Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Baylands Nature Preserve - 24 Jul 2015

Robin and I walked across the street to Lori's Diner for breakfast, then I headed to Palo Alto to visit the Baylands Nature Preserve. Skies were clear and temps were in the low 70's so it was a perfect day to be out.

I arrived at about 7 am and parked in the lot next to the large landfill burm. No sooner did I get out of the car and see 5 Anna's Hummingbirds swarming the tops of a dead tree just 30' away! I was able to grab the scope and digiscope a squabble between several males. I got numerous pics of one male giving it to another sitting just inches away. I was just a tiny bit disappointed that they weren't Allen's Hummingbirds, but I would learn a short time later from a local birder that Allen's Hummingbirds are not found this close to the coast (except possibly during migration); I would have to drive several miles inland to find any.

Several Violet-green Swallows were perched on the overhead wires.

The Baylands are an extensive marsh network spread along the coast. The 'openness' of the area reminded me of Point Mouillee (MI) or Blackpoint Drive (FL). Water levels were extremely low, so any channels through the grassy marsh showed wet mud bottoms except where the main channels came in from the ocean.

A few Song Sparrows greeted me as I walked out onto the main dike and kept me company until I spotted a Clapper Rail way out on the edge of a mudflat running for cover. I found a number of Long-billed Curlews, Western Willets, and Marbled Godwits roosting across the channel in the morning sunlight.

A small flock of a dozen WesternSandpipers flew and joined them. A Black-bellied Plover was a nice find. I continued on, hearing Marsh Wrens out in the marsh to my left. To my right were large ponds holding only a few Mallard.

A huge colony of noisy California Gulls was up ahead on a small island, but I found a couple of 1st summer California Gulls that suggested Mew Gull by their size and 'cute' appearance.

Tiny sparrows with stubby tails kept popping up out in the marsh, and I was hoping that they might be Nelson's or Saltmarsh Sparrows, but they turned out to be all Savannah Sparrows, which are common along the coast. I enjoyed chasing and Digiscoping them.

About a mile out on the dike, with the gull colony on my right, and a second dike up ahead that was gated closed, I came upon a large open mudflat loaded with American Avocets, Willets, and Long-billed Curlews. Score! I spent some time trying to get pics of the one-legged Willet hopping around with its black-n-white wings spread before turning the scope on the Avocets. El Sol was behind me so lighting was perfect. My technique was not... I failed to get a decent image of any of them. I would have to settle for a long-distance shot of the American White Pelicans roosting across the dike. Up ahead and farther out I could see several Short-billed Dowitchers among the roosting shorebirds.

As I continued on I spotted several pairs of Black-necked Stilts, and tried to get close enough to digiscope them.

A pair of drake Ruddy Ducks were floating close to shore and gave me my first opportunity ever to digiscope them. Although common in Michigan and Pt Mouillee in the spring they are impossible to approach.

I'd been walking out along the main dike for over an hour now, so I started thinking about the long walk back. Just as I was about to turn around I spotted a roosting colony of several hundred Avocets in the shallow channel to my right. As I approached them a roosting colony of several hundred Marbled Godwits and Short-billed Dowitchers came into view as well. Jackpot! They were preening and sleeping just a few feet away and in perfect lighting, so I emptied my 16 GB cards Digiscoping them. I met a very nice lady on my walk back and she enlightened me on the local birding, and gave me a few places to check out if I had time.

I headed back to the parking lot and passed several crews of local volunteer organizations working on marsh restoration projects. One crew was spraying chemicals on emergent grasses that were either cat tails or phragmites, and another college group was pulling invasive weeds along the dike.

Non-avian sightings included these cute California Ground Squirrels!

A gorgeous Red-tailed Hawk appeared over the parking lot and floated right over me before I got back into the car.

I continued on to the rest of the preserve and drove along the paved trails. A Bewick's Wren was foraging in the trees next to the Ranger's Station while a pair of Anna's Hummingbirds chattered across the street. I spotted another dozen Black-necked Stilts in a shallow pond up ahead, a found several Lesser Yellowlegs and Least Sandpipers among them. A Double-crested Cormorant and several Snowy Egrets were working the shallow channels as I drove out. What a treasure this place is!

1 comment:

Cathy Carroll said...

What a fabulous place! My favorite photo is of the Ruddy Duck.

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