Point Molate and Point Potluck with Michael and Jeff 6.10.19

We approached our last hike of the season with a few qualms because some highway construction initially seemed to tangle our way, the forecast was in the hot-for-us 90’s and reluctance to realize that it was the final hike for our Spring Footloose 19. But these hesitation steps have a way of working out: Jeannie our stalwart navigator checked out the route ahead of time and sent us clear and helpful directions, Michael pointed out that being by the water on a hot day was really cool and Fall Footloose 19 was coming up just over that hill called summer.

Point Molate and the location of our potluck lunch at Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor (Sorry there isn’t a Point Potluck but we’re always eager to discover that one.) are in a forgotten part of the Bay shore at the eastern end of the Richmond San Rafael Bridge. We began at Pt. Molate Beach Park where Jeff, a co-owner of the yacht harbor, introduced us to the area and we all needed this being the first time for most of us there. I’d like to report that there was a Chief Molate who was known for his inclusiveness, kindness and wisdom but . . . Pt. Molate seems to be an Italian word for “grind” in one source and derived from “molare”, the word for molar . Of course, the ever timely internet ads on the page had information on dental implants to help with the grinding. We hope that the word continues to sail by itself linguistically rather than finding bad company with a prefix like “im”. Point San Pablo is probably easier as it finds itself along San Pablo Bay.

Mt. Tamalpais where we hiked last week seems a little wispy and etherial today like a memory that has begun to lose some of the detail. But the white Radar Dome from the 50s, an artifact from the cold war, continues to attract our attention. The Richmond – San Rafael Bridge was opened in 1956 so that each share roots and construction techniques from in the first half of the 20th Century. Should you want the excitement of virtually crossing the bridge there’s a video at the end of the various photo options on this link. The span in the middle of the bridge gracefully dips in the connection between the two identical sections roller-coaster-esquely. Prior to the construction there was a group that fought for the span to have a high arch in at the middle but due to the significant extra cost of the steel, economy won the day.


Jeff introduces us to some of this area’s history with some additional live streaming from Michael.

Jeff continues his introduction bravely not quite sure if Michael will spot another passing hawk or osprey.

We arrived Monday morning after the weekend here and Point Molate Park had lots of debris from Sunday’s picnics. We pitched in to clean up some of the area. We’d done this another time with Armando on North Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore picking up plastic debris. Both looked a lot better after some group attention proving the old adage that “many hands make light work”.

Point Molate Beach was a lovely short hike as Michael pointed out the passing flora and fauna. We were almost the only ones there.

An osprey perches on a piling, sounds like a children’s rhyme. As Jeff told us, there are a remarkable number of osprey in this area which speaks well about the available food sources. He told us that they did not have a recent history here making this concentration of birds all the more remarkable. We saw a number of them flying over with fish in their talons. Michael relayed that they juggle the fish around so the head is facing forward which I’d imagine helps a lot with the aerodynamics. He said that he saw an osprey catch a ray one time and the bird kept juggling it because there was no clear head forward.

The following photo gives you an idea of where we saw an osprey but the links show photos done with long lenses adding really incredible detail.


There was an osprey nest on a utility pole down the road on the way to the yacht harbor as well. I found a youtube video that covers the nesting dynamics beautifully.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQOVcP67zFM Amazing video of an osprey in Scotland diving and securing a trout for a dinner flight.

Multi-colored rocky exposure along the beach. Here’s another splendid article, this one from the 2006 pages of Bay Nature Magazine. It talks of the proposed and now quashed casino at Pt. Molate and the elephant in the room – the Chevron Refinery. Just over the hill there’s some exquisite nature, the “last piece of coastal prairie within the Bay.” “The rock underlying the Point San Pablo peninsula is a geologic layer cake of sandstone and shale known as Novato Quarry terrane.”

Nature collaging

Michael and the life cycle of lined shore crab : https://www.inaturalist.org/guide_taxa/181296
IMG_1021 2 on Vimeo

Michael spotted this grass at the end of our walk before we turned around, said it was the largest specimen that he’d seen. Diana was able to pull up the name with an app on her cellphone called SEEK which is part of iNaturalist. She loves using the app though, of course, it doesn’t know everything.
Called Arrow grass, pod grass or goose grass (Triglochin maritima) “It prefers wet alkaline soil . . . flourishes in marshy ground and growing in native meadows cut for hay.” https://csuvth.colostate.edu/poisonous_plants/Plants/Details/58
This site is from Colorado State Veterinary Teaching Hospital emphasizes that the plant is highly toxic containing a poison which produces hydrogen cyanide when it hydrolyses in the rumen of cattle and sheep. The cyanide prevents the hemoglobin from releasing oxygen to the tissues and death results rapidly from anoxia. It causes this severe difficulty breathing and rapid respiratory rate often with sudden death perhaps the only presenting sign. Game over.

