The wide range of landscapes that make up the national seashore always amazes me. I have made Point Reyes my home for nearly 35 years and there are Still areas that are brand new to me.
One such magical place was revealed on my birding walk with the Environmental Action Committee’s Annual Point Reyes Birding Festival this past weekend. Our group met not long after dawn in the freezing cold and foggy parking lot of Drake’s Beach. The wind was whipping through this natural wind tunnel as we layered on hoods, jackets, sweaters and gloves for the morning hike.
Heading down the beach to the northeast we took advantage of the low tide to walk well below the Drake’s Beach cliffs and the wind. The tide pools in the beach rocks were exposed to reveal hundreds of green sea anemones, barnacles, mussels, sea stars and other creatures. Shorebirds, including turnstones, plovers and oyster catchers were foraging along the sand and rocks.
A ways down the beach the cliffs dropped and a lightly used trail headed up the ravine to the top of the hill. Ascending, as we wove our way through the poison oak and ceanothus, we passed pink mallows, hedge nettle, California poppies, three types of lupine, beds of blue Douglas iris, pussy ears, buttercups, blue-eyed grass, mule ears, lotus foot trefoil, and cow parsnip.
Near the top of the rise we walked very near the arbors of a eucalyptus stand beneath us that sheltered a great white egrets’ roost. The colony shimmered white in the fog, hunkered down on their branches in the cold.
To the west we looked down over the Phillip Burton Wilderness Area of Drake’s Estero. A colony of harbor seals were hauled out there on a sand bar with a couple dozen pups, small and black in their new fur. All were resting on land but vigilant as a coyote trotted along the main beach, perhaps looking for a land bridge to get across the water to a nourishing meal. We speculated that if hungry enough it would swim across the channel but no such encounter happened while we watched.
At the top of the hill we trained our scopes on a grazing tule elk in the mist. A white tailed doe and her fawn sprinted up the hillside through the scrub. A number of song sparrows and other lgb’s trilled in the brush around us, the only sound we could hear as we lingered in the peace and quiet.
All in all, it was a richly rewarded effort, well worth the cold and damp. Just a few hours after we had set off, all were headed over the Inverness Ridge back to Point Reyes Station and the warm sunshine – only twenty minutes distant but a world away.