Last Saturday the 15th we had a rather large group of volunteers out to help restore the Mesa. We had Cerritos college students, Paramount High School students from the Environmental Club and JROTC, and even the Sierra Club in Orange County came out. Thankfully, a lot of the core Stewards were there to help me out (they really are my foundation) and break up these groups into manageable chunks. We had two species of native bunch grasses to plant (Stipa cernua – nodding needle grass and Stipa pulchra – purple needle grass) which the college students and the Sierra Club participants planted.
The college students planted in an area that was previously planted with a native tarplant (Centromadia parryi ssp. australis) over the last two years. The tarplant is an annual plant and dies back in the Fall. I’m testing the idea that the tarplant might be a good starting plant to suppress the non-native grasses, and then we plant the area with native grasses once the tarplant has died back. New seedlings from the tarplant will sprout between the native grasses which is the natural process, and we will be able to seed the area with native wildflowers to create species and plant type diversity enhancing the individual species and overall grassland and tarplant habitat.
The Sierra Club participants planted in the other experimental plot (the green rectangle area) with purple needle grass to fill up the remaining area in that plot. In this area we are going to water heavily, weed non-native plants when they pop up, and then seed with wildflowers this year. We are able to broadcast water to this area from the water truck because it is close to the fence where the water truck can reach, and we are going to see if we are successful in sprouting wildflowers (we won’t have to stomp on the little seeds while watering in this manner).
The high school groups picked up trash from the water’s edge and to our delight were able to drag out a very large block of Styrofoam wrapped in chicken wire that was breaking up in the water. This was a extremely heavy piece of trash because it was water logged, and it took a whole team of strong JROTC volunteers to carry it out.
To make the day even more special, near the end of the work day a rather curious sea lion (Zalophus californianus) was spotted swimming in the bay. He got rather close to the volunteers near the water and was often seen poking his head out of the water to see what we were doing. All the volunteers enjoyed catching a glimpse of him.
At the end the day the college students and Sierra Club volunteers received tours to learn more about the ecology and history of Bolsa Chica.