Palo Alto Baylands

Palo Alto Baylands

Palo Alto Baylands, June 2011

My friend Alison, who used to live in Palo Alto, dispatched me on my recent travels to the Baylands, a lovely little park that is, as its name suggests, on the bay. It’s got salt marshes and tidal wetlands and a ton of birds. Being an inland desert dweller, I was in bird overload.

A cluster of trees along the main park road – right by the parking areas – played host to snowy egret and black-crowned night-heron rookeries. They were loud and squawky and drew a crowd of big-lens photographers when I was there Friday evening. One of the local birders led me to an Anna’s hummingbird nest with two babies. The tide was out, and the mud flats were covered with willets, marbled godwits, avocets and black-necked stilts.

It got me thinking of Emma Marris’s Rambunctious Garden, which talks about the ambiguity of our thinking about “preservation” of natural spaces in a permanently human-altered world in which “nature” was never static to begin with. It’s an issue that came up repeatedly on my California trip, as people talked about “ecosystem restoration” in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. What exactly is the baseline where aiming to restore to? Does the concept of a baseline even make sense?

Whatever. Kudos to the fine folks of Palo Alto for setting aside the Baylands. Best bird of all was a Forster’s tern fighting a headwind as it circled over the wetlands.