Sarah & I had a lovely walk around Bon Tempe Lake today, a sunny clear day with temps in the mid-60s – a nice change from the heavy rains we had earlier in the week to be sure!
This is probably my favorite hike of the many great lake hikes in the Marin Municipal Water District on the north side of Mount Tamalpais – it’s just the right length (4 miles), and has nicely varied terrain, ripe for lots of flora and fauna sightings.
Over a dozen DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS were on a floating hose by the overflow slough, many sporting snappy double crests, and one male and several female COMMON MERGANSERS were diving nearby.
We headed out on the Shadyside Trail (the two trails that go around Bon Tempe Lake are, very appropriately, the Shadyside trail, which is in a mixed redwood & pine forest, and the Sunnyside Trail, which is chapparal and grassy hills), and soon encountered two people peering intently at the underbrush a short ways off-trail. I suspected they were wildflower-watching and asked them what they had. To my surprise, they were looking at FETID ADDER’S TONGUE, an early-blooming member of the lily family. I was glad I asked, since we didn’t see any others in bloom, since March is a bit late for them. I tried (with limited success) to avoid boring Sarah to tears while I took photos of them and a nearby BANANA SLUG.
Continuing on the Shadyside Trail, we got more through-the-trees views of the Mergansers, and I spied a VARIED THRUSH in the deep shadows (much too dark and distant for a photo, alas – I’m still waiting to see one in decent light!). MILKMAIDS were abundantly blooming pretty much everywhere, with a few early HOUND’S TONGUE, many more in bud. Sarah found a large, lovely SALAMANDER near the trail, and it was good enough to pose for a few pictures.
We were hoping to find some orchids, as we’ve seen traces of them on previous hikes in the area, but all we saw was a dessicated gone-to-seed Coral-root from last season. More Mergansers and a few BUFFLEHEAD floated near the shoreline.
After a little ways of hiking in pine forest, the terrain changed suddenly to a verdant, fern-lined paradise, with several babbling brooks running into the lake. No other flowers to remark on showed themselves, and we soon left the forest for a bit. I was a little surprised to see a KILLDEER on a sandy beach, as I’m much more used to seeing them in baylands-type environs, but sure enough, here one was, double neck stripe, red eye, and all. A RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET also flitted about in a nearby tree.
A brief sojourn through more forest brought us to the farthest-flung parking lot for Bon Tempe Lake, and Sarah spottted a lovely pair of WESTERN TRILLIUM blooming right along the trail. This was a new flower to us, our only previous enounter with trillium being an occasional Giant Trillium. She availed herself of the facilities while I took some photos of this lovely little flower. While waiting for me to finish photographing, Sarah found the site of a recent bird demise – the ground was quite covered with all sorts of black and white striped feathers. I collected a few to bring to my Ornithology class in the hope that their owner might be identified.
We continued, now on the Sunnyside Trail, and before long decided to leave the shoreline for a few, taking a 0.3mi cutoff that saved us about 0.7 miles, and entered some different terrain, here a sparser pine forest. While trying to suss out the creator of several bird songs, I spied a pair of ACORN WOODPECKERS far up in a tree, doing what woodpeckers do best. An Accipiter flew overhead, calling incessantly, and a TURKEY VULTURE flew low, looking for carrion.
As we reached the end of our spur trail, an OSPREY flew overhead, very low – we were thrilled to see it, as we’ve only seen osprey a few times, but got but a short look as it flew away. Forunately, I did manage to get a couple of pictures of it, much better than the single photo I have of a back-lit osprey flying away from me in Point Reyes! We would see much more Osprey on this hike, however….
We walked along the road for a brief ways, seeing more Common Mergansers, then the trail started up again and we continued on the lakeside. It was about 1:30 by this time, and we began looking for a good picnic spot. We found a nice reasonably level grassy patch by the lake and took a load off for a few, enjoying some sandwiches, chips and wine.
As we ate, I spotted an Osprey overhead. Then another. And another! We had a nice performance during our lunch, as three Ospreys circled overhead, looking for fish. Only once actually dove in, and emerged empty-taloned, but it was wonderful to watch them. I got a few more decent photos of them circling overhead, and then we continued onward.
A few early SUN CUPS were blooming right by the lake, with evidence of many more to come, and right as we came to the end of our hike, a small patch of SHOOTING STARS was blooming trailside. All good things must end, and we arrived at the car. Although it took us about 3 hours to hike just 4 miles, it was wonderful to get out on such a lovely day, and in such a lovely place – we’ll surely be back to check on the bloom in the next month or so!
Bird list du jour:
– Accipiter sp.
– Acorn Woodpecker
– American Coot
– American Crow
+ Common Merganser
– Common Raven
– Dark-eyed Junco (“Oregon” ssp.)
– Double-crested Cormorant (with crests, many dozens)
+ Osprey (3!)
– Pied-billed Grebe
– Ruby-crowned Kinglet
– Ruddy Duck
+ Spotted Towhee
– Turkey Vulture
– Varied Thrush
– Western Gull
+ = year bird, * = life bird, () = domestic/escapee
Wildflower list du jour:
– Fetid Adder’s Tongue
– Fremont’s Death Camas
– Hound’s Tongue
– Indian Warrior
– Miner’s Lettuce
– Shooting Stars
– Sun Cup
– Western(?) Trillium