21 February, 2009:
Jones’ing for a nature fix after not getting out for a couple of weeks due to various reasons, Sarah & I went for a hike at one of our very favorite places, Bon Tempe Lake, in the Marin Municipal Water District.
Located a 40-minute drive north of San Francisco, the MMWD is a nature-lover’s heaven, with many miles of trails, lakes, and wildlife and, seasonally, wildflowers, galore. We paid our $7 entrance fee and parked at the small lot closest to Bon Tempe Lake’s dam. Like all of the lakes in the MMWD, Bon Tempe is an artificial lake, but that hardly detracts from the setting.
The west shore of Bon Tempe Lake
We started hiking just after 2, with cloudy skies and rain in the forecast. Rain be damned, we were going to get in a hike!
As always, after walking across the dam and checking out the nearby birds (Double-crested Cormorants, a lone Western Gull, and a bunch of Ring-necked Ducks), we set out on the Shadyside Trail, which traces the west shore of Bon Tempe Lake.
It being late February, I was hopeful of finding some Fetid Adder’s Tongue, my very favorite early-blooming wildflower, and sure enough, just a few hundred yards into the Shadyside Trail, I spied first one, then dozens, of these dainty little lilies, with their orchid-like leaves.
Fetid Adder’s Tongue
Interestingly, we were to see them in this one spot, and only here. I remembered that in previous years, they’ve been only here too. It’s funny how some plants have such a specific place they like to grow, as there are ample other similar habitats along the trail, but no, this few-hundred-yard square patch of land is their home.
The trail meandered along the lakeshore, among stands of young Coast Redwoods, their ruddy bark darkened by recent rains. Damp redwood duff makes a wonderful hiking surface, and we padded quietly along.
Fungii are another specialty of this area, and we saw a decent variety, although not as many has we’ve seen on previous late-winter hikes. Our friends, avid amateur mycologists, said that the mushroom season has been pretty poor so far this year.
Bridge on the Shadyside Trail
The forest had few birds evident, but I did see a few Dark-eyed “Oregon” Juncos and caught a brief glimpse of a Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Through the trees on the lake, a few more Ring-billed Ducks floated placidly.
Our most abundant early-bloomer, Milkmaids, were strewn all along the trailside, their popcorn-white blooms standing out against the green and rufous of the forest backdrop.
The trail rose and fell gently, and we crossed a pretty little babbling creek, lined in ferns and moss.
We soon emerged from the forest, the terrain turned to grassland, and the flowers mostly vanished, it still being too early for the grassy flowers.
Bon Tempe Lake
A storm was definitely on the wind, but for now it remained dry as we walked toward the south parking/picnic area. “Keer keer” announced an Osprey flying overhead, one of the resident pair that we always see here.
At the south lot, we stopped to enjoy our sandwiches under the watchful eye of a nearby American Crow, then continued on, first on the Sunnyside Trail, then on an un-named cutoff that goes through a sparse forest, rather than tracing the lake shore.
This cutoff features an entertaining colony of Acorn Woodpeckers, and they didn’t disappoint, with 4 individuals seen, flying to and fro, and generally making a racket. An American Kestrel stood atop a branch, looking down on their antics.
The cutoff soon rejoined the Sunnyside Trail, and we hiked along the access road for a quarter mile or so before returning to the trail proper. A rustling in the bushes caught my ear, and some studied staring through my binoculars produced a vibrant Varied Thrush, a common, but rarely-seen, bird in our area. This one stood behind several layers of branches, as is their habit, but we got decent looks at it anyhow.
Bon Tempe Lake
On this day, the Sunnyside Trail failed to live up to its name, but it was a pleasant stroll along the eastern shore of the lake.
Pied-billed Grebes, a solo American Coot, and a half-dozen Mallards grazed near the shore, and a couple of noisy Western Scrub-Jays flitted about from tree to tree. Hound’s Tooth and a few optimistic Douglas Irises popped purple above the greening grass as we made our way back to the parking lot.
At 4:10 we arrived back at the car and headed home; a much-needed storm soon followed. As always, this was a wonderful hike, packing much variety into its short length, and I can’t wait to return in a few weeks when the bloom is farther along!
Time: 2hrs, 5min
Elevation gain: minimal
|Birds seen:||Wildflowers seen:|
Location: Bon Tempe Lake Observation date: 2/21/09 Number of species: 20 Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos 5 + Ring-necked Duck - Aythya collaris 6 Bufflehead - Bucephala albeola 4 Common Goldeneye - Bucephala clangula 2 Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps 3 Double-crested Cormorant - Phalacrocorax auritus 7 Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura 10 + Osprey - Pandion haliaetus 2 Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis 1 American Kestrel - Falco sparverius 1 American Coot - Fulica americana 1 Western Gull - Larus occidentalis 1 + Mourning Dove - Zenaida macroura 1 + Acorn Woodpecker - Melanerpes formicivorus 6 Western Scrub-Jay - Aphelocoma californica 3 + American Crow - Corvus brachyrhynchos 8 + Chestnut-backed Chickadee - Poecile rufescens 1 + Varied Thrush - Ixoreus naevius 1 Dark-eyed Junco - Junco hyemalis 15 Brewer's Blackbird - Euphagus cyanocephalus 1 + = year bird (49 to date) This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)
- California Poppy - Houndstooth - Milkmaids - Fetid Adder's Tongue - Footsteps-of-Spring - Douglas Iris - Fremont's Death Camas - Shooting Stars