Today D. and I visited Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont, right upon the east shore of San Francisco Bay. The park, part of the East Bay Regional Park District, consists of 976 acres of rolling rocky hills, meadows, freshwater marshes, salt ponds, and Indian shell mounds and village sites. It got its name in the 1880's for the coyotes that howled when they heard the whistles from the trains that ran by there. There aren't many coyotes there anymore, but there's still a tremendous variety of birds and plants to be found among the hills, meadows, and wetlands. (Although, as D. was trying to get a close-up shot of birds in a salt pond he saw some pawprints in the mud that might possibly be from a coyote.)
The Coyote Hills are unique for being the only natural hills along the Bay's shoreline. They are remnants of an ancient, eroded mountain range. All the other hills along the Bay are capped-off landfill.
We went in from the south side, along the Quarry Trail leading out from the adjacent Don Edwards S.F. Bay National Wildlife Refuge right over the top of the Dumbarton Bridge toll plaza. The trail then goes past an enormous hole in the ground --- a rock quarry pit, which is on private land outside the park. The pit is so deep you can't see its bottom from the trail, and I'm told it's so deep it even goes below sea level. (Those rocks must be somethin' mighty special, if they keep digging deeper and deeper to get more of them out of the earth.) The steep, bare, colorful rock walls of the quarry are in sharp contrast to the surrounding grass-covered hills.
There were abundant birds: egrets, cormorants, ducks, little sandpipers known as peeps, avocets, stilts, pelicans, black phoebes, a rock wren (a new species for me), turkey vultures and a red-tailed hawk on patrol over the hillsides. We had lunch on a bench perched conspicuously atop a bare knoll with a stunning view of the salt ponds and Bay. The morning's overcast began to break up as more and more sunny skies appeared. This quiet idyll was marred only by the occasional sharp pops of gunshots from a hilltop firing range just beyond park property. Before we figured it out, D. and I were hoping no one would be taking potshots at us as we rounded the next bend in the trail.
Since the days are getting shorter as autumn advances toward winter, I really needed to see some blue skies. The gray start to the day almost made me feel like hibernating, but eventually the clouds retreated, allowing us to enjoy a mild fall day. Our long hike back out was accompanied by myriads of diamonds sparkling on the Bay lit by the warm late afternoon sun.
Here be some pics.
A colorful shrub, already dressed for autumn.
A small part of the bottomless pit quarry on the edge of the park.
Pelican and egret share a pond.
A black phoebe awaits some bugs for lunch.
The beautiful rock wren.
Avocets in their winter plumage congregate in a salt pond.
The old salt ponds had a system of pipes connecting them. They are no longer in use and are in great disrepair. The birds don't care.
I call this Peeps on a Pipe.
A little peep sandpiper patrolling the shore of the salt pond has muddy boots.
A migrating flock of sandpipers.
Coyote bush along the trail. Coyote bush smells bad due to resinous oils in its leaves, but the flowers are attractive.
One of the many turkey vultures we saw; this one has its wings piked for some reason. Perhaps it's been hanging around with some opsreys.