Mixed use beach

tidal artistry

Off the beach with a helping hand and The Richmond – San Rafael Bridge – the dip and the distance.

As the map caption indicated, “The road is bumpy but the destination is worth the drive.” We arrive at the Pt. San Pablo Yacht Club after a rigorous ride. Michael’s friends, Jeff and his co-owner Rob, opened the yacht club building to us for our potluck, it was cool and lovely shade
on a hot day.
Pt. San Pablo Yacht Habor – a hidden harbor in the SFBay area Welcome to Point San Pablo Harbor

The charm offensive began as we arrived with these greeters.

Coming in for a landing or is it to a landing at the Point San Pablo Harbor. Can you spot the osprey nesting column amid the masts?

Reconnoitering the room and continuing the conversation which has gone on since the 1980s.

The salad course

And to go with the coffee, thanks to Michael for this shot



Meanwhile a suggestion of the Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai was rising outside. We saw this on one of our other hikes, do you recall where?

Only to be a false alarm on this mellow day

Many thanks to Michael’s friends, Jeff and Rob, at the Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor for their kindness and hospitality to us on today’s adventure.

Carquinez Strait with Michael 5.27.19

There was roadside parking along the Carquinez Scenic Drive as we have our Monday morning “gather”. Jeannie is getting our symphony together as we arrive and are tuning up for the hike. Instruments are in place and sounding good: hiking poles, back packs, sun hats, water bottles, comfy shoes, layered clothes and the not so secret ingredient – sunscreen. Now to find Michael who arrived earlier to check out the scene.

Carquinez Strait has an exotic echo reminding us of “faraway places with strange sounding names”: Strait of Gibraltar, Strait of Malacca, Strait of Hormuz, Strait of Magellan, the Bosporous Straits, Kerch Strait, Strait of Messina, Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Sunda Strait and many more that qualify but don’t use the strait word. It’s defined as “A narrow channel joining two larger bodies of water.” Strait – definition of strait by The Free Dictionary Often these connections are turbulent and challenging adding the second meaning of “A position of difficulty, perplexity , distress or need: as in dire straits.” Imagine you are a character in a Joseph Conrad novel and in the dark of night you can’t sleep so while wandering the deck you fall off your sailing ship into the Sunda Strait, you would know instantly what straitened circumstances were all about! With our hike we hope it will more be the connection between Suisun Bay & the San Pablo Bay en route to San Francisco Bay and not be the latter: difficult, stressful or even strait-laced.

The Carquinez name comes from the Karkin (“Carquin”) a linguistic subgroup of Ohlone Native Americans who lived in the area on both sides of the Strait. Benicia Magazine gives some fine, brief highlights of with valuable links:
http://www.beniciamagazine.com/April-2019/Beauty-Trails-Wildflowers-Intriguing-History-Along-The-Carquinez-Strait/ n.b. you can see Mare Island in the photo.


https://baynature.org/article/carquinez-breakthrough/ This beautifully written background for Carquinez Strait from 2006 is still ringingly relevant. It develops some of the rich geologic and social history of the area.
Ms. Wong works for the Natural Reserve System, University of California. Kathleen Wong, Author at UCNRS

Jurassic Park is with us . . . what’s that just peeking out of the shrubbery over there?


IMG_0810 on Vimeo – Michael and the group warming up in the sunshine. . . the butterfly, a Chalcedon or common checkerspot, had lost some of its left wing but flew away after the warm-up.

This is our black obelisk for the day, it kept appearing along the trail. What is it for, what do you think?

Chaldecon (or common) Checkerspots feeding on the Aesculus californica in bloom (California Buckeye). A lot of Checkerspot photos have preponderant orange but ours were more yellow which may be why they are also called variable checkerspots. The perfume of these flowers has a wonderful, delicate sweetness that makes it well worth a linger. Checkerspots here are finding a bonanza of pollen and nectar on these stately blooms. “All the sweetly fragrant flowers of this tree provide a rich pollen and nectar source for native bees, hummingbirds and many species of butterflies. . . . the pollen is hazardous to honey bees, none of which are native to California. The term “buckeyed-bees” is used to describe non-native bees that hatch deformed, with crippled wings or malformed legs and bodies from their feeding on the Buckeyes. The large seeds contain glucoside aesculin – a toxic compound similar to those found in rat poisons.” Native bees have evolved to be unaffected but you don’t want to roast the California Buckeye chestnuts on an open fire or anywhere else.


https://vimeo.com/339667840 Michael discussing Buckeyes and Butterflies.

Is it a black or red elderberry? Michael remembers that a pyramidal bloom (recalling the pyramids, maybe in a red sunset) is the red elder and the flat bloom that we see here is black elder. There seems to be an entire elderberry universe on the internet mainly speaking of black elders pleasing taste and medicinal qualities along with cautionary notes about the red being something that nature wants us to avoid.

Black Elderberry, Sambucus nigra
Red Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa | Native Plants PNW

We find a neat overlook on this placid Memorial Day belying the vast amount of water pouring through this strait from the Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems. Michael shared that this area was between two California mountain systems: the Sierra Nevada and the California Coastal Ranges. We talked of a variety of things and were about to hear about Langmuir Circulation which forms parallel lines or windrows on the water’s surface when a C5-A started a straight line across the strait toward our little group. This proved to be the ultimate scene stealer. I captured the dramatic approach but for some reason the close-ups blurred out, perhaps it was my plough shares mentality. But I’ve added some links that do credit to our amazing now 50 year old cargo giant, does that mean retirement is “in the wings”. I wondered if we were seeing the plane flying into the future and not, of course, moving my iPhone in the excitement of the moment. We’re we seeing it flying into history?

You can see the Langmuir lines in the video of the strait as well as well as enjoying some fascinating connections that Michael seems to always have at the ready.

https://vimeo.com/339767837 Hiking with Michael reminds me of the superb “Connections” series with James Burke. We’re not only introduced to what we may be seeing in the patterns of nature but then there’s the pull back to the big, over-arching picture all done with a generous additions of humor and poetry.
James Burke: Connections – Top Documentary Films

Lines On Water: Langmuir Circulation- often a nature lover’s destination | Center for Environmental Communication | Loyola University New Orleans This is a description of Langmuir Circulation that gets well into the challenging physics but also reminds that these “windrows” are places rich with wildlife and a naturalists destination and delight.
Irving Langmuir House – Cliodelight. Having grown up in the Schenectady area, I’ve always claimed Irving Langmuir as a part of my “extended family”! My father who was an electrical engineer at GE Schenectady (1923-1963) until his retirement always spoke of Langmuir in fairly hushed tones.

It being Memorial Day, people were enjoying the holiday with us along the George Miller Trail

with lots of four footed hikers as well, with . . .

runners on the left not to be left out.

Clouds begin to gather later in the morning with the outline of Mt. Diablo’s two tops in the distance upper right. Michael mentioned that it had been suggested and oft repeated as the second-most available vantage point for seeing earth’s land mass (viewshed) following the first, Mt. Kilimanjaro. As the following links point out, while having spectacular views this was unsubstantiated and may have originated from a realtor’s claim while trying to sell property on the peak.

A closer view of Mt. Diablo’s summit and the feeling of a more tropical island with all of the green surrounding us.

Be fruitful and multiply, here an acacia is heavy with seed pods. The tree also provides some of the springtime pollen from a blazing yellow stance to allergy sufferers though not the only culprit, don’t forget the oaks.
https://vimeo.com/339788122 Michael talks about the acacia name thorns and all.
28 Species of Acacia Trees and Shrubs
See amazing acacias in bloom at UC Davis | San Luis Obispo Tribune

Eric E. Conn Acacia Grove | UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden

We stop by a Coulter Pine (Pinus coulteri) along our path which was named “after Thomas Coulter, an Irish botanist and physician”. . . The outstanding characteristic of this tree is the large, spiny cones which are 20-40 centimeter (8-16 inches) long, and weight2-5 kg (4-10 lbs) when fresh. . . the largest pine cones of any pine tree species.” https://calscape.org/Pinus-coulteri-(Coulter-Pine) http://www.treesforme.com/coulter_pine.html

Off the trail and up the hill for a scenic lunch spot with the clouds having a nice mountain moment.

Tugs awaiting their next assignment which might include a 600 foot-long ocean going tanker. The water near the bridges between Martinez and Benecia in the background used to be the scene of the Mothball Fleet which now after many years have been removed.

?? A few guesses were: pad for port-a-potties, wheel chair vista points but the view was mostly trees, a tee-off spot for golfing and you can add many more!


Earlier this month one of our hiking alumnas, Sharon Jones, celebrated her big Eight-O at the Benecia Veterans Memorial Hall. Sharon grew up in Benicia and her husband Chris said he recently learned that she was a very successful athlete there. She played tennis and was a swimmer in high school and was such a success that she was named not just champion of the year but “Champion of the Decade.” She met Chris when he was in the U.S.Navy while he was participating in a blood drive. Sharon was the nurse doing the drawing, all on Treasure Island! Hugs from us all.

