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The Baylands Nature Preserve: A Winter Birder’s Wonderland

, CuriOdyssey | November 6, 2013 | 0 Comments
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Described by bird watchers as the go-to place for the “best birding on the bay,” the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve is a feather-filled oasis during winter. This is the time that waterfowl migrate through the Pacific Flyway and settle along the California coast for the season.

Over two dozen duck species can be found in Palo Alto during Winter.   Photo by Rachael Rufino

Over two dozen duck species can be found in Palo Alto during Winter. Photo by Rachael Rufino

The majority of these birds make their temporary home from the Sacramento Valley to the Salton Sea. In the San Francisco Bay Area, up to 150 species of birds can be found at the Baylands Nature Preserve, which include the endangered clapper rail (Rallus longirostris obsoletus). Within the preserve, the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center is a homey building that provides visitors with nostalgic small-scale exhibits and information about the space and species to be seen. There’s even an aquarium that holds some native wetland fishes that hikers would not be able to see otherwise.

Two snowy egrets (Egretta thula) reestablish territory in Palo Alto.  Photo by Rachael Rufino

Two snowy egrets (Egretta thula) reestablish territory in Palo Alto. Photo by Rachael Rufino

A house finch calls to other members of its group in the Bay Nature Preserve.  Photo by Rachael Rufino

A house finch calls to other members of its group in the Bay Nature Preserve. Photo by Rachael Rufino

Waterfowl aren’t the only animals that call this place home. As the numbers of migrating ducks and shorebirds rise in the Baylands Nature Preserve, the number of predators also increases. Traces of wild omnivores and carnivores on the trails indicate they have been eating well, and even aerial predators such as red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) and Northern harriers (Circus cyaneus) can be seen soaring throughout the day.

A willet (Tringa semipalmata) and Western sandpiper (Calidris mauri) forage for food in the Bay Nature Preserve.  Photo by Rachael Rufino

A willet (Tringa semipalmata) and Western sandpiper (Calidris mauri) forage for food in the Bay Nature Preserve. Photo by Rachael Rufino

Although this habitat is already supporting a large number of species, it is a work in progress. The City of Palo Alto and Save the Bay are working to restore the wetland by cleaning up the shoreline, removing non-native invasive plants and planting native seedlings. In a few years time, large patches of monkey flower, buckwheat and other hummingbird and butterfly favorites will be well-established along the shoreline.

The Baylands Nature Preserve trails are great for all ages, bicyclists and dogs on-leesh. Birds can be heard calling before the sun rises and after it sets. This is a great place to enjoy birds in their highest numbers and with its restoration in progress, it will only get better.

Two American white pelicans ( Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) pass one of many small channels in Palo Alto's wetlands.  Photo by Rachael Rufino

Two American white pelicans ( Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) pass one of many small channels in Palo Alto’s wetlands. Photo by Rachael Rufino

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Category: Environment

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About the Author ()

Rachael is an Animal Keeper and blogger at CuriOdyssey with over 15 years of experience working with wildlife. She volunteers at The Marine Mammal Center, is President of the Bay Area chapter for the American Association of Zookeepers (AAZK), and is a member of AAZK's Communication Committee and Professional Development Committee. Rachael earned her B.A. in Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice from San Francisco State University. Read her previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.