Saturday we visited Abbotts Lagoon. We were in Pt. Reyes for the weekend with some friends, and I had my mind set on an Abbotts Lagoon visit.
My first ever trip to Pt. Reyes was in something like ’97 or ’98. My co-worker friends took me to Abbotts Lagoon. And, I fell in love with Pt. Reyes right then and there. Without even being there for that long, and for hardly ever visiting much after, I became a supporter of Pt. Reyes by making them one of my two primary big donation places back when I had my tech job. It’s bizarre to me now how little I knew of the place, and yet how much I wanted to support it. I was terribly excited to return as a naturalist and see what all I recognized there.
We enjoyed our usual drive out to the trailhead. What looked like Wild Radish / Jointed Charlock made the meadows look alive with wildflowers on our arrival. It was pretty quiet on that incredibly warm and sunny day to start. My impression was that we wouldn’t see a whole lot until we got to the lