Life on the Watershed: Summertime, and the Living Ain’t Necessarily Easy Out There

Still,  “The watershed is full of babies at this time of year.”

So says watershed keeper Sarah Lenz, who monitors bird and animal life on the 36-square-mile Peninsula Watershed throughout the year.

She’s already gotten pictures to share of half-grown gray foxes and bobcats just beginning to venture toward independence from their parents, and life on their own. Both are reclusive species that keep to hollows and other remote spots during the day. So any sighting of a cub is particularly lucky.

A gray fox cub.

Plump young songbirds are everywhere, and the resident bald eagle pair reproduced again this year, with three healthy chicks now ready to fledge.  “They’re all flying now, and learning how to navigate the area,” says Lenz. They’ll learn to hunt near their watershed birthplace for a few months before they move on to other territory, according to Lenz. “I sure wish we knew where they go off to,” she says. 

Bald eagle fledglings just learning to navigate their watershed surroundings.

Meanwhile, for a short while at least, people might spot one or more eaglets high in flight above a watershed trail. The Crystal Springs Regional Trail—consisting  of the popular Sawyer Camp Trail, the San Andreas trail to the north, and the southernmost Crystal Springs segment—is  managed by the County of San Mateo Parks Department and open to the public every day.    

For a more solitary watershed experience, the SFPUC’s Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail is open by reservation only for docent-guided hikes and bike rides on selected Saturdays and Sundays.

The Peninsula Watershed is home to the oldest part of the SFPUC regional drinking water system of reservoirs and pipelines, and has been protected to safeguard the water since the 1860s. Today it continues to harbor a diversity of unspoiled native coastal habitats ranging from streams and wetlands to grassland, scrub, hardwood forests, and old-growth conifers. Together, they support an abundance of native plant and animal life, including the highest number of rare, threatened and endangered species in the nine-county Bay Area.

A young bobcat.