This year, World Wildlife Day celebrates “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet.” However, since you can’t really plant a vineyard in a forest, we don’t have one of those nearby. (The closest is probably Armstrong Woods.)
What we do have is the Laguna de Santa Rosa Wetlands Preserve. Turning right out of the Emeritus driveway and then left at the next stoplight will get you to the nearest trailhead in minutes! Being so close and striving to be as sustainable as possible, we get all kinds of visitors.
Impressing Pinot fans with our dry farming techniques and other continual sustainability efforts is always great, but these are the most important critics of our farming practices that we could ever hope to win approval from. So today, we’re shining the spotlight on them!
The Laguna de Santa Rosa is an important migratory stop for thousands of birds. We often see hummingbirds flitting around near our tasting room, larger birds catching a thermal lift from the heat waves coming off the road and vineyards on sunny days, and herons stalking through the rows of vines.
Lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of one Great White Egret in particular. He visits so often that our Assistant Vineyard Manager, Riggs, has started calling him George.
The reason birds love our vineyards so much is simple: bugs. We regularly plant wildflowers between rows as a beneficial insectary—aka a more appealing habitat for local insects than our Pinot vines. This helps keep the vineyard healthy naturally. The insect population also draws the attention of local lizards, which in turn make great snacks for George. It’s the circle of life!
Our Pinot Hill is more tucked away from the main roads and bordered by a creek. There, we plant trees to provide local birds with more nesting opportunities and build habitats along the creek where quails can hide from predators. We also leave corridors so wild turkeys and other wildlife (deer, raccoons, etc.) can continue their natural migration patterns without too much interference.
The best time to spot dragonflies is on warm, windless summer days. Being so near the Laguna waters, we see them sometimes near the tasting room—earlier in the day, mostly. By 2 in the afternoon we usually start to get a nice, stiff coastal breeze flowing across our patio.
Dragonflies are fascinating creatures that can fly up, down, sideways, and backwards. They can even hover like a helicopter, because their four wings that can operate independently of each other. Again our insectary habitats amongst the vines are a good draw, as adult dragonflies they will eat any insect they can catch in the air. This makes for fewer mosquito bites, which is always nice, and they also probably quite enjoy the smorgasbord of fruit flies that tend to crop up around harvest time
Sonoma County has over 30 common dragonfly species, including the bright orange Flame Skimmer, the turquoise Blue Dasher, and the Eight-Spotted Skimmer. You can learn more about the best places to spot them here.
Pacific tree frogs, aka Pacific chorus frogs, are found throughout the Pacific Northwest. We hear a lot from them in Sonoma County around this time of year, usually later in the day or at night as they are nocturnal. Their choral songs are particularly loud around wetland areas. In the Spring they lay their eggs in calm, shallow water, like the Laguna, creeks, and even backyard ponds.
(Did you know that a group of frogs is known as an “army”? Given the air force service roots running through Emeritus, we salute this fact.)
Wherever you find these frogs they are a keystone species, meaning that other species, from garter snakes to herons, rely on them as an important source of food. When an area is able to support a large and loud population of these little guys, the ribbiting males are signaling to females of the species that they’ve found a great habitat. Our vineyard crew definitely hears them often, and we’re glad to be able to provide!