Rush Ranch with Michael – 5 December 2016

We continued our edgy San Francisco Bay adventure last Monday at Rush Ranch near Suisun City in Solano County. Unlike our hikes at the former Hamilton Air Base in Novato and the Baylands hike near the Petaluma River, the area around Rush Ranch appears to have no history of “ditching and diking”. It is considered one of the best examples of brackish tidal marsh in the United States. This makes it a perfect location to study the original interface between the Bay and its surrounding wetlands. Rush Ranch along with China Camp State park are both part of the San Francisco National Estuarine Research Reserve. Being able to look back at these historic interfaces of land and water can provide invaluable information for future decisions in Bay reclamation and the management this unique ecotone. My favorite article about Rush Ranch Reserve comes from the remarkable BAY NATURE magazine which always provides great writing with verve & vitality and, of course, of a piece is Michael’s “Ask the Naturalist” column.


We reconnoiter by some huge, blooming eucalyptus trees that marked the ranch for us as we arrived. Rush Ranch is a busy place for nature education, has visits from various organizations & schools and is a destination for special events.

We were delighted by some “Dalmatian” horses in the corral and learned that they are a special breed developed by Michael Muir, the great-grandson of our naturalist icon, John Muir.

Observing a visiting raptor

We see that solar energy can also pack a punch, get some cautionary equine information and here’s the very gate through which we began our hike on the Marsh Trail.

Michael answers a bird identification question coming out of the gate. and talks about the English words coming to us from the Quechua language of the Andes. And finally a discussion of another huge bird that flew over – Paul finally sets us straight on the right id – a C 17 Globemaster. Mari and some of the rest of us with our backpacks look a bit like we’ve just parachuted down to arrive on the scene.

a binocular kind of day

Or if you’ve been really good, a view through the scope. Perhaps Semipalmated or Western Sandpipers in a reflective mode but check with Michael, Inge, Karen or Sibley!

Looking out on Suisun Slough

Through the high Jubata grass, Cortaderia jubata, with plumes, the grass that is.

Bristly ox-tongue, Picris echioides, in the aster family like the similar bloom of the Cat’s-ear. ‎ – Fine job by the Marin Audubon Society!

Poison Hemlock beginnings, Conium maculatum: The guide above has this description. “Noxious robust annual weed of levees, disturbed soils with late-spring moisture; often in extensive stands. Purple-blotched stems, fetid scented dissected fern-like foliage. Highly toxic if ingested; toxins may be absorbed through skin.” Michael recalled the classical use of Poison Hemlock in the death of Socrates. – Michael hears a clapper rail and tries to start a conversation with some responses but the larger sound came from another kind of rail – Amtrak!’s_rail

Heading up a hillock for lunch with a view

A picnic by the Slough (part of the slough food movement), Sheri shows off her true colors, Larry does a reprise, we actually have seating with the view and . . . there’s that quartet again.

You might recall that the New York Central Railroad prided itself with a “water level route” following the Hudson River north, the Mohawk River west and bordering the Great Lakes to Chicago. Here we head down the hillock back to our own water level route. Not quite the glories of steam in this video but you get to see that “water level” and hear some haunting whistles.

Some birds along our path starting with the distinctive Kildeer , Great Egret,
Say’s Phoebe and Great Blue Heron and the bird Michael mentioned earlier, Snowy Egret

Brewer’s Blackbirds adding some life to a walnut tree gone quiet at the end of its season.

Peaceable Kingdom: Two Stonewall Sporthorses have a recline in the pasture with a Brewer’s Blackbird doing a flyby and a trio of California Ground Squirrels making a busy backdrop.
Any relationship to unicorns is purely coincidental.

Framed by Eucalyptus trees and the supple hills of Solano County a KV-10A fades into the distance en route to Travis Air Force Base.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s