting in this area.

    Native plant “restorations” are often destructive and unsightly. They frequently poison the environment with pesticides. Sometimes they seem to make no sense, as in the case of this ugly patch of mulch in place of a field of forget-me-nots.

  3. Pingback: Sunset and Mushrooms: Mount Sutro Forest Hike, December 2012 | Save Mount Sutro Forest

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