Ecological Value


This page covers the following topics:

  1. The Sausalito General Plan’s discussion of wildlife corridors in general and the Sausalito Highlands in particular.
  2. An introduction to three biological studies made of the Sausalito Highlands.
  3. The conclusions of two of these reports.
  4. Inventories of wildlife and plants observed in the Sausalito Highlands taken from these reports, and inventories of special status species that might be found there.

Sausalito General Plan

The 2020 Sausalito General Plan identifies the Sausalito Highlands as a wildlife corridor connecting Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve and the Saucelito Creek Wildlife Refuge. The Plan explains that wildlife corridors are important for sustaining species and maintaining diversity among wildlife populations. From the Plan:

Wildlife Corridors
Wildlife corridors are connections between habitat patches that allow for physical and
genetic exchange between otherwise isolated animal populations. Such linkages may serve
a local purpose, such as between foraging and denning areas, or they may be regional in
nature, allowing movement across the landscape. Some habitat linkages may serve as migration corridors, wherein animals periodically move away from an area and then subsequently return. Maintaining the continuity of established wildlife corridors is important to sustain species with specific foraging requirements, preserve a species’ distribution potential, and retain diversity among many wildlife populations. Therefore, resource agencies consider wildlife corridors to be a sensitive resource.

City Open Space Areas
Two major open space preserves exist in the city: (1) Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve
(owned by the city), which encompasses 10 acres along the east side of Highway 101 between Rodeo Avenue and Spring Street, and (2) Saucelito Creek Wildlife Refuge (owned by Open Space Sausalito), which encompasses 2.1 acres between Lincoln Street and Butte Street. The land between these two properties is undeveloped, is known locally as the Sausalito Highlands, and serves as a wildlife corridor. This wildlife corridor is known locally as the Green Corridor. The Sausalito Highlands consists of publicly owned parcels, portions of the Caltrans Highway 101 right-of-way, and the city’s Butte Street right-of-way.


Biological Studies in the Sausalito Highlands

There have been at least three biological studies done within the Sausalito Highlands in the last 50 years.

Marin Audubon Society, Spring 1976.

A field study of the birds at Cypress Ridge was performed in support of Measure E, the June ballot measure that acquired Cypress Ridge for preservation. There were 28 bird species identified over two months, but we know of only the six mentioned in Sausalito Marin Scope, 5/18/1976.


Prunuske Chatham, Inc., June 2011.

Biological Resources Assessment, Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve, Vegetation Management and Restoration Project.

A wildlife biologist conducted a three hour survey of the birds, mammals and plants of Cypress Ridge to prepare for a City funded maintenance project to reduce fire hazards. Because of the brevity of the survey, Chatham listed a large number of birds typically found in the different plant communities at Cypress Ridge along with the 17 species actually observed.


Jennifer Berry, Summer 2017.

Biological Resource Assessment and Recommendation Report for the Lincoln/Butte Parcel.

A field study of the Saucelito Creek Wildlife Refuge was made for Open Space Sausalito, the non-profit that owns and manages the refuge. The field study inventoried the birds and mammals that live at the site, the plants that grow there, and special status species that could potentially be found there. Berry’s research on the Wildlife Corridor is presented in Three Wildlife Corridor Parcels.


Conclusions of the Biological Studies

Prunuske Chatham’s 2011 Report

From the report:

Based on the background search and field survey, the following biological resource impact determinations were made about the Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve:

  1. The Preserve supports coast live oak woodland and patches of native coastal scrub.
  2. The Preserve supports habitat for a variety of common wildlife species (e.g., reptiles, amphibians, mammals).
  3. The Preserve supports breeding habitat for birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and California Fish and Game Code.
  4. The Preserve supports potential roosting and foraging habitat for special-status and common bat species.
  5. The Preserve supports potential winter roosting habitat for monarch butterflies.

