Monday, December 22, 2008

Why I love the Palo Alto Baylands: It's a Feeding Frenzy!

by Alicia Moore, School Programs Manager

Originally posted on November 11, 2008

Save The Bay works with site partners at roughly 11 sites around the Bay to offer Canoes In Sloughs and Community-based Restoration outings to school groups, community and corporate groups, and members of the public. Each site is special, and offers endless gems, but one of my favorite sites is the Palo Alto Baylands.

The Palo Alto Baylands is one of our most tidally-dependent sites, as it is one of the shallowest and muddiest. But it is precisely this mud that makes Palo Alto one of my favorite sites: it is a treasure trove teeming with life. Within a handful of Bay mud, you can find up to 40,000 living organisms. Now, of course most of these organisms are microscopic (or else you’d have to have a pretty big hand), but all this life within the mud makes for a lot of life outside of the mud.

On any given day, you can go to the Palo Alto Baylands at a lower tide, and see mud flats imprinted with the tracks of avocets, black-necked stilts, great blue heron, western gulls, California gulls, curlews, godwits – the list goes on. Much of the time you will see these tracks ending at the bird that made them. This place is a jackpot for birders who come to feast their eyes on the birds that come to feast their beaks on the macroinvertebrates that come to feast their mouths and valves on the microinvertebrates that come to feast upon the algae, bacteria and detritus within the mud. That’s one big feast!

You can witness this feast as you help us restore this habitat, or you can head on down to the Baylands with a picnic to join this feeding frenzy yourself. Either way, don’t forget to bring your binoculars!

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