On Saturday D. and I went to visit the marshes at The Baylands Nature Preserve on the edge of San Francisco Bay (with a side trip to nearby Adobe Creek) in Palo Alto, and I took these pics.
The cattails are really tall. It's hard to see past them.
Alkali heath will be in bloom until October.
The orange stuff is dodder. It is a parasitic plant related to the morning glory.
Because it is parasitic, it doesn't need to manufacture its own food from sunshine, so it lacks chlorophyll and thus isn't green.
A buckeye pauses on the trail.
Arrowleaf saltbush is also known as spearscale and fat-hen. It is another common salt marsh plant.
It's not much to look at.
The large size and particular color of this feather makes us suspect it's from a great blue heron.
Marsh vegetation varies according to how much salt water it's exposed to during the tides.
There are occasional breaks in the cattails and reeds for ponds of open water.
Life is difficult in the marsh. Judging by the beak, this looks like a seagull carcass.
Strange things show up in marshes sometimes. This mysterious assemblage has been deliberately placed in the middle of the path. Is this a shrine of some sort? An homage to mobility? A "found" sculpture? Someone got bored and piled up random junk lying around?
There's lots of dodder on the pickleweed here.
More stands of open water appear the closer we get to the edge of the bay.
Pelicans in flight have a prehistoric look to them and from below can seem like a flock of pterodactyls going overhead.
Something had crawdad for lunch here recently.
Perhaps it was this common marsh denizen, the great egret?
An enigmatic pair of posts all by themselves in the middle of nowhere. What are they for? Who put them there? What do they mean? How long have they been there? Another marsh mystery.
This strange, rectangular pool of murky reddish water nestled among the pickleweed and saltgrass looks like cream of tomato soup that's been left out a bit too long.
This is an EVS trap in the marsh.
The Encephalitis Vector Survey (or EVS) mosquito trap uses carbon dioxide (from dry ice) as the primary mosquito attractant. The top section is a one-gallon plastic container for dry ice, with holes in the bottom that allow the gas to escape and form a plume, attracting mosquitoes in search of a blood meal.
Mosquitoes attracted to the CO² enter through an opening at the top of the lower section. They get drawn in and downward by a small fan attached to the trap’s DC motor. A tiny "grain of wheat" bulb light source is a secondary attractant. The polyester mesh catch bag to collect the trapped mosquitoes that would attach onto the bottom section is missing from this trap.
Presumably, if and when the trap is intact, someone from the county would have replenished the dry ice reservoir, then come by later on to collect the mesh bag and study the mosquitoes in it to see if they are carriers of encephalitis. This trap looks so weathered and neglected I suspect the county forgot it is there. Last fall there was a similar trap placed on a tree limb next to a creek half a block from my house, and it was there only a couple of days before being removed for study.
This mat of dodder is dead, which is unusual for a parasitic plant. As long as the host plants it's on stays alive, the dodder should too.
The path peters out in the marsh. Close to the edge of the bay, this area gets wet twice a day with high tides and dries out a bit in between.
Pickleweed has special adaptations to live in such a salty environment, getting inundated during extreme high tides. It excretes excess salt through joints in its stems.
Life is difficult in the marsh -- for some. A loss for the goose is lunch for the fox or raccoon.
The entire path through the marsh is strewn with all kinds of feathers.
Now we know where the geese go to molt . . .
. . . . and where they poop, too.
There is so much of it it is unavoidable, all along the whole path.
Speaking of geese . . .
We decide to take a side trip to nearby Adobe Creek, one-quarter mile to the south. On the way we pass by a large stand of Amaryllis belladonna lilies, looking very out of place.
Non-native invasive fennel is everywhere along the Adobe Creek Trail.
Fennel flowers are popular with many kinds of insects, such as this honeybee.
A Black Phoebe perched on a twig over the creek. Black Phoebes like to fly from a low perch near water and catch flying insects.
Unidentified Floating Object.
I suspect enrollment is going to be pretty low if this is where they're advertising.