On Sunday D. and I went to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Alviso to attend an event about bird life on the refuge. We got off to a great start by seeing an elusive burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) by the side of the road leading into the refuge.
When we arrived at the parking lot we had a picnic lunch in an observation pavillion nearby, sharing it with a pair of swallows flying in and out periodically, feeding bugs to their newly-hatched young in a nest above a window inside the pavillion. We also saw mockingbirds, red-winged blackbirds and a northern harrier, and a little lizard too, doing push-ups on the pavillion steps.
But when we finished lunch and went over to the education center building, we found it closed due to staff illness and the birding event cancelled. We decided to hang around anyway and have a look-see.
We saw a huge California wild rose bush near the education center, full of thorny rose hips. I never knew the hips had thorns too.
A freight train in the distance as fog creeps over the mountains.
Black-necked stilt looking for lunch in a salt pond.
A spider's feast of gnats, trailside.
Stand of California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) in the refuge's native plant garden.
California buckwheat blossoms.
Algae collecting on the edge of a salt pond. Not very appetizing-looking. The water was a weird olive/ocher color. Blech. But the creatures don't seem to mind.
The trail becomes a boardwalk going out over the muddy edges of the salt ponds.
We saw many tracks in the mud. Some were bird's feet, others were people's shoes (strictly prohibited! ). There were lots of these (raccoon?):
There were a fair amount of these (bobcat?):
The dried salt crust on the edges of the ponds makes an alien landscape. You can see the little sprigs of salt-loving pickleweed barely poking up in the lower corner.
A turkey vulture being mobbed by a crow, with an avocet in the background. Turkey vultures eat only dead creatures, so we didn't know why the birds were harassing them (other than mere instinct).
Blossoms of black sage (Salvia mellifera), from the native plant garden.
A hummingbird rests on a branch a few feet away.
On the other side of the road we explored a dried salt pond. We saw a pair of nesting stilts, one of whom put on an Academy Award-winning performance to lure us away from the nest, pretending to be injured and squawking raucously at us non-stop. I never knew such a small bird could yell so loudly.
We also came across the carcass of a Canada goose. Some creature (perhaps a fox, coyote or bobcat) had a feast. The entire skeleton had been picked clean except for some stubborn feathers.
The goose's skull. Nature is not always cute little hummingbirds and delicate flowers.