China Camp State Park (10/19/2021)

Today I did something weird for my monthly Day Trip. I went right back to my last Naturing outing, my first class field trip up north. There were some bits on my worksheet for China Camp that I didn’t get because we went way too fast, and I stupidly didn’t take photos of the trail displays for the info. At the field trip, I saw one classmate head back to the Turtle Back Hill Nature Trail, clearly going back to get answers. If I didn’t have a carpool classmate with me and a social thing that evening to get to, I would’ve done the same. So, I went back. And spent WAY MORE TIME there.  

First, I stopped by a completely empty China Camp Village. Gotta go back there once the diner/shop is open. And on a weekday. So empty! Stopped at a pullout spot (Buckeye Point), as I saw a bunch of darkly colored birds on the water’s edge. Scaup! Not sure if Greater or Lesser Scaup. Will need help from Bob&Juli, of course. Also saw Greater Yellowlegs there, and a Snowy Egret. Popular little spot!  

Onto my return to Turtle Back Hill Nature Trail. Got all the photos of the dang displays. AND, I got to take my time, like I do. What a difference 20 degrees cooler and a weekday makes! My first sighting was of three Wild Turkeys. Spotted one as we left last time, but I completely forgot to mention it. Saw way more birds than last time, including a Say’s Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Bushtits, Brown Creeper, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Hutton’s Vireo, and Dark-eyed Juncos. At one point, I stopped on the trail and just looked above me and listened. It was like I was in an aviary, with tons of birds above me chittering away. Also saw what I think were California Gall Wasp galls on a California Black Oak and Gumweed and Hayfield Tarweed and Cramp Balls!  

I finished up there and still had time, so I ventured onto the Back Ranch Meadows Trail. And, I realized how I had fallen in love with China Camp State Park. Yes, the marshy wetlands filled with pickleweed over at Turtle Back Hill were delightful. But Oak Woodlands, my gawd. It is bizarrely comforting to me to be among it.  

I was first greeted by a fruit-filled California Buckeye tree. Soon after I passed it, I spotted a group of Mule Deer grazing in a meadow. I had good company. I took a wrong turn and ended up walking through the China Camp Campsite. It was entirely empty, so I had the place to myself. It’s a nice site! They even have an amphitheatre. Along my walk I encountered all the woodpeckers (Downy, Nuttall’s, Acorn). And a random old (’60s??) car above me on the hillside. Looked like it crashed there and was just left there. BIZARRE. I wanted to climb up to get a better look, but it wasn’t safe, boo. Found the trail I was supposed to be on, and it was all just lovely and Fall-colorful and quiet.  

Made my way out, and I noticed a group of Dark-eyed Juncos flittering away from some squirrels. When I realized the squirrels had long bushy and gray tails, it dawned on me that they were likely California Gray Squirrels! But, they scampered away from me. I’m so used to automatically ignoring squirrels in the city. I should be more conscious outside of it so I can get a good look next time!  

Getting closer to the end, I stopped when I saw a young male Mule Deer super close to me. 50 feet? I just stood there, admiring him. And, he casually walked closer and closer to me, grazing along the way. He got about 30 feet (??) close to me, then walked alongside me. I almost cried I couldn’t believe how close he was. I slowly walked away, not wanting to spook him away. Those precious antlers!  

Approaching my car, I noticed a White-tailed Kite hovering above me. Watched it for a while, even coming up short after diving down into the brush! And, I could see black dots along the bay’s edge past Turtle Back Hill. The tide had gone out, and the shorebirds were feasting.  

So, yeah. I’m in love with China Camp State Park. And can’t wait to return and explore more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: