Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve

Couple of kayakers and an egret at Palo Alto Baylands

Couple of kayakers and an egret at Palo Alto Baylands

After our breakfast at Bill’s, we made our way to Palo Alto. As it was the rush hour, we took a circuitous route. Our destination was The Baylands Nature Preserve to the east of 101 next to Palo Alto Airport and just north of Shoreline and Moffett Field. We parked in the Byxbee Park car park. There were several other cars there but mostly they were dropping off children for a day camp.  As we unloaded our bikes and got our bearings, the children were being gathered together before they set off on their hike. One of the organizers was explaining to the children all the wildlife which co-exist within the preserve, including the Burrowing Owl.

Part of the site had previously been a landfill but has now been covered in clay and topsoil and turned into park, which has incorporated art into the design. There was a trail uphill which passed a lot of the outdoor sculpture but we headed towards the bay on the Adobe Creek Loop Trail. To our right was Mayfield Slough. The tide was in and at first we did not see a lot of birds. We spotted a lone white pelican on the water.

At first we did not see any other cyclists. There were a few joggers, one with his dog running alongside. It was a chilly morning and a slight breeze ruffled my hair. The sound of birds could be heard. Overhead small planes were coming in to land at the nearby airport. Along the first part of the trail there were quite a few benches. Further on, when I needed to sit down and write, there were no benches.

We crossed a bridge where the slough entered from the bay. Out on the bay a couple of kayakers were heading for shore. A hungry tern performed a marvelous diving demonstration and he kept us captivated for some time.

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

White Pelicans at Palo Alto Baylands

White Pelicans at Palo Alto Baylands

A little further on we began to see a lot more birds. A mother duck was busily trying to keep control of five ducklings. Both Snowy and Greater Egrets were concentrating of finding breakfast. I spotted a Black Crowned Night Heron standing patiently on the far side of the slough. A couple of Black Phoebes were darting around snatching insects on the wing. Slowly a group of eight white pelicans swam into view. Normally the only pelicans I see are the brown pelicans which stay close to the ocean. White pelicans I have only seen frequenting wetlands and they are more striking than their brown counterparts.

What started out to be a chilly day turned into a really sunny one. We stopped so Tom could take some photos. In front of us now were hundreds of white pelicans in scattered groups on a couple of large islands in the slough.  There were other birds as well on the islands. It was an amazing site, all those white birds against a green background. I took the opportunity to park my bike as well and sat down on the pickleweed. I was moaning about there not being any benches around but, quite frankly, that pickleweed made a very comfortable seat. I took my helmet and gloves off and leaned back to admire the view. I could see cars in the distance on 101 but not hear them. What an extremely pleasant way to while away the time.

More and more people were out enjoying the walk on the loop trail. Groups of friends taking a leisurely walk and talking animatedly; mothers with their young children; older couples walking hand in hand and serious joggers. There were quite a few cyclists as well and one couple stopped to talk to us. They said this was one of their favorite places to ride their bikes and come here often. During the conversation they asked if we had seen the flamingo. What, were they kidding us? But no, there was one. At first I couldn’t see it but eventually located it way out to the west. It’s long thin legs were difficult to spot but when it lowered it’s distinctive long neck into the water, it was easier to identify. The only place you are likely to see flamingos in the US are in Florida. This one had obviously escaped from captivity. Normally they are bright pink but, as far as I could see, the one frequenting Baylands is not pink at all. It has been at Baylands for a couple of months now. You just never know what you are going to see!

Whole bunch of White Peicans at Palo Alto Baylands

Whole bunch of White Pelicans at Palo Alto Baylands

From my vantage point on the pickleweed I could see the distinctive roof over the Shoreline Amphitheatre. I watched the airship rise into the air from Moffat Field and glide gracefully westward. A company called Airship Ventures provides tours of Silicon Valley and even up to San Francisco. Wouldn’t that be an adventure?

We resumed our bike ride seeing more and more birds. Up ahead we could see a whole colony of white pelicans. Overhead another half a dozen flew in to join them. When I looked back I saw several more groups flying in. Obviously it was time for all the white pelicans in the vicinity to gather and catch up on the news of the day.

Our original plan was to cycle round the complete loop but the couple we were talking to said the final part is on roads and is not very interesting, so we decided to turn round and go back the way we had come. The sun was blazing down and the light was no longer any good to take photographs. Besides, the number of people now on the trail made negotiating round them a bit of a chore.

The Baylands is a really great place to get out and take a walk and to enjoy the birds. Lets make the most of our wetlands before they completely disappear.  We shall certainly be back, so look out for us.

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