Here is a Vimeo video of the moment that was very much “In the Mood”. https://vimeo.com/337044987

Chris and Sharon after a Foortloose Hike with Michael at Pt. Reyes National Seashore

Randall Trail to Bolinas Ridge with Michael 5.13.19

Route # 1 in west Marin was placid and pastoral last Monday morning, sweet time for quiet reflection, but maybe not always. With winter storms coming in from the nearby Pacific each year along with the falling tree limbs and low sections of highway under water the road can be transformed into a very different scene.

Or on other days, it has “hosted” the Sunday Morning Ride with maybe 100 motorcycles rumbling and roaring by this spot in a wonderfully strident, blurry cacophony. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKRHHZUI26w https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rikDXmoMOWo

But maybe the best moment was at 5:12 AM on April 18, 1906 when a great earthquake swept right up this roadway. It wasn’t the road we see today but probably more of dirt than other materials and used by farmers to deliver their butter and produce to Bolinas for San Francisco tables. The route 1 we see today took shape and became the official coastal highway in 1934. The fascinating part, the road is almost an exact borderline between two vast land masses – the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate. I could be on the North American Plate taking this picture and waving to my friends on the Pacific Plate as it’s quietly making its way up the coast north to Alaska. Back on that day in 1906: “Within 30 seconds of the start of the main rupture, very strong shaking had swept throughout the entire San Francisco Bay Area and lasted some 45 to 60 seconds. . . . picture standing face to face with a person on the opposite side of the fault and watching them slide horizontally 32 feet to your right! . . . Earthquake ruptures travel at phenomenal speeds. Seismologists have estimated the average speed of the 1906 rupture along the San Andreas Fault to the north of the epicenter to be 8,300 mi/hour (3.7 km/sec).”!


The Randall Trailhead became our jumping off spot, initially we were going to take the McCurdy trail up to Bolinas Ridge and then return down the Randall Trail. But with minimal parking along the highway this proved to be the best beginning for our hike.
Like the other “alphabet” ranches on the Pt. Reyes Peninsula in the mid-19th Century the Shafter Law firm also owned the land that was purchased in this Olema Valley area. The 200 + acres of the what became the Hagmaier Ranch, now the Pt. Reyes Field Station area, was purchased by Benjamin Miller in 1861 “for a total price if $3,264.05, or about $15.00 and acre. . . . Miller was infamous for the murder of his neighbor, William Randall, whose ranch is east and north of the field station along Highway 1. Apparently the two ranchers had a long-standing dispute about property boundaries. The Randall homestead is easily identified by the boarded up white clapboard and shingle house a little ways north of the field station on State Highway 1 and now home to a number of bat species. Mr. Miller remained at his ranch during his murder trial and was never jailed for the crime, eventually moving to Watsonville in 1869 where he died in 1879.”

Cf. https://pointreyes.berkeley.edu/history/

The trail was named for the widow of William Randall, Sarah, an early pioneer of the Olema Valley.


Originally, our hike was titled Hagemier Pond Loop from the Hagemier Ranch name. The pond is near the bottom of the hill and we visited it on one of our previous incarnations on June 7, 2010. There is a north Hagemier Pond but I think this is South Hagemier Pond. The pond has a colorful recent history of skinny dipping, I’d always wondered driving by on a weekend what all the cars were about, what kind of event was going on there?

https://www.mercurynews.com/2009/06/19/marin-residents-upset-about-lewd-behavior-at-nude-beach/ Here’s an article in the San Jose Mercury News picked up from the Marin Independent Journal that explains my confusion or was it curiosity? It is quite descriptive of the downside that alarmed many who came to the Muir Beach discussion about a nearby clothing optional beach so you might want to avert your gaze. We hope Hagemier Pond kept it all clean and bright. On the other hand, this is what many regard as a natural expression which naturists and others have embraced for a very long time. I recall another angle in the 1938 painting by Thomas Hart Benton, “Susanna and the Elders” that is in the collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. I think the description of prurient interest might be accurate. Or on a lighter note you may remember the delightful Blake Edwards Inspector Clouseau film, “A Shot in the Dark” (1964), which had a hilarious scene of Peter Sellers and Elke Sommer visiting a nudist camp. The IJ article along with detailing concerning behavior said that nudity had never been prosecuted in the past 10 years. But I particularly liked Supervisor Kinsey’s summation of the article, “But there is a difference between naked and nooky.”

But the main question remains. Is this a sag pond or a fresh water pond, I’m still wondering?

Hagemier Pond hasn’t been in the news lately but then again, it’s been raining and chilly for the last six months. Still, you can appreciate the enthusiasm of this message on the gate as we enter.

Our merry band at base camp.

