Yolo Bypass Wildlife Refuge

This afternoon, I spent about three hours at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Refuge, some 25 saure miles of managed habitat for waterfowl just east of Davis, Calif.

Yolo Bypass Refuge

Above: Yolo Bypass Refuge, near parking lot B.

A huge portion of California’s Central valley — about four million acres — was once wetlands. These vast wetlands once provided a winter home to uncounted waterfowl, and resting places for migrating birds. Today there are only 395,000 acres of Central Valley wetlands. (David Carle, Introduction to California Water [University of California Pres, 2004], pp. 37-40).

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Above: Looking west across the wetlands, with the Coastal Ranges visible in the distance.

Even though Yolo Bypass Refuge is heavily managed by humans, and even though Interstate 80 and the skyscrapers of Sacramento are visible from everywhere in the refuge, being there gave me something of a sense of what the pristine Central Valley wetlands must once have been like: birds everywhere, birds in the tens of thousands: ducks, curlews, egrets, heron, owls, blackbirds, sparrows, ibises, coots, falcons, doves, harriers; all those birds supported by the amazing fecundity of the wetlands.

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Above: Sunset near parking lot A.

In three hours of desultory birding (and I’m not a very good birder), I saw forty different species of birds. And I only had time to visit one small corner of the refuge. The vast expanse of wetlands, the diversity of the fauna, the beauty of the land — simply amazing.

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