Former U.C. Davis post-doc Kristen Dybala and her colleagues recently reported in Ecological Restoration on a project that monitored populations of breeding species, mostly songbirds, at the Reserve and 13 other sites along lower Putah Creek from 1999 through 2012. Some sites had seen active restoration efforts to benefit native fish; others had not. Overall, birds seemed to respond to the modified flow regime, with positive trends for 27 species and greater community diversity. Seven riparian-dependent species showed increases in population density, among them the yellow warbler, a California species of special concern as a result of habitat loss and nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds. Both riparian-dependent and woodland-associated birds had faster density growth rates than species associated with human-modified areas. Putah Creek has even seen breeding attempts by the endangered least Bell’s vireo, extirpated from the Sacramento Valley more than 80 years ago. Fish monitoring studies show parallel trends. The report concludes that while further progress is possible, the Accord and subsequent actions “have been successful in making long-term improvements to the condition of the lower Putah Creek riparian system for both aquatic and terrestrial organisms.”

 

Photo: Joe Eaton

Eighteen years after local stakeholders adopted the Putah Creek Accord to guarantee minimum flows and other enhancements, birdlife is flourishing in the Creek’s Riparian Reserve, highlighting the restoration of what was once a dried-up ditch.

Former U.C. Davis post-doc Kristen Dybala and her colleagues recently reported in Ecological Restoration on a project that monitored populations of breeding species, mostly songbirds, at the Reserve and 13 other sites along lower Putah Creek from 1999 through 2012. Some sites had seen active restoration efforts to benefit native fish; others had not. Overall, birds seemed to respond to the modified flow regime, with positive trends for 27 species and greater community diversity. Seven riparian-dependent species showed increases in population density, among them the yellow warbler, a California species of special concern as a result of habitat loss and nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds. Both riparian-dependent and woodland-associated birds had faster density growth rates than species associated with human-modified areas. Putah Creek has even seen breeding attempts by the endangered least Bell’s vireo, extirpated from the Sacramento Valley more than 80 years ago. Fish monitoring studies show parallel trends. The report concludes that while further progress is possible, the Accord and subsequent actions “have been successful in making long-term improvements to the condition of the lower Putah Creek riparian system for both aquatic and terrestrial organisms.”

 

Photo: Joe Eaton

About the author

Joe Eaton writes about endangered and invasive species, climate and ecosystem science, environmental history, and water issues for ESTUARY. He is also "a semi-obsessive birder" whose pursuit of rarities has taken him to many of California's shores, wetlands, and sewage plants.