Date: January 11, 2020
Place: Guadalupe Slough Trail, Sunnyvale, California
Coordinates: 37.419145, -122.018314
Length: 5.4 miles
There are numerous hiking/biking trails along the shores of the San Francisco Bay. There are some that I frequent a lot such as the Hayward Shoreline or the Don Edwards NWR, but every now and then I get to check out a different Bay trail. Last month I led our 4H Hiking Project on a hike at the Guadalupe Slough in Sunnyvale. Learning that we'll be hiking by the Bay, Pappa Quail got his birding camera and joined our group.
|Our hike as captured by my GPS|
The birds were there right from the beginning but one particular 'bird' had grabbed my attention more than the regular, feathered ones. Pappa Quail had noticed it too. This one 'roosts' in an airbase nearby.
The pond was belted by thigh-high vegetation, some of which was tule. This keystone species that once dominated all the bay's wetlands and used to be the main material used by the coastal Native Californians is now a protected species growing in a pitifully diminished habitat.
|Tule, Schoenoplectus acutes var. occidentalis|
|Red-winged Blackbird, male|
I did point out to them the hill poking up on the horizon - they have all hiked at Coyote Hills before. It looked like a small buttress from where we stood.
|Mallards in formation|
It was along that trail that we finally got close enough to the main slough, the Guadalupe Slough, that connects the Bay water to the inland system of canals, ponds, and wetlands.
We were going by clamps of tule when the younger chika yelped with excitement and grabbed Pappa Quail's attention to a yellow bird that hopped between the tule stalks. Pappa Quail got very excited and both he and the elder chika were soon busy documenting this little bush bird. It was a common yellowthroat but despite its name, it wasn't so common to see. My young chika was very proud that finally she had contributed to the bird excitement in my family.
The water of the pond is controlled by a valve and pump. We passed by the pump location which was surrounded by high fence and had a sharp and alert guard in the form of a northern harrier.
Every now and then throughout our hike we could hear gunshots. We speculated that these were hunters, and the speculations turned reality when we saw the hunters returning in a boat from the hunters' blind out in the bay water.
We saw the hunters get off the boat at a launch on the other side of the slough. It might have been that group only because after that the shootings ceased.
Our trail curved to the east again, and split to either the south side or the north side of the slough. We went n the north trail, keeping the slough to our right and the treatment pond to our left. Ahead of us loomed the ig green closed midden, where Sunnyvale's old waste is buried.
Around the curve we had a clear view to the northeast to the currently active landfill site. We were too far to see the cloud of gulls that usually hangs by that place.
The far corner of the ponds was matted with ducks. I was too far away to see which kind.
Turning my gaze a bit more north I saw Mission Peak resting peacefully under a gathering of clouds.
|Common Gallinule (Moorhen)|
Pappa Quail was still behind me when I commenced walking down the trail. He had a lot of distractions. Good ones.
Pappa Quail on the other hand, was having an eye feast. Even common birds that we see anytime we hike by the shoreline were given due pixel space.
we were separated from the trail we started with by a canal where treated water was dispensed into by a line of fountains. We had to turn north and walk along this canal for some distance before reconnecting with the main trail so we passed right by those fountains. Behind the canal - a tower with a red radar constantly monitoring the sky. It's a rather small radar and I wonder if it's monitoring bird activity rather than airplanes.
|Canal and radar|
A much nearer coyote brush bush was the perch of a male Anna's hummingbird. Considering how tiny this bird is, it is pretty bold and wears a very domineering air.
|Anna's Hummingbird, male|
|Great Blue Heron|
|F-35 Black Knights|
Before modern settlement in this area the birds would darken the sky, so numerous they were.
Meanwhile, Pappa Quail and the rest of the 4H group ascended the green grass-covered landfill butte. This site is already supporting a biological community, in which the borrowing California ground squirrels are permanent residents.
|California Ground Squirrel|