|American Bittern at the Arcata Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary|
Place: Arcata Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Arcata, California
Coordinates: 40.859204, -124.089787
Length: 2.7 miles
The forecast promised us rain for the second half of Thanksgiving week. After getting drenched at Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP I had my doubts about pulling my family out for another wet hike, but we were surprised with a reasonably clear morning. We had spent the night at Arcata and the morning was overcast, but there was no rain.
On our previous visit to the area we hiked at the Humboldt Bay NWR south of Eureka and I had with me several brochures of area Nature attractions I had picked up when we were there. We had already a very rewarding visit at Tolowa Dunes SP, about which we learned from one of these brochures. This time we planned to explore the Arcata Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary.
We arrived at the local education center early in the morning and I was glad that it was not opened yet. The chikas were grumpy and I didn't want to get them distracted before the planned hike.
Arcata Marsh is located at the City of Arcata wastewater treatment facility. There are several ponds and a tidal slough channeling ocean water from the Humboldt Bay. A system of easy-walking trails meanders between the ponds and along the Bay shore. We walked a wide loop trail through most habitats present in the sanctuary.
|Black-crowned Night Heron|
|Pacific Aster (Symphyotrichum chilense)|
|A tidal slough at the Arcata Marsh|
Many of these plants are invasive species that came along with the European-descent immigrants. One of these is the carding plant, or teasel. They were brought along for their dry, yesteryear's inflorescences: they were used for carding wool.
They are also an excellent food source for little seed-eating birds.
A large and noisy group of LBBs (Little Brown Birds) was busy in a patch of yesteryear's teasel. Papa Quail stood there for a long time trying to capture them on camera. Me, thinking they were 'just' sparrows, took the chikas and moved along.
But not every LBB is a sparrow. Days later, on our home computer, Papa Quail had identified them as Pine Siskin: a species we had not observes before.
|Pine Siskin feasting on teasel seeds|
Earlier that November my wish came true at a boat tour on the Sacramento River Delta we took during the 2014 Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival. The boast skipper had seen one the day before and upon hearing my wish took us to that place.
But that has not quenched any of my excitement when I saw the first bittern standing in the dry weeds near the Brackish Pond. Me and the chikas were ahead when I noticed the bird: Papa Quail had lagged behind with Grandma Quail. I sent my elder chika to hurry him along, but by the time he arrived the bittern had already moved into thicker vegetation.
The disappointment didn't last very long: just around the corner I spotted another bittern, and it was closer and more visible. This time Papa Quail was ready:
|A gaggle changing location|
|Pied-billed Grebe holding the Catch of the Day|
|Two snowy egrets facing off at the mud flats|
|Snowy Egret's 'I'm Pissed' pose|
Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)
|Canada Goose Crossing|
|Night herons perching on willow bushes by Kloppe Lake|
The channel narrowed as we approached the end of our hike. Lagging behind once more, I sidestepped onto an old wood railroad bridge transversing the slough. From there I watched a trio of coots holding a lively discussion below. The discussion ended with the tree of them crossing to the other side.