Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Palo Alto Baylands

Palo Alto Baylands in the Winter

 Sometimes it may seem as if you can't get away from the traffic and noise of the Bay Area; even the natural areas are often full of people, but there is one place you are sure to find moments of peace and quiet - the Palo Alto Baylands. This 940 acre wetland preserve is one of the largest in the San Francisco Bay. In the spring and fall it is a haven for birds, which use it as a stopover on the Pacific route of their migratory flyway. Winter brings high tides, which means closer viewing of the birds and photographic scenery.

Northern Shovelers
 To get there: From highway 101, take the Embarcadero Road East exit. Drive 3/4 mile to the end of the road. Turn left to enter the preserve. There are several parking lots down the road.

Green Winged Teal

There are fifteen miles of trails, great for birding, walking, running and biking. Dogs are allowed on leash, sailboarding and canoeing/kayaking is also allowed. My favorite activity at the Baylands is photography (sans kids). I've spent many wonderful hours there misidentifying birds and taking photos that aren't quite sharp enough. It is very peaceful listening to lapping water and bird song, if it wasn't for the planes that fly to and fro from the neighboring Palo Alto Airport, it would be perfect. If you have the time (and a babysitter),  I highly recommend spending a few hours by yourself unwinding from the stress of everyday life.

Anna's Hummingbird

If you do bring the family, be sure to visit the EcoCenter -a building that looks like a huge riverboat - located across from the main duck pond. Some of its' many activities include touchscreen exhibits, natural history displays, science and nature talks and after-school programs for children. Winter hours are Saturdays, 10 -3pm. Regular weekday hours will resume March 1 (no info yet on what those will be).

The EcoCenter

The other building to visit is the Lucy Evans Interpretive Center, located within site of the Palo Alto Airport.  It's open Thurs - Sun, 2 - 5 pm and offers nature walks and classes and has a boardwalk trail that takes you out over the wetlands (where you could not normally walk).  In the spring, my favorite activity at the Center is watching the hundreds of swallows frantically trying to fill up their hungry babies, chirping from nests under the building's eaves.


Lucy Evans Interpretive Center

The Palo Alto Baylands has the kind of beauty that you must take time to appreciate. At first glance, it may seem empty and boring, but if you take the time to walk around and really look at the plants and birds, you will see how beautiful it is. And the best thing is, each time you visit it will be different; the tide will have changed, the sky may be sunny or gray, the air still or windy and you will probably spy birds you haven't seen before. Once I saw a Burrowing Owl, another time I saw a Ring Necked Pheasant. There are Great Herons, Night Herons, White Pelicans, various ducks, plovers, hawks - there is a reason it is considered one of the best birding spots on the West Coast.
I hope I've inspired you to visit!

White Tailed Kites

Anna's Hummingbird

Northern Shovelers


fototaker said...

great blog. love the pixs too!! thanks for blogging of such a great spot that is a good spot to get-away to any time of the year

Karen Gough said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I want other people to discover it, but not so many that it gets crowded! :-)