One recent foggy morning I couldn’t think of anything that needed to be done in the garden badly enough to work in the mist again. Instead I decided to spend some outside time in a place that is quite near and yet feels as if it is miles away. It took only a few minutes to drive east of Davis to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. Everyone in town knows where this is…you might just not know what it is. The Wildlife Area is located by the causeway that connects us to West Sacramento and consists of almost 16,000 acres that provide seasonal and permanent wetlands along the Pacific Flyway. Wintering waterfowl as well as other birds and animals abound and it is always a fun escape.
It was foggy as we drove up onto the levee and down into the parking lot at the entrance. Signs clearly mark the direction to take for the auto tour which was our plan. The other direction leads to an area set aside for hunting. As we drove along the foggy road we were alone and although we started out very near the causeway we soon felt as if we were in another place altogether.
We could hear waterfowl and blackbirds and we saw several egrets off to the side of the road. I don’t recall seeing egrets when we first moved to Davis over thirty-five years ago but they are easy to spot now, often standing in fields along County Road 102. Common as they may now be, they are still impressive birds. Being able to stop and watch as one lifts off to fly over the dried grasses is a thrill and in the fog it seems almost magical. The lone Great Blue Heron we spied was too far off to photograph…and this is why you might want to bring binoculars. We also saw many small birds in the dried grasses along the canals and in the flooded areas, but since I had neglected to grab my binoculars I was out of luck in being able to identify any but the blackbirds.
The other abundant residents were ducks of various types; not being able to identify them didn’t lessen the enjoyment of seeing large groups swimming, foraging and taking off to fly a few feet and forage some more.
We are fortunate to have such a great viewing opportunity so nearby. The Wildlife Area is open from sunrise to sunset except for times when it is flooded. The Bypass was constructed in the early 1900s as a flood control system and as such it may be closed when we experience heavy winter rains…a good thing! The auto tour takes about an hour depending on how often you stop and perhaps get out, as I did, to try to get a better view. If you’ve never been out to the Wildlife Area (and even if you have been) you might consider joining in on one of the regular tours held the second Saturday of each month from October through June. Having someone to help you learn to spot and identify wildlife will make you a convert!