Date: Nov. 18, 2014 and Jan. 10, 2015
Place: Ed Levin County Park, Milpitas, California
Coordinates: 37.453905, -121.861138
Length: 2.5 miles
For some time now I had my eye on that green spot on the map, just south of Mission Peak Regional Wilderness. Last September, when I planned for Redwood 4H Hiking Project year I added Ed Levin County Park to the list of destinations. Then it was time to go there and explore.
I went by myself last November, when the rains just begun and the winter looked promising. The 4H hike took place on January, after the rains had stopped, but we were still hopeful. The photos posted here are from both of these hikes. All bird photos (with one exception) were taken by Papa Quail who joined us on the 4H group hike in January.
The trail I selected begins at the small parking lot on the south side of Sandy Wool Lake, right by the dam. The first thing I heard when I stepped out of my car was the rusty door hinge call of the acorn woodpecker. They are permanent residents there, and the tree by the dam is holed all over, being used as these birds' acorn granary.
The water surface was about a quarter of what it should have been when full. A few birds were floating on the surface, and a few more were resting on its shore. A sole angler was sitting with his rod at the lake, which hasn't been stocked for some time, and the entire scenery looked bleak. I begun to think of alternative destinations for the group hike. Only for a minute, though.
While I gathered the group Papa Quail was clicking away with his camera.
There were plenty of ducks in the lake, most of them mallards. One domestic hybrid: another evidence of people's carelessness.
The pelicans and the much smaller cormorants had some debate over the fishing area, but the moment they noticed the Great Blue Heron on the lake side catching something, they all forgot their argument and rushed across the water to see if the heron would share. (It didn't).
|Our hike as captured by Papa Quail's GPS.|
I did find the angry heron, though.
As I came around the lake I caught a glimpse of something moving on the dry lake bed. I turned my binoculars over there and couldn't believe my luck: a bobcat! It must have been really thirsty, because they don't normally go out like that, in broad day like, and in full view. It was quite far and I did not have the strong zoom lens with me but I did manage to capture a photo of the cat.
Needless to say, the cat wasn't there anymore when I got closer. I didn't expect to see it again when I returned in January and I was not surprised.
It was only fairly recently that I had learned that hummingbirds main food source isn't actually nectar. Rather, they feed primarily on bugs. That makes sense, especially at times when flowers are scarce. Here was this little bird, displaying her bug-hunting skills. Also great show of skill by Papa Quail, who took this photo.
So were the birds. There were so many birds of so many species! Truly, Ed Levin County Park should be high on any Bay Area bird-watcher list of places to go birding. Papa Quail was very happy.
|Western Bluebird, male|
|Milpitas and beyond: Santa Clara Valley (a.k.a. Silicon Valley)|
Last November, as I hiked slowly downhill I became aware of a red-tailed hawk that was patrolling the sky above me. Below, ground squirrels were bolting to their holes. After I completed my hill and was driving out of the park on Old Calaveras Road I saw that hawk on the ground and I stopped and took some photos from inside the car. The hawk wasn't in the mood to be on display and took off to the air, and it was carrying a squirrel in its talons. And the squirrel was still writhing.
|Red-tailed Hawk atop a ground squirrel|
|Sandy Wool Lake, November 18.|
|Sandy Wool Lake, January 10.|
What is good for vultures is good for hang gliders too. My young chika announced that she wanted to do that too and I sighed in agreement: this looks like mega fun!
I told her she'd better start saving: this sport isn't cheap.
While most of us were looking up. papa Quail was focusing on the lawn, where numerous birds were raking and pecking the ground in search of earthy morsels.
|Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis)|
And in case it didn't come up yet, if you like birdwatching, do add Ed Levin County Park to your 'To Go' list.