|Canada Geese over Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility|
Place: Shollenberger Park and the Ellis Creek Water Treatment Facility, Petaluma, California
Coordinates: 38.229431, -122.598254
Length: 4 miles
Last fall I scouted the North Bay in search of nice birding trails for our 4-H Hiking Project. I had my mind on the San Pedro NWR but thought I'd look around some more. A green spot on the map labeled 'Petaluma Marsh' grabbed my attention so I drove there. I couldn't find how to enter the place and soon was lost in some damp area that didn't look very inviting. I turned around and was making my way slowly back to the freeway when I saw an official looking pickup truck heading my way. As the truck approached I rolled down my window and hailed the driver, saying I was lost and asking for directions to the Petaluma Marsh. The driver scratched his head, saying he wasn't familiar with any such place. Then his eyes lit up. "You must mean the Shollenberger Park," he said, and proceeded in giving me directions. It wasn't what I meant but I nodded anyway, seeing that I won't be getting to Petaluma Marsh that day. I was quite fine with checking out the Shollenberger Park instead.
I followed the instructions to the town of Petaluma and found the narrow road hidden between large industrial building that led to the park's parking lot.
After passing the reeds and brambles that block my view of the park the first thing I saw is a wide, shallow lagoon, flanked by reddish-brown wetland vegetation.
|Snowy Egret, 11/12/2016|
|Double-crested Cormorant, November 12|
The trail curved back north. I left the river bank and was walking on a levee between the lagoon and a large mud flat flanked with dry cattail and other wetland vegetation.
Naturally I started to search for rails. I even saw one but it was far and stayed among the reeds. Pappa Quail had better success on the following week, but even that was after a long and patient search.
|Green-winged Teal and friends|
But then again, some waterfowl are just not short enough to inconspicuously remain below the mud surface. On the other hand, they have the benefit of seeing what's up before any of the other canal's residents.
|Mute Swan, November 12|
The water levels were quite low. At the time we had no foretelling of the wet winter to come, only the wake of a 5-years long drought.
|Shollenberger Park Lagoon|
|Raven and Coyote|
A quick look at the time left - and my decision was made - I took the right turn.
|The way to Ellis Creek Water Facility|
I also brought my family down this trail on my second visit there. A tiny hummingbird observed us from atop one of these small trees. There were hardly any flowers blooming at the time, and the few that did were dandelions and relatives, which do not offer nectar to hummingbirds. Yet the Anna's hummingbird overwinter in the area. It is a relatively new knowledge to me that these birds main food is in fact small insects. Nectar, apparently, is just their energy drink to supplement their animal protein meals.
Egrets eat whatever they can catch. And they are lightning-quick catchers. Once I saw a great egret catching a hummingbird, plucking it from the air in mid-flight. This one in the photo below, however, remained still and didn't budge even as I walked past it on the nearby trail.
I started my tour of the place around the largest pond. Each time I came by a tule gap I stopped and searched the water for fowl. Looking through one of the nearest gaps I saw a sora and a couple of couple of common gallinule. But the best photo I took there was of the tule reflection.
One of the adults in the family I saw was a clipped-winged escapee. I couldn't tell that as long as the swans were swimming in the pond. At some point however, the swans took to the air: five of them did. The sixth one, the clipped adult, tried to take off too, only to sink miserably back to the water. Then I also found out that mute swans aren't really mute. I watched the flying parent and youth and listened to the parent left behind calling after them and my heart went out to it.
|No enchanted princess. A Mute Swan at the Ellis Creek WRF|
|Lesser Goldfinch, male|
|Turkey Vulture eating a Possum|
|Great Blue Heron|
Right there at the parking lot a California towhee was scratching in the leaves looking for some good eats.
|American Bittern, November 12|
|Red-winged Blackbird, male|
|Red-winged Blackbird, female, November 12|
|Peregrine Falcon amid Starlings|