It has been two intense weeks. Traveling from San Diego to Sacramento, eating a lot of tacos and stopping in the Carrizo Plains, Los Banos, Mariposa, Yosemite, Bolinas, San Francisco, and many other bizarre towns along the way. So far it has been great. I’m improving my photography through binocular skills and learning a lot about the conservation strategies that USFWS apply in their refuges. In Tijuana Slough NWR we met and volunteered with Debbie Good on a habitat restoration planting herbaceous plants to restore the marsh. What a lively human being; for 20 years her team has worked with volunteers to transform a dump into a functional ecosystem. Birds, mammals, plants, invertebrates and fish can now coexist in this magnificent place.
Leaving San Diego was tough; I oddly started to get feel like home at the hostel. The way to Carrizo Plains National Monument was one of the most scenic roads I have ever traveled. Remote, green, round, “The Hobbit” like mountains combined with the biggest valley I have ever seen covered in wildflowers is a fair description of the place. A clear night sky made the stars look astounding. A breathtaking meteor left us speechless. However, the next two days were cloudy and rainy so we couldn’t go bird watching. Instead, we got stuck in the Carrizo mud making us miss our visit to Piedras Blancas.
San Luis NWR was probably my first insight to refuge management. Located in the Central Valley of California, these wetlands were mostly replaced by agricultural lands where agrochemicals and intensive cropping diminished the wildlife activity in the area decades ago. Now, restored riparian woodlands and human manipulated ponds harbor species year round. The highlight was a rookery of Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets. We also had the opportunity to help count collared Cackling Aleutian Geese, whose population has increased from 800 individuals in 1975 to 40,000 individuals in 2001, resulting in being delisted from the Endangered Species Act.
Being so close to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and not visiting Yosemite National Park would’ve been unforgivable. After San Luis we stayed in a quaint town named Mariposa, the gateway to Yosemite. There we met wonderful people that invited us to go out with them that night, I had never met people so proud and enthusiastic about their small town.
After saying goodbye to Yosemite and Mariposa, we headed to Point Reyes National Seashore. We had the opportunity to visit the Palomarin Field Station where Point Blue Conservation Science has conducted research since 1966. The foggy habitat is full of water loving plants bordering the ocean and bright interns working at the field station. Interns ranged from young couples passionate about bird conservation to brave recent graduates that jumped straight into the field to become experts in the practice.
Follow me and Christian in our Flyway!