Willits Bypass Offsite Mitigation Project

The Willits Bypass Offsite Mitigation Project is the largest public wetlands mitigation project in the State of California. In 2015, MCRCD assumed long term management responsibility for the 2,087-acres of wet meadow, stream corridors, and oak woodlands. MCRCD has four staff members managing and monitoring grazing impacts to listed species, ecosystem function, and overall biological diversity. CalTrans created a non-wasting endowment through the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation as a permanent source of funding for management and monitoring of mitigation lands. MCRCD was signatory to the Endowment Agreement, and signed a 10-year interim contract to provide necessary on-the-ground land management and monitoring services.

   Blog of the Week

“Observations and Ruminations”

blog authored by

Marisela De Santa Anna

An Abundance of Life in the Summer Wetlands

July 6th, 10 am. The fourth of July holiday is over and I am checking in on the north end of the mitigation lands. The Watson area is where the wetland habitat is dominant. There are plants that are called obligate wetland plants, which means they almost...

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The Early Days of Summer

June 25th, 10:30 am. Today does not seem as hot as the two days prior. The forecast said it would get to be 88 degrees and for me, as long as the temperature is below 90 it feels perfect. I am walking a loop around Outlet Creek and Mill Creek, around a large area of...

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Another Day in Paradise

June 12th, 9 am. Another wonderful spring day and I am walking in an area we call Plasma. The valley oak woodland is vibrant and full of life. Birds, bees. and all kinds of insects are humming loudly and singing. I hear baby birds sounding hungry, their cries...

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The Bounty of Outlet Creek

May 29th, 9:30 am. It is a clear warm day. As I walk through the green pastures towards Outlet creek, I am struck by the vastness of this amazing flat valley we live in, the Little Lake Valley. The riparian corridor of Outlet is ahead of me. It stands out...

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Hidden Marvels in the Fields of Grass

May 21st, 9 am. It is a foggy a.m. but I feel the sun’s warmth coming through the clouds. As I walk past Outlet Creek, the bird songs are everywhere as spring is reaching a crescendo. The vast fields of grass are waving emerald green to the east and north of me. It...

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The Morning Chorus

May 16, 7 am. This morning began as all the other mornings have for a couple of weeks now, with an early morning concert beginning around 5:15 am. I fondly call it the cacophony of spring. It is impossible for me to sleep through it, especially since I sleep with at...

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Those Little Brown Birds

May 2, 9 am. The spring days pass by so quickly! Soon will be time again for our annual breeding bird survey for the mitigation project. This is a survey that uses 40 points in the valley where an observer stops to listen and see what birds are calling or flying in a...

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April Showers Do Bring May Flowers

April 27, 10 am. Walking out the Berry Creek Road towards Davis Creek Bridge, I am amazed at how much lusher and green the fields have grown since I was last here two weeks ago. The grass is now higher than my knees and my legs are getting very wet as I make my way...

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Inundation, Transformation

April 7, 9 am. We have had 6.5 inches of rain and I want to get out to the valley and see what it looks like. First, I go to the area called the W4 fields. It is where Mill creek crosses through the mitigation lands and where it overflows its banks, creating a...

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A Haven for the Swallows

March 29, 9 am. As I am getting out of the car, I notice a couple of new swallows flying in and out of a small wooden building near where I am parked. They are the red-brown Barn Swallow with its’ long forked tail. These must have just arrived from their long journey...

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The Powerful Cry of a Redtail Hawk

March 22, 10 am., There are big billowy clouds building up in the south and a storm is expected later today. I am walking on the “Cox 80” parcel on the south end of Outlet Creek. There are some very large cottonwoods, Populus trichocarpa, growing in the riparian areas...

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More Signs of Spring

March 7, 10 am It is a typical March day. There is a cool breeze blowing billowy, puffy clouds across the very blue sky. It is a good day to pay attention to the signs of spring approaching. This day I am in the southern end of the Willits valley walking along Outlet...

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Sunset in the Wetlands

March 5, 4:00 pm The day has turned out to be clear and warm. Last weeks snow and rain have disappeared, leaving the Willits valley with more water in the wetlands. This is a boon for the waterfowl and associated species that depend on the inundation for food and...

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A Quiet Time in the Cycle

February 21, 10:30 am. It is one of those cold, dry but sunny days. This week winter seems to have stalled yet spring has not arrived either. I decide to go out  Davis Creek to see if there are any new bird arrivals. The last few days out in this valley I have seen...

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A Family Nature Hike in the Valley

February 19, 10 am The temperature has cooled at least 10 degrees from yesterday and 30 degrees from last week. It feels again like winter, even though the sun is shining. The wind is at 13 mph from the north and all the Presidents Day flags were blowing heartily. It...