Jennifer Berry’s 2015 Report

Berry’s preliminary 2015 report on the Saucelito Creek Wildlife Refuge, the northernmost part of the Sausalito Highlands, made these points:

  1. The site has been listed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a wetlands resource. It is only one of two such sources for water in Sausalito.
  2. The wildlife refuge is the northernmost edge of a tract of undeveloped land stretching more than 50 acres in size from Butte Street in the north to south of Rodeo Ave and includes Cypress Ridge Open Space. Camera traps have determined that it is crucial for its wildlife that the parcel remain undeveloped. The spring-fed creek is being accessed daily by wildlife in the area, including black-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, dusky-footed woodrat, bats and many other species.
  3. Species that have suffered dramatic decline in recent years are Pacific salamander and Pacific newt, both of which are present on the site. Many other special status species could be determined to live here, including the valley longhorned elderberry beetle, several bats, warblers and flycatchers, red-legged frog, and yellow-frog, to name a few likely to be found here.
  4. The wildlife here are in all likelihood landlocked, with the 101 freeway making a hard western boundary they do not cross. These wild animals spend their whole lives here in the city limits as our neighbors, and do not access the open space of GGNRA.

Note: images below are stock photos with the exception of the Red-shouldered Hawk and the Black-tailed Deer.


Species Observed in the Sausalito Highlands


Year-round Birds Observed in the Sausalito Highlands
PhotographCommon
Name
Scientific
Name
Prunuske Chatham (2011)Jennifer Berry (2017)Marin Audubon (1976)
American RobinTurdus migratoriusPotentialObserved
Anna’s HummingbirdCalypte annaObservedObserved
Black PhoebeSayornis nigricansObserved
California QuailCallipepla californicaObservedObserved
Cedar WaxwingBombycilla cedrorumObserved
Chestnut-backed ChickadeePoecile rufescensObservedObservedObserved
Common BushtitPsaltriparus minimusObserved
Common
Crow
Corvus brachyrhynchosObserved
Dark-eyed JuncoJunco hyemalisObserved
FlickersFringillidaeObservedObserved
Fox
Sparrow
Passerella iliacaObserved
Hairy WoodpeckerLeuconotopicus villosusPotentialObserved
House WrenTroglodytes aedonObserved
HummingbirdsTrochilidaeObservedObservedObserved
Mourning DoveZenaida macrouraObserved
Northern FlickerColaptes auratusObserved
Oak
Titmouse
Baeolophus inornatusObservedObserved
Purple
Finch
Haemorhous purpureusObserved
Red-shouldered HawkButeo lineatusObservedObserved
Song
Sparrow
Melospiza melodiaObserved
Spotted TowheePipilo maculatusObservedObserved
Tree
Swallow
Tachycineta bicolorObserved
Turkey
Vulture
Cathartes auraObserved
Western
Scrub Jay
Aphelocoma californicaObservedObserved
WrentitChamaea fasciataObserved

In addition, Prunuske Chatham lists the following year-round bird species as potientially present:

  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Rufous-crowned Sparrow
  • Sage Sparrow
  • Western Screech Owl

Migratory Birds Observed in the Sausalito Highlands
PhotographCommon NameScientific NamePrunuske Chatham (2011)Jennifer Berry (2017)Marin Audubon (1976)
Orange-Crowned WarblerLeiothlypis celataPotentialObserved
Pacific-slope FlycatcherEmpidonax dificilisObservedObserved
Swainson’s ThrushCatharus ustulatusObserved
Wilson’s WarblerCardellina pusillaObserved
VireosVireonidaePotentialObserved
Yellow WarblerSetophaga petechiaObserved

In addition, Prunuske Chatham lists the following migratory bird species as potientially present:

  • Acorn Woodpecker
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher
  • Brown Creeper
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Nuttall’s Woodpecker
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Townsend Warbler
  • Varied Rush
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler

