“Waddell is open!”
It took me a moment to translate what Katherine was saying. “Oh, Big Basin!”
Every time we drive north on Highway 1, we look to see if the “closed” sign is still at the gate . And up until Memorial Day, it had been.
“Let’s go tomorrow!”
We planned to make a day of it, bringing water and snacks.
I had watched a Great Courses course about landscape photography. One of the lectures talked about doing your research before you travel. It would soon be apparent that I hadn’t taken that lesson to heart.
We entered the park. I saw a notice posted. Out of the entire park, only the Marsh Trail was open. The rest is still being restored from the CZU Lightning Complex fire. We would soon see a crew from AmeriCorps that appeared to have set up a base camp while they worked to repair the fire damage.
The Marsh Trail was a pleasant little walk. We could hear one bird with a song we hadn’t heard before, but we could never see it. We heard, and then spotted, a Black-headed Grosbeak. We also saw the beautiful Violet-green Swallow, briefly perched at the top of a dead tree branch, and an Allen’s Hummingbird, ditto.
Several trees had holes in them. I kept looking to see if birds were using them. Finally, though, I saw a Chestnut-backed Chickadee, perched on a willow branch, with food in its beak. I backed up. As I watch, it hopped closer and closer to one of the potential nesting sites. When it felt safe, the Chickadee flew into one of the holes. When quickly flew out again, I walked by the hole in the Willow. I could hear baby Chickadees calling for more food.
“Well, now what?” we wondered.
We had managed to draw out a twenty minute walk to ninety minutes but we still had the whole day at our disposal.
“Well, we’ve always wanted to go to Pescadero Marsh…”
Seventeen miles later, we found ourselves parking at the corner of Pescadero Road and Highway 1 at the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve.
We were greeted by the encouraging sound of birds.
Some birds, the Song Sparrow and the White-crowned Sparrow, often perch at the top of a bush to sing. Others, like the Wrentit, sing from inside a bush. Their brownish gray color makes them hard to spot. I could “identify” them from their distinctive “ball bouncing” sound long before I had ever seen them or knew who they were.
We walked slowly down the path toward a short bridge. A flock of Canada Geese, with juveniles of various ages, was loitering at the opposite end of the bridge. We didn’t want to disturb them but this was the path we needed to follow.
A Violet-green Swallow, perched on the rail of the bridge, regarded us as we moved slowly toward the geese, who just as slowly, moved away.
Wait. Did I say Violet-green Swallow? Well, I am an amateur birder. What I took to be a Violet-green Swallow was actually a Tree Swallow.
Depending on the light, it may be hard to tell the two apart (at least for me) based on color alone. Now, though, I can see that the Tree Swallow looks like he is wearing a hooded mask, while the Violet-green Swallow has white cheeks.
But back to the geese. We finally crossed the bridge, sending the Canada Geese reluctantly into the water.
We continued on a path, bordered on either side by tall yellow Lupine. Really tall. Really yellow.
There was a duck in the marsh that I had never seen before. Using the iBird Plus app, I would later identify it as a Gadwall! It is always exciting to identify a bird that you’ve never identified before. (I don’t say, “which I’ve never seen before” because I may have seen it before but did not identify it as anything more than “a duck.”)
The Gadwalls were quick to take flight long before we got close.
When we are out birding, Katherine is my “spotter.” She often draws my attention to birds that I haven’t yet noticed.
For example, “There is something small and yellow in that bush over there!”
Between the two of us, Katherine is more of a naturalist; she likes all nature. In fact, all plant identification in this blog is courtesy of Katherine.
Bees are a special favorite of Katherine’s, who was a beekeeper for years.
Katherine and I were having an amazing time exploring this marsh, so different from the one at Rancho del Oso. This one was much larger and we saw more variety of birds, including Mallards, Northern Harriers (one with prey clutched in its talons), Brown-headed Cowbirds, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Turkey Vultures, Common Ravens, American Crows — Oh, speaking of American Crows, iBird identified the below as a Fish Crow…which are mostly found on the East Coast. Is it because of what this American Crow was carrying in his beak? It looks like shellfish to me…
And, lest I forget, a second new identification for me. This bird was asking to be ID’d. A “raspy ‘kowk'” (as The Cornell Labs All About Birds describes it) drew my attention skyward. I saw a black capped white bird with a bright orange beak. This bird, as iBird Plus later identified it, was a Caspian Tern. These are the largest terns in the world according, again, to The Cornell Lab.
Fun fact: These terns are frequently found near the Caspian Sea, hence their name.
All our fun ended abruptly, however, when Katherine stepped off a log and rolled her ankle. (She is recovering at home.)
There was much more to explore. We will return.
UPDATE: Thank you to Robin for bringing a tuypo to my attention! (Just kidding…TYPO!)