Michael discovers some Thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus. The California Native Plant Society comments that it is in the genus of raspberries and blackberries but unlike most members of the species, it has no thorns. After you nibble the fruit the remainder looks like a thimble. This may indicate an identification when everyone knew what a thimble was. Western Thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus Thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus | Native Plants PNW

Michael mentioned that at one time he was introducing a speaker at the College of Marin by beginning with a short list of some berries native to northern California. This is approximate, “In northern California we have all kinds of berries, there are the elderberry, black berry , goose berry, coffee berry and tonight be have Wendell Berry!” Marie Kondo would like this one from Berry’s “Farming: a handbook”: “Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.” And just in time for summer we have, The Vacation by Wendell Berry | Poetry Foundation. Hmm.

Everyone seemed to be keeping up well even though it was a steady climb . . . and the breathers for various identifications were most welcome.

Michael stopped once to show us some SMUT – some leaves that had turned a bright orange-yellow on one plant and another expression in the dark tangled markings on a California Bay leaf. Smut is a category of plant disease caused by fungi. This kind of smut is new to many of us and full of challenging detail. Just stretching here but large concentrations of aphids can cause (?) or spread a fungus in various plants, ants farm the aphids and store their honeydew (poop) for a favored food supply. https://www.britannica.com/science/smut
IMG_0697 on Vimeo – Michael describes the relationship of ants farming the aphids and exotic storage arrangements for the favored honeydew.

We began to see the lovely Pacific Star Flower which “tends to grow in wet places”. Formerly called Trentalis latifolia but now with a new name, Lysimachia latifolia. Michael commented that it seems to float above its narrow stem. https://calscape.org/Lysimachia-latifolia-()

Just before getting into the Redwoods on Bolinas Ridge we were greeted with this thorough and informative sign. I imagine the part about no drones is in the works. MMWD does a fine job and we have hiked many areas on their beautiful and well-managed lands. Our friend, Armando Quintero, who is one of our former hike leaders has been on their board of directors since 2009, his term continuing until 2020. https://www.marinwater.org/directory.aspx?EID=5

We felt that moment of calming quiet as we entered this Redwood grove and it remained with us. These are second or third growth trees. These hills were covered with enormous virgin Redwoods that were ferociously felled in the 1850s. “It was from Bolinas that the greater portion of the early lumber supply for San Francisco came.” “There was a shingle mill on Randall’s place in 1858 . . . “ http://history.rays-place.com/ca/marin-bolinas-1.htm Cf. Timber and Saw Mills

While we mourn the loss of these magnificent Methuselahs and wonder what the landscape might have been like had that been saved, we can still celebrate areas like this one as well as the older/ancient parks that still contain these gigantic creations of nature. Organizations like “Save the Redwoods League” and Sempervirens Fund continue to buy properties where surprising Redwood groves have gone unseen for decades or known forests that have needed protection.

https://www.savetheredwoods.org/project/harold-richardson-redwoods-reserve/ https://www.savetheredwoods.org/about-us/mission-history/

https://sempervirens.org/about-us/our-history/ https://sempervirens.org/about-us/news-events/

A Yellow Spotted Millipede moving smartly along in the fallen Redwood leaf litter like a Greyhound bus at night moving across the prairie. This may be the orange Marin version but I have a feeling the cyanide is the same.

To the right a motion activated camera provides a 24 hour history of animal life along the trail along with odd iPhone users who might be taking a picture of it.

Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum), Reny Parker writes in her book “Wildflowers of Northern California’s Wine Country . . .” that this native perennial is sometimes called Wake Robin because it appears when the robins return from winter migration. Like all Trillium, parts of the plant come in groups of threes.
The white flower petals change to pink as they age.” p. 120
The second to the right is Andrew’s Clintonia (Clintonia andrewsiana) described by Parker as “a showy pink to rose flower of the coastal redwood forest . . .
Later in the season the fruit berries add another splash of color. They are bright blue and bead-like containing small black seeds, hence, another common name of Blue Bead.” P. 119
How about the other two at the bottom, familiar to any of you?

Our picnic lunch in the redwoods or a “duff on duff” moment.

About to head back down the Randall Trail June 7, 2010

As we started down Michael spotted some red-brown butt rot along the trail and sent us an email identifying it for us, first smut and now this. He said that when you spotted this on a Douglas Fir, the tree was already dead from this attacker, that it takes no prisoners.

View from 2010 on the way down that had grown over for this 2019 hike.  Scott mentioned to me that it seemed like a long way down, even further than the trip up. In order to move us along, I found a video of a mountain biker starting his blog with a first video down the Randall at a smart pace.


Coming back to go and no sherpas needed!

Walking on the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge

Hi Everyone, Here’s a bit of background on “Al Zampa” who was a true icon of San Francisco Bay Area history and a description of the bridge named for him.
Sounds like you all had a fun walk as the rains relented, good timing! I looked up Al Zampa and found some remarkable history.