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Feels Like Spring but I Hope it’s Not

February 7, 10 am February 7, 10 am     After a whole week of higher than average temperatures in February, I go out into the valley to see what is happening. The first thing I notice is how much the grass is growing. It seems to be inches taller than last week! Then,...

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A Hot February Day

February 3, 10 am Today a group from Sonoma County came to bird and explore the Willits Little Lake Valley with me. This group, the Redwood Region Ornithological Society was organized in 1962 “to encourage the study and conservation of birds, other wildlife, and their...

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Kayaking in the Little Lake Valley

January 26, 10 am. We are geared up and ready to go. The kayaks are loaded with paddles, seats, and our tools.  We pull them out into the water and jump in. We are dressed warmly: raingear, boots, and layers, to keep the water and chilly air out. As we paddle out into...

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Love is in the Air

Friday, January 19, 9:00am Earlier this morning it rained very hard but right now the sun is shining and the blue sky is making the clouds look white and puffy. There are bird calls and songs in the air. Meadowlarks are singing that beautiful melody that reminds me I...

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Beavers , Eagles, and Red-tailed hawks

        January 12, 8am It is a typical winter day. It is grey and foggy, not the kind of fog that one finds at the ocean but a Willits ground fog that comes up from the very wet ground. I am in the south end of the mitigation properties, at the north end of the...

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The Pacific Flyway

January 7, 8am This is a very foggy and cold morning. As I drove through Willits the town was quiet, but out here in the valley the air is filled with the many sounds of birds, ducks in particular. In every wet area there are ducks of many species seemingly...

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Winter Wonderland & Happy Holidays!

December 10, 2017, 10:30 A.M. It is 29 degrees in the Willits valley. Looking out I see a frozen landscape with a cold fog rising up from the small ponds left over from when it last rained. Yet the air is full of quacking, splashing, and sounds of ducks...

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Winter Beauty

Thursday, November 30th, 1:00pm Even though in the winter we do not have many flowers to look at, lichens and mosses fill that gap with their unique and fantastic forms. This week my attention was on a few plant forms that really stand out after...

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Ducks and More

November 17th,  Friday 10am. Low fog and clouds to begin with, but it cleared up quickly to a beautiful, sunny day. The moisture in the ground made the ground squishy. A flock of Canada Geese and American Wigeon flew by, the geese honking...

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Raptors, Raptors, Raptors

  Ferruginous hawk, juvenile, buteo (broad-winged, short tails)   White- tailed kite, adult,  (long pointed wings, hovers while hunting)   Coopers Hawk, juvenile accipiter (long tailed,short rounded wings)   Red tail hawk, adult(dark phase), Buteo (broad wings and...

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Two Lovely Days in November

November 6th, 10am In the Fall, the weather can be completely different from day to day. Last week was a week of contrasts, one day being sunny and warm,  with no wind, and the next day was cool and wet, with showers coming down heavy at times, and windy....

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Unveiled and Hidden

A grey November day in the north end of the valley where the wetlands are changed into their fall colors. The leaves have fallen off the Ash and Oaks revealing masses of Ramalina and other species of lichens hanging in sheets, their pale green...

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“A beautiful white arc across the sky”

“A beautiful white arc across the sky”

Walking along Davis Creek, 9am. There is white ground fog rising from the valley floor, creating a beautiful white arc across the sky. It is so quiet and peaceful. A short time later the whispy whiteness has burned off and the clear blue sky and sunshine lights up the trees. Sounds of many different birds…

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Image of the Week

Week #29 Young Buck

The picture above is an oldie but a goodie, taken in September of last year. According to the facts I would presume this deer to have larger antlers at this time of year? Can I ask the audience why they think it is that this young deer has such small antlers in September? “Male deer are called bucks, female deer are called does, and baby deer are called fawns. The male deer has antlers that come out of bone plates in his head. When the antlers begin to grow, they have a thin layer of felt covering them. Males will scratch their antlers against trees to get rid of the felt. Once a male is fully grown, he will start to develop antlers during the mating season, known as a rut. During the rut, the males within the same range will fight for mating privileges. Deer generally live to be about 10 years in the wild, but they can survive up to 20 years in captivity.Mating season for the white tailed deer takes place between January and February. “(http://tracker.cci.fsu.edu/deer/about/how/)

For more incredible pictures of wildlife and landscapes, please read our ‘Observations and Ruminations’ blog written by Willits’ local, and Mendocino County RCD Project Interpreter, Marisela De Santa Anna. And check out our gallery of past weekly photos. 

Gallery of Weekly Videos & Photos