At the end of San Antonio Road, past the shopping centers, apartments, and freeway, across from the Google parking lot, the pavement stops and the wetlands begin. This is the Baylands a world of dikes, ponds, and meanders, where the San Francisco Bay meets land. Here the ebb and flow of the tide replaces the rhythm of rush-hour. Here waterfowl out number people. When family business calls me back, this is where I go to find refuge.
Equipped with my binoculars and bird book I set out on the dike trails to take a wander and look at birds on this rare sunny, pleasant, February day. I come upon a wonderland of shorebirds, and all manner of ducks. There’s a flutter of excitement as the tide ebbs exposing fresh mud. Greater yellow legs, and avocets gather to probe for a meal. In the water, ducks dabble for food, dropping their heads into the water and then tipping upside down exposing their derrieres to the sky like a circus act. Some ducks are divers, dissapearing momentarily from the water’s surface as they fly underwater for their prey.
On a far bank, a passle of pelicans sit pruning their white feathers with their huge bills. A great egret poses for me graciously by the water’s edge.
Suddenly, a murmuration of dowitchers fly over me so close I can hear the force of their feathers. then land in the water with a satisfying plop. Two swift flying merlins exchange prey in the sky.
For 3 miles I walk, stop, listen, and watch, and in awe.
There is an astounding beauty in these birds. Look closely and you’ll see works of art with a varying degree of shape, pattern, color palettes and contrasting hues. As any birder will tell you, you really have to slow down and observe with a decent pair of binoculars to really appreciate their magnificence. Call it an avian meditation.
Bikers, walkers, and talkers rush by during my foray. I want to ask, “Did you see the night herons perching in the reeds? The greenwing teals? You’re missing it!” But sadly they are going to fast and quite possibly, they are unaware of that they are missing. For today I will have to keep my delight to myself and whoever happens to read these words.
My Baylands List
- green wing teal
- canvas back
- northern Shoveler
- ruddy duck
- wood duck
- greater or lesser scaup
- short billed dowitcher
- long billed dowitcher
- American Avocet
- white pelican
- double crested cormorant
- great egret
- snowy egret
- American coot
- black crowned night heron
- common goldeneye
Images except where notated are by the author
Alanna also blogs about sustainability @ onesweetearth.com