38°03’43.0”N 122°13’32.3”W – Google Maps – an aerial view of the bridges and the Carquinez Strait

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carquinez_Bridge – Differentiates the two bridges, the suspension bridge carries westbound traffic on Interstate 80 from Vallejo to Crockett opened in 2003 is named for Al Zampa. The older eastbound cantilever bridge next to it routing I-80 traffic the other way was built in 1958. This entry details some of the rich history of this crossing

http://alzampabridge.com/the-man/ – Engaging human history of Al Zampa and his family

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Zampa – Brief vignette of Mr. Zampa and a classic photo

We can add any photos you may have taken of this hike if you wish. Thanks, Z


We hiked with Michael in the hills above Crockett and the Al Zampa bridge just about two years ago on March 20, 2017.

Here are a few photos of the bridge(s) from that time. You may recall the fresh greens of that hike in the hills and the impending rain which finally came down “just in time” for lunch.

The ship is the Golden Bear at the California State University Maritime Academy in Vallejo. CSUMAV is one of 23 campuses in the state university system.

Zipping up with the storm approaching

Las Gallinas Sewer Ponds with Michael – 12/10/18JW

The Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District is a low profile place fun to hike and a stellar place to observe birds at the end of Smith Ranch Road. The land was obtained by the district in 1956 to replace a failing waste water plant in Santa Venetia to serve the northern San Rafael area. The district is well know for The Sewer Band, LGVST Non-Marching Band, celebrating 60 years of performance and community service.
http://www.lgvsd.org/wp-content/uploads/LGVSD-Fight-Song.pdf https://www.thesewerband.com/about-the-band/

This area was an original Mexican land grant of 21,679 acres given in 1844 by Governor Manuel Micheltorena to Timothy Murphy and called Rancho San Pedro, Santa Margarita y Las Gallinas. Las Gallinas means “the hens” so at last we have gotten to the birds. Michael observed a flock of starlings in a tree by the parking lot and shared with us the daunting and amazing history of this bird in America with Shakespeare named as a co-conspirator. The European Starling was one of numerous birds that were transported to the United States and beyond by 19th century enthusiasts who wanted to bring familiar birds and plants to their new world homes.
One particularly dedicated devotee of this “migration” was Eugene Schieffelin, “a 19th-century drug manufacturer and Shakespeare fanatic . . who had not properly
understood the law of unintended consequences when he unveiled his master plan.” Just 32 of the original 100 starlings survived after being set free in Central Park in New York City in the 1890s to become a population of about 200 million in North America today. Amazingly the small gene pool did not seem to get in the way.

From the BBC News magazine: “Ironically, starlings are only mentioned once by Shakespeare – in Henry IV Part 1 Hotspur is in rebellion against the King and is thinking of ways to torment him. In Act1 Scene 3 he fantasizes about teaching a starling to say “Mortimer” – one of the king’s enemies. “Nay, I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but Mortimer, and give it to him to keep his anger still in motion,” Shakespeare wrote. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27055030

https://psmag.com/environment/shakespeare-fanatic-introduced-bards-birds-america-82279 This link is from a newsletter of the Social Justice Foundation which I just discovered. Their website is well worth exploring. The Social Justice Fund Northwest awards grants for progressive social change.



And don’t miss this remarkable video of murmuration included in the All About Birds article.

I also discovered a superb blog about Poetry and Literature at the Library of Congress by Peter Armenti. He invited a guest poster, AbbyYochelson, who is a reference specialist at the Library’s Main Reading Room, to write “Shakespeare Is For the Birds”. She has done remarkable research with some challenging conclusions.
“ . . I could not prove the link between Mr. Schieffelen or the American Acclimatization Society and Shakespeare with any primary sources. I’m still wondering where all those article authors got their source as no citations were provided, but my imagination conjures a scene of Mr. Schieffelen arguing eloquently for the importance of William Shakespeare—with or without birds.”

In this instance, this isn’t a hot-button issue but “received knowledge” needs to be questioned on occasion.


The day started misty and seemed to signal the possibility of rain but we are just re-learning about rain.

One of the pond islands with a lonely palm tree in its profile. The California Fan Palm is the only one native to the state and is found in isolated areas of the Sonoran and Mojave deserts in the southeastern part of the state. It’s foot print extends to southwestern Arizona and northern Baja California. All the other palms have been imported. Another place they’re found is at In-N-Out Burger franchises planted in an “X” shape. Founder Harry Snyder’s favorite movie was the 1963 comedy classic “It’s a Mad,Mad,Mad,Mad World” in which the cast searches for buried treasure hidden beneath crossed palm trees. Maybe hamburgers are the treasures now?

