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Today's Field Trip: Sunnyvale Baylands Park - Pahavit's Universe — LiveJournal

pahavit
Date: 7-8-2006 11:44 PM
Subject: Today's Field Trip: Sunnyvale Baylands Park
Security: Public
Tags:field trip, sunnyvale baylands
Today's Field Trip: Sunnyvale Baylands Park


Today D. and I went to Sunnyvale Baylands Park, right on San Francisco Bay. The park was built on a landfill and around reclaimed marshes, cheek-by-jowl with a water pollution control plant and a recycling center. What used to be landfills, sewage treatment ponds, salt ponds and storm runoff channels are now being restored and rehabilitated into landscaped parks and picnic areas, wildlife refuges, wetlands preserves and levees doubling as multi-use trails. Native bunchgrasses are being restored; they got crowded out when livestock grazing areas were created in the early 1800s using exotic annual grasses. Some of the restored native species include purple needle grass, red fescue, blue wild rye, and meadow barley; saltgrass can be found near the seasonal wetlands.

We had gone there on the 4th of July to watch the fireworks from the top of Landfill Hill (yes, that's it's actual name). We were lucky enough to see six different fireworks shows from our vantage point; Mountain View's was the best one and the last one. We also saw a barn owl and some bats go cruising around as well, dark shapes in the sky against the distant lights of cities scattered around the southern shore of the Bay. It was very pretty in spite of the stiff, chilly wind and the voracious mosquitoes relentlessly attacking us in vast amorphous clouds. When we first arrived and were making our way along the trail that evening there were huge clouds of them following us, plaguing us. Enormous mosquitoes; I've seen hummingbirds smaller than some of those mosquitoes; even on the hilltop in the stiff breeze, mosquitoes!!  (I didn't seem to get bit, though.) I hope the bats ate plenty of them.

Anyway, today we went back in the light of day to see the park itself and walk a trail along a levee between a salt evaporation pond and a wastewater treatment pond. I sure hope those 2 ponds don't ever get mixed together! (If they do, I'm quitting using sea salt.) There were thick stands of reeds and cattails in the marshes and an abundance of birds everywhere, even during the middle of the hot afternoon. Here's a list of what we saw:

barn swallows (tons of them, everywhere)
hummingbirds
least terns (a new species for me)
? warblers (secretive little guys wouldn't let us get a good look at them as they sang up a storm while hiding in the reeds)
red-winged blackbirds
Canada geese
mallards
crows
common gallinule
(it strutted just like an aquatic chicken along the water's edge)
brown pelicans (so graceful in flight)
domestic geese (probably gone wild and living the good life in the refuge)
black-necked stilts
coots
California gulls
(another new species for me)
cormorants
brown-headed cowbirds
common egrets
snowy egrets
black phoebes
black-crowned night herons
marsh hawk
, sitting on a hilltop rock clutching lunch: a snake

We also saw a bunch of ground squirrels, butterflies, some dragonflies and a couple of lizards. But no mosquitoes, thank goodness!

Rather than have snake for lunch like the marsh hawk, we had sauteed zucchini, onions and fresh figs for dinner, with ginger almond squash, some quinoa and a salad, and peppermint carob brownies for dessert.


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