Place: Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Loleta, California
Coordinates: 40.6861, -124.2124
Length: 1.75 miles
Comment: bring mosquito repellant.
|Map copied from Hamboldt Bay NWR brochure. Our trail is labeled yellow.|
The last night of our 4th of July trip we spent in the coastal town of Eureka. We woke up to the chill of a foggy morning which, after the intense heat of Willow Creek, was a much welcomed relief. After a quick breakfast we headed straight to the sole destination we planned for that day: the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
After a short visit to the visitor center we went out on our first trail: the Shorebird Loop Trail, that begins right behind the building. For about half a mile the trail meanders along a narrow slough. Close to the beginning there is a small observation hut.
|A Black-crowned Night Heron on the little foot bridge behind the visitor center|
The ground, even on the trail itself, was completely covered with green vegetation. Many plants were blooming.
Most of what I've seen in bloom were invasive plant species.
Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare). Non-native, invasive.
Common Brassbuttons (Cotula coronopifolia). Non-native, invasive.
After half a mile the trail splits and loops around a large pond. The calm water was closely watched by egrets and herons.
|Mallard chicks speeding after their camera-shy mother|
We walked slowly, imbibing the sights and sounds carried by the thick, humid air. As always, the chickas were quick to spot the ground crawlers on the trail.
|Stop the traffic! I'm crossing!|
|Red-shouldered Ctenucha (Ctenucha rubroscapus)|
Bu then the elder chicka made a much more important find: A Virginia Rail that stepped momentarily out of the cattails.
The trail continues beyond the pond and near the slough that extends from Humboldt Bay. It was low tide and the mud flats were criss-crossed with bird tracks. The birds themselves were no longer there.
We looped back and neared the canal once again.
I was looking at the weeds that were blooming along the canal banks, coloring it with whites, pinks and yellows, and rendering those very same colors to the murky water below.
And it was there, in the canal, while I appreciated the flowers, that I saw something brown swimming. Sure enough: there was a pair of river otters! Right there in front of our eyes!
|Black-capped Chickadee busy seed-tasting.|
|American Goldfinch, male|
Many thanks to members of the California Wildlife Appreciators for their help in identifying the moth!
A few months after that trip my elder chicka was still talking about the Virginia Rail she had sighted. Being the artist she is, she drew a painting of the rail and added a few avian friends too :-)