Sarah & I had a lovely pair of mini-hikes on Dec 16 in the Marin Headlands, ahead of an incoming storm.
Tennessee Valley Trail
Our first hike was to Tennessee Valley, a lovely short hike that we hadn’t done in over a year, despite the trailhead being only a 15-minute drive over the Golden Gate. Brewer’s Blackbirds and Golden-crowned Sparrows foraged in the parking lot, but it was otherwise pretty quiet. The first quarter-mile of the trail was rather blustery, but things calmed down once we descended into the valley proper.
Birds were scarce here too, likely hunkered down in anticipation of the approaching storm, but we saw an Accipiter sp. over the ridge, too backlit and distant to get a good ID on, as well as the ubiquitous Turkey Vultures that are always overhead in Marin.
We saw few other birds until we got to the small lagoon near Tennessee Beach, which had a single Pied-billed Grebe and a half-dozen American Coots in it. A Great Egret, startled by our approach, flew overhead as we walked onto the beach.
The beach was cold and windy, so we didn’t stay very long. Stormy skies made for some dramatic scenery, though, so I snapped a few photos for B&W conversion. On the beach, several Western Gulls and a Ring-billed Gull rounded out the birds we’d see on this walk.
As we walked back up the valley, the skies actually cleared and we enjoyed some sun and blue skies, as did several Red-tailed Hawks that soared overhead.
A bench with a view
Back at the car, we decided that this 80-minute hike was not enough, so we drove up and over Hawk Hill on the way south, stopping for a few at some of the old military ruins that dot the coastline to enjoy their stellar views.
Although I’ve been to Rodeo Lagoon a few times, I’d never hiked all the way around it, so we decided to do that, and hit the trail at 2:40. Again, it wasn’t very birdy, although a close fly-by by a Cooper’s Hawk was nice. Turkey Vultures continued in the skies, joined occasionally by Red-tailed Hawks, and the lagoon was actually pretty ducky, but I couldn’t see anything well enough to ID it until we got down towards the beach.
As we approached the southwest end of the lagoon, I could identify more of the birds in this large’ish lagoon: American Coot, Greater Scaup, Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye. Several Killdeer congregated on the beach, squeaking noisily as is their wont.
It was more of the same as we walked along the Fort Cronkhite access road, with the addition of some Common Ravens in the trees above the old fort’s buildings. This path, right alongside the road, isn’t particularly scenic, but it’s the only choice lagoon-side, so oh well.
Sarah was keen to see some River Otters, and this lagoon has a locally-famous family of at least 7 that eats Brown Pelicans when they bathe in the lagoon. There were no Pelicans, as it’s getting late in the year for them, however, we did spot some burrows that likely contained otters. As we crossed the bridge over the lagoon’s inlet, Sarah spied a cute little River Otter that popped its head up several times to check us out before vanishing – yay!
Rodeo Lagoon Trail
A short uphill walk found us back at the car, just an hour after we’d started. Despite the somewhat iffy weather and low bird numbers, this was a very fun pair of walks, and we were glad to get some nature in before family and holiday obligations made going out difficult.
– Accipiter sp.
– American Coot
– Black Phoebe
– Brewer’s Blackbird
– Common Goldeneye
– Common Raven
– Cooper’s Hawk
– Golden-crowned Sparrow
– Great Egret
– Greater Scaup
– Pied-billed Grebe
– Red-tailed Hawk
– Ring-billed Gull
– Turkey Vulture
– Western Gull
– Western Scrub-Jay