Palms have been used extensively in business and real estate developments in southern and northern California. Canary Island Palms were chosen to line San Francisco’s Embarcadero after the freeway was torn down following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Unfortunately, now many of the trees have contracted a highly contagious fungal disease, Fusarium Wilt, that can ultimately kill them – 34 of the 220 trees had the disease and that was in 2013. To replace them will cost about $35,000 each. A different kind of palm is being used for the replacement, Mexican Fan Palms, less likely to be infected by Fusarium Wilt.

https://www.latimes.com/la-hm-palms8jul08-story.html “Palms in Twilight” article – Poetic and finely descriptive writing by LA Times staff writer Emily Green

A Snowy Egret perch in the morning mist. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Snowy_Egret/overview For all of his elegance, his call is quite surprising.

Two Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) sketch delicate wakes on the glassy surface. Audubon comments that these birds were brought from in Europe as an ornamental addition to parks and estates in North America. It continues, sadly, that in some places this huge and majestic bird has become common enough to be unpopular and is considered a pest. https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/mute-swan https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mute_Swan/id

Some birds in flight grab out attention as we approach a blooming Eucalyptus tree where the search is on for a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes this bird beautifully. “A tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet forages almost frantically thought lower branches of shrubs and trees. Its habit of constantly flicking its wings is a key identification clue.” https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-crowned_Kinglet/overview

Pat and I came back on Tuesday looking for the kinglet and were treated to an Ana’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) sipping some nectar. “This hardy little bird is a permanent resident along our Pacific Coast, staying through the winter in many areas where no other hummingbirds are present. More vocal than most hummingbirds, males have a buzzy song, often given while perched.” https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/annas-hummingbird

Michael is reading to us from the Birder’s Handbook by Paul Ehrlich and others. Ehrlich you’ll recall is famous for his prescient book, “The Population Bomb”. In line with crossing the “t’s” I wondered if Paul Ehrlich and Paul R. Ehrlich were the same person and was happy to see on Wikipedia that they are indeed.
https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Birders-Handbook/Paul-Ehrlich/9780671659899 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_R._Ehrlich
Here Michael is reading about the diurnal (daytime) hunting birds who have dark face feathers (like line backers) and brow ridges to aid their hunt in the brightness of sunlight to dissipate the glare. Nocturnal would describe night time activities and crepuscular refers to animals active during the in-between times of dawn and dusk – twilight actors.

Michael also told us about the efficiency of the bird respiratory system which is explained succinctly in this NYT archive
Should you want to get a master’s degree on this subject, you could start with this article:
http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/birdrespiration.html I like the dinosaur connection with breathing in birds and the info-graphic of Eleanor Lutz in “3 Different Ways to Breathe”.

He also talked about the bird migrations in the northern hemisphere with often phenomenally long flights from colder climates to warm, food rich locations. He pointed out that this is only true in the northern hemisphere where there is a destination in Central and South America as well as in Africa. Here is a fascinating video of the northern hemisphere migratory patterns:

River Otters are resident in the ponds here, we saw a couple of them swimming on a far side. Here Michael pointed out an otter trail through the foliage, there was otter scat at the top of the trail confirming its use. https://www.kqed.org/news/10892643/river-otters-stage-a-comeback-in-bay-area
https://abc7news.com/pets-animals/california-river-otters-making-comeback/3540585/ https://baynature.org/article/welcome-back-otters/
We’ve been fortunate to see River Otters at Pt. Reyes National Seashore off Chimney rock, in a pond on the Estero Trail and where else?

The Black-crowned Night Herons were very happily ensconced on this other small island in the first pond. Michael mentioned that this bird is the most widespread heron in the world . . . “breeding on every continent except Antarctica and Australia, where the genus is represented by the Nankeen(or Rufous) Night-Heron. . . .
“Although widespread and common in North America, its coloration and behavior, as well as its nocturnal and crepuscular feeding habits – – especially outside the breeding season – – render it less noticeable than many diurnal herons.” https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/bcnher/overview/

A Red-winged Blackbird with just a suggestion of his blazing red-orange epaulettes in his favorite environment – cattails.
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/red-winged-blackbird https://www.calflora.org/cgi-bin/species_query.cgi?where-calrecnum=8178

Canada Geese coming in for a not so graceful landing, usually I recall water landings which are as smooth as a Pan Am Clipper. We saw them here and heard their fine honking often during the day. Michael reminds us occasionally that it isn’t “Canadian Geese”, it’s Canada Geese. “This big “Honker: is among our best-known waterfowl. In many regions flights of Canada Geese passing over in V-formation — northbound in spring, southbound in fall — are universally recognized as signs of the changing seasons.” https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/canada-goose

We’re looping another pond and feeling the flatland of San Pablo Bay. Someone suggested that we might help our much maligned utility, PG&E, by adopting one of their enormous transmission towers. We could pick up around it, mow the the weeds, keep it tidy and the view from the top would be awesome. But then on further thought the possibility of being sued for the “ownership” we’d taken, we thought, “Maybe not.”

