Place: Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont, California
Coordinates: 37.55026, -122.08607
I reside near Coyote Hill Regional Park and visit there frequently. I have seen the season changes, observed the wildlife, and attended several events and class field trips there. I have never before seen it so dry as in this fall. Never before have I witnessed the waterfowl-rich ponds parched-dry and the reeds thoroughly browned. It was a mystery to me.
I hiked in Coyote Hills several times earlier this month. The place is beautiful any time of year but this fall it was very tranquil and calm. I post here about three of these hikes.
Length: about 2.5 miles
The Meadowlark loop I hiked by myself, checking to see if it would be suitable to lead the chikas' 4H group on. On the first hike I took photographs of the unexpectedly dry wetland and wondered about the cause.
I started hiking at the Quarry staging area, the parking that's about 1/2 a mile before the visitor center. The first lag of the trail is a paved road leading to Dairy Glen group campground. A small hill oversees the trail from the north. Pretty rock layers tell the tale of moving ground from long ago.
|The hill overlooking the Quarry staging area.|
|The South Marsh|
Just dry and drying vegetation.
|The South Marsh|
|Sparrows strewn on the Meadowlark Trail.|
At the edge of the park the trail takes a sharp turn right and begins ascending uphill. A small flacon was perched on one of the poles that are along the trail, but each time I walked closer, the falcon flew a bit further and eventually flew away altogether.
My disappointment over not having photographed the falcon was dispelled when I got to the hilltop and looked west:
|Cargill Salt ponds|
I strolled down towards Bayview Trail, then took a few steps west into the salt ponds realm on No Name trail, enticed by the shore birds that were wading to and fro in the tranquil pond:
Most of these birds were American Avocets:
Length: in and out to one's content. We walked about 1 mile in before turning back.
On the following day I visited Coyote Hills again: this time with a friend. We went looking for birds and headed directly to No Name Trail.
Somewhat away from the group, a sole yellowlegs was searching the mud for morsels.
|A white Pelican in the tranquil salt pond|
Spaced in regular intervals the long white forms of great egrets were sticking out of the water, as still as statues, ambushing fish.
|Great Blue Heron|
Gilder Hill-Bayview loop
Length: about 2 miles
On the following day I was, once more, at Coyote Hills Regional Park. This time accompanied by my family and the 4H Hiking Project children and their parents. It was on this hike that I finally got the the sad and not very surprising answer to the riddle of the dry wetland: human interference. Direct, local interference, rather than global changes.
|Merlin (photographed by Papa Quail)|
|On the way up Gilder Hill|
A small vehicle came by the dirt road and stopped near us. I went over and asked about the dry wetlands.
The driver, who turned to be the park's supervisor told me the story of the Bay Area salt marshes: of brackish water rising from the bay with the tides and mixing with the fresh runoff water from the hills.
Cargill Salt Corporation has blocked the tidal water from entering the marsh. Unlike in Don Edwards NWR where a slough still allows for bay water to come inland with the tide, at Coyote Hills there is no more salt water feed from the bay. Cargill has stopped it all.
The water that was flooding the wetlands until last year, he told me, was fresh water pumped year-round from underground. The wetland has been transformed from a salt marsh to fresh water marsh. The pickleweed and tule were replaced by reeds and cattails. The animal community has changed too.
This has now stopped. No more water is being artificially pumped into Coyote Hills. The only source of water now would be the rain and runoff water.
If and when Cargill Salt Corporation cuts a pass for tidal water to the wetland, the marsh could be restored. The company, according to their website, tales part in Bay Area Nature conservation projects and takes pride in being environmentally supportive. It aught to take action here too, and allow the tides reach the shores of Coyote Hills and beyond into the marsh land. With so few of the Bay Area wetlands remaining, it is important to save what's left, for the sake of our future!
|White Pelicans (photographed by Papa Quail)|
|A willet wading among Dunlins|
He didn't see that sparrow, but other kinds:
White-crowned Sparrow, juvenile (photographed by Papa Quail)
And also the resident white-tailed kite:
|White-tailed Kite (photographed by Papa Quail)|