Mammals Observed in the Sausalito Highlands
PhotographCommon NameScientific NamePrunuske Chatham (2011)Jennifer Berry (2017)
Black-tailed DeerOdocoileus hemionusObservedObserved
CoyoteCanis latransObservedObserved
Dusky Footed WoodratNeotoma fuscipesObservedObserved
Gray FoxUrocyon cinereoargenteusObserved
Northern RaccoonProcyon lotorObservedObserved
Striped SkunkMephitis mephitisObservedObserved
Western Gray SquirrelSciurus griseusObservedObserved

In addition, Prunuske Chatham lists the following mammal as potentially present:

  • Brush Rabbit

Native Plants (Prushke Chatham)
PhotographCommon NameScientific Name
California Bay LaurelUmbellularia californica
California BlackberryRubus ursinus
California OatgrassDanthonia californica
California Sagebrush Artemisia californica
Coast Live OakQuercus agrifolia
Coyote BrushBaccharis pilularis
OceansprayHolodiscus discolor
Purple NeedlegrassNassella pulchra
SnowberrySymphoricarpos albus
Sticky MonkeyflowerMimulus aurantiacus
Sword FernPolystichum munitum
ToyonHeteromeles arbutifolia
Wood FernDryopteris arguta

Special Status Species Potentially in the Sausalito Highlands


Potential Special Status Birds
PhotographCommon NameScientific Name SourceStatus
Great Blue HeronArdea herodiasChathamCalifornia Species of Special Concern
Little Willow FlycatcherEmpidonax traillii brewsteriiBerryDeclining, possibly threatened, insufficient data
Willow FlycatcherEmpidonax trailliiBerry

Potential Special Status Insects
PhotographCommon NameScientific Name SourceStatus
Long-Horned Elderberry BeetleDesmocerus californicus dimorphusBerryThreatened
Mission Blue ButterflyIcaricia icarioides missionensisBerryCritically Imperiled (T1)
Monarch ButterflyDanaus plexippusBerry, ChathamApparently Secure (G4)
Obscure BumblebeeBombus CaliginosusBerryThreatened-Vulnerable
Western BumblebeeBombus OccidentalisBerryThreatened-Vulnerable

Potential Special Status Mammals
PhotographCommon NameScientific Name SourceStatus
California MyotisMyotis californicusBerry
Hoary BatLasiurus cinereusChathamWatch List, Apparently Secure (S4)
Long-eared MyotisMyotis evotisBerryVulnerable (S3)
Pallid BatAntrozous pallidusChathamVulnerable (S3)
Townsend’s Big-Eared BatCorynorhinus townsendiiChathamImperiled (S2)
Western Red BatLasiurus blossevilliiBerry, ChathamVulnerable (S3)
Yuma MyotisMyotis yumanensisBerryApparently Secure (S4)

Potential Special Status Amphibians
PhotographCommon NameScientific Name SourceStatus
California Giant SalamanderDicamptodon ensatusBerryNear Threatened
California Red-legged FrogRana draytoniiBerryThreatened-Vulnerable
Coast NewtTaricha torosaBerryCalifornia Species of Special Concern
Foothill Yellow-legged FrogRana boyliiBerryNear Threatened

Potential Special Status Plants
PhotographCommon NameScientific Name SourceStatus
Blue ElderberrySambucus mexicanaBerryCalifornia Species of Special Concern
Franciscan thistleCirsium andrewsiiChathamImperiled (G2)
Marsh microserisMicroseris paludosaChathamCalifornia status: Rare (1.B.2)
Oregon PolemoniumPolemonium carneumChathamRare in California, common elsewhere (2B.2)
San Francisco CompionSilene verecunda ssp. verecundaChathamCalifornia status: Rare (1B)
San Francisco Popcorn FlowerPlagiobothrys diffususChathamCalifornia status: Endangered (1B.1)
Seaside TarplantHemizonia congesta ssp. congestaChathamCalifornia status: Rare (1B.2)


All donations made at our partner’s website, openspacesausalito.org, will fund this project until its $9,000 budget is met or until December 31, 2021, whichever is first.


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