Saturday, 28 March 2009:
Last Saturday, Sarah, our friend Linda, and I headed north, and after a delicious breakfast at the Pine Cone Diner, drove to the Estero Trailhead. There were several dozen other vehicles, unsurprising given the beautiful weather and early/mid-spring season! We hit the trail at 11:55.
Green hills & blue skies, oh my!
Across a meadow and through a forest we walked, gently downhill. Witches Teeth, a bicolored flowering pea, sprouted in a few places, and I helped a fellow hiker identify some Scarlet Pimpernel growing along the trail. Her companion, obviously pretty keen on wildflowers, noted dryly that it’s a non-native, like all of the broom, also flowering nearby; both, unfortunately, are indeed both abundant and invasive in these parts.
In the forest we paused to scan for any movement in the trees, as we have seen Great Horned Owls here before, but today none showed themselves, although it’s highly likely there were some present.
We crossed the tip of Drake’s Estero, which had just a few Willets and Snowy Egrets foraging in the very low tide, and then walked up the other side. This trail, though pretty flat, is rolly-polly as it descends and ascends along the fingers of Drake’s Bay.
Ceanothus bloomed in clumps, and there was evidence of Cow Parnsip, not yet in bloom, but rather distinctive due to its large size.
Douglas Iris / Iris douglasiana
Douglas Iris, ridiculously abundant in this area, was just starting to bloom, and we saw them only here and there, rather than by the usual thousands. Perhaps it’s me, but the spring bloom seems a few weeks late this year compared to years past.
Brants / Branta bernicla
On the bay floated a large flock of Brants. I’ve only ever seen Brants once before, on this same hike in 2007, and both times I’ve been stymied by their distance.
Up another hillock, I left the trail, searching for Pussy Ears, a beautiful member of the lily family (Calochortus genus), which I have only ever seen on this one particular hillside, but found none. More evidence of a late season. If you’re curious, I have photos of it from past trips here.
Rosy Sandcrocus / Romulea rosea var. australis
I was quite surprised to see, instead of multitudes of irises, untold thousands of Rosy Sandcrocus. This is a flower, one of several, that I have only seen on this particular trail, and typically only much farther out in smallish patches, but today it was absolutely everywhere. The photo above belies the diminuitive size of this relative of the iris.
On the bay, a few small boats harvested the oyster traps deposited here, and things were otherwise pretty quiet. Despite the number of cars in the parking lot, we ran into few people during the hike.
Western Dog Violet / Viola adunca
A patch of non-iris purple caught my eye, and I was surprised to find a flower I had never seen before. It was obviously a violet, but unlike all of the other (white & yellow) violets I’ve seen in the wild, this one was actually violet-colored! A quick lookup at home showed it to be a Western Dog Violet. I’m surprised I haven’t seen them before, as they’re apparently common in our area, and I’ve done quite a bit of bay area spring hiking. So I was pleased to say “LIFER!,” something I do not often get to do with wildflowers!
We came to the junction with the Sunset Beach Trail, and continued on it, deciding that it was a bit too breezy to hike the longer distance to the very exposed-but-beautiful Drake’s Head, while Sunset Beach is about a mile closer, and at least somewhat sheltered.
Dwarf Checkerbloom / Sidalcea malviflora
Yet more Rosy Sandcrocus bloomed in abundance, along with patches of Douglas Iris, a few Dwarf Checkerblooms, California Buttercup, Scarlet Pimpernel, and some Asters that I will decline to attempt to identify. At 2:00 we arrived at Sunset Beach, which had two people perched on a nice sitting log, so we walked around a little ways until we found some butt-shaped rocks.
Windy Willet / Catoptrophorus semipalmatus
Willets / Catoptrophorus semipalmatus
A bunch of Willets foraged in the near shore as we snacked and drank mini-wines, while a flock of peeps picked at a nearby sandbar. After about half an hour of snacking and relaxing, we were sufficiently wind-blown and decided to head back.
Sunset Beach Trail
It was an uneventful hike back, although we did notice some additional patches of Western Dog Violet that we had missed on the hike in. I’m always amused by how often one sees so many different things just by hiking the same trail in the opposite direction.
California Blackberry / Rubus ursinus
Even the California Blackberries were pretty early-looking, and certainly nowhere close to fruiting, a mid-summer activity in any year, but their flowers are always nice to look at.
White-crowned Sparrow / Zonotrichia leucophrys
A White-crowned Sparrow was partially cooperative in that it allowed me to approach closely, but not so cooperative as to turn its head into the light ;)
As is usually the case with out-and-back hikes, we hiked much more quickly on the return, with fewer stops to check out the flora and fauna.
A ghostly white spider spun a web between two twigs, and we paused to watch it work for a bit. I’m no good with spiders, so if any readers know what it is, do please comment!
The tide was rising, but still low, as we neared the bridge across the estuary. We briefly chatted with a couple from Sacramento, then continued on our way.
We again scoured the forest near the trailhead for owls, but unsurprisingly found none.
Almost back to the trailhead
At 4:20 we arrived back at the trailhead, stretched our legs, and drove off for some tasty oysters in Marshall. Any spring hike in Point Reyes is a great hike, and this is one of the best. Except for 2008, I have done this hike every year since 2003, and fully intend to keep it an annual tradition!
Distance: ~8 miles
Time: 4hrs 25min, including 30min for lunch
|Birds seen:||Wildflowers seen:|
Location: Pt. Reyes - Outer Observation date: 3/28/09 Number of species: 22 + Brant - Branta bernicla 25 Canada Goose - Branta canadensis 3 Greater/Lesser Scaup - Aythya marila/affinis 3 Bufflehead - Bucephala albeola 2 Ruddy Duck - Oxyura jamaicensis 3 + California Quail - Callipepla californica 10 Western Grebe - Aechmophorus occidentalis 2 Double-crested Cormorant - Phalacrocorax auritus 3 Great Egret - Ardea alba 2 Snowy Egret - Egretta thula 2 Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura 20 Osprey - Pandion haliaetus 1 Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis 1 Willet - Tringa semipalmata 12 Long-billed Curlew - Numenius americanus 3 Marbled Godwit - Limosa fedoa 5 peep sp. - Calidris sp. 30 Western Gull - Larus occidentalis 25 + Northern Flicker - Colaptes auratus 1 Common Raven - Corvus corax 5 Song Sparrow - Melospiza melodia 1 White-crowned Sparrow - Zonotrichia leucophrys 10 + = year bird (74 so far) This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)
|- Anderson’s Thistle
– Beach Strawberry
– Blue-eyed Grass
– Broom sp. (invasive)
– California Blackberry
– California Buttercup
– California Manroot
– Ceanothus sp.
– Coast Suncup
– Cow Parsnip (in bud)
– Douglas Iris
– Dwarf Checkerbloom
– English Plantain
– Horned Searocket
– Iceplant (invasive)
– Indian Paintbrush
– Lupine sp.
– Red Maids
– Rosy Sandcrocus
– Scarlet Pimpernel (invasive)
– Vetch sp. (invasive)
* Western Dog Violet
– Witches’ Teeth
* = life flower