Lunch on the rocks, we started out with the fog still hanging on and then on top we relaxed in the arriving sunshine.

As we finished lunch, we were treated to the passing of a delightful dog-walker with a fine affinity group.

Pat and I were lucky to spot a Common Merganser on Tuesday, most uncommon to us. These amazing birds have some remarkable feathering variations. The adult breeding male has completely different presentation compared to the one here which is an adult breeding female. I love the hairdo and it seems particularly apropos when you might see her with enormous numbers of ducklings.
Here’s the latest news from Lake Bemidji, Minnesota dated July 24, 2018: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/science/merganser-ducklings-photo.html

I kept waiting for this American Kestrel to turn around but it was not in the program on Tuesday. Even with a bit of fuzziness you can appreciate his markings, those gray feathers are an adult males.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31Xw75hAwIc Here’s a beautiful and surreal video of a Kestrel in flight.
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/attenboroughs-life-stories-video-revealing-kestrel-flight/8151/ Here’s a brief commentary by the inimitable David Attenborough
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/american-kestrel https://kestrel.peregrinefund.org

Since raptors don’t always accommodate us by flying to a nearby perch, there’s an Audubon quiz that helps us id them in the air. https://www.audubon.org/news/identify-raptors-flight

These Mallards next to the path almost look like decoys in the sunshine, the vivid green of the male’s head is muted in some shadows.
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mallard/id https://www.arkive.org/mallard/anas-platyrhynchos/video-06b.html

The distinctive profile of our totemic mountain in Marin County, Mount Tamalpais. We’ve loved the brilliant and beautiful films of Gary Yost on a number of occasions. Here is a superb one on the mountain: https://vimeo.com/289933681 “Mt. Tamalpais Sunrise to Moonset”

Carl Nolte, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter who has worked there since 1961- a phenomenon in himself, writes of Mt. Tam in an article from Sept. 29, 2018:
“Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County is not impressive as mountains go. It’s no Mount Rainier, the centerpiece of the Pacific Northwest, no Mount Shasta, ‘as lonely as God and as white as the winter moon,’ as poet Joaquin Miller called it. The east peak of Tamalpais is only 2,571 feet above sea level. It would not be much of a hill in the Sierra Nevada.
But Tamalpais has something else, It looms over the rolling Marin hills, just north of the Golden Gate, easily visible from most parts of San Francisco. It has a unique
curving profile that romantics claim resembles a sleeping maiden. Tamalpais is swept with wispy fog on summer days and fierce winter winds. It has redwood forests and small towns at its feet.” Here’s the rest of the article with some good background on Gary Yost. https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/nativeson/article/A-day-in-the-life-of-Mount-Tamalpais-in-5-minutes-13267083.php

There’s a small airport on Smith Ranch Road. Another bird overhead, this beautiful Pilatus PC-12 NG just took off from there heading east. European Business Air News calls this plane: “PC-12 — The ultimate aerial SUV” https://www.pilatus-aircraft.com/en/fly/pc-12

Mute Swan saluting the sunshine

Wind power overtaken by a solar array.

Double-crested Cormorant and gull. Sibley writes that the cormorant’s voice is usually silent away from the nest site. But then when he’s home there’s, “Hoarse bullfroglike grunting; and clear spoken yaaa yah ya.” https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Double-crested_Cormorant/id

We pass a Chinese Pistache tree full of berries much enjoyed by the birds and Inge. https://wateruseitwisely.com/plant-of-the-month-chinese-pistache/

Next time to try for the bird but I like the blur, shall we call it soft focus, too.

We could reconsider adopting a transmission tower and then have the fun of this long walk to get there.

From Tuesday, you weren’t forgetting. This ambidextrous Great Egret was perching and balancing in a little dance on a fence overlooking the tules with just
maybe some ulterior motives in mind.

Michael relayed that these magnificent birds were almost exterminated because of the plume trade in the late 1800s, thankfully they recovered rapidly with protection a little into the 20th century. https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/great-egret




A Great Egret, Ardea alba, is the symbol of the National Audubon Society. From the Wikipedia entry notes: “The name of venerable Shariputra, one of Buddha’s followers, signifies “the son of the egret” (among other possibilities), his mother is said to have had eyes like a great egret.”

The back of Michael’s car when we returned – thanks to Michael for another great hike and the birds add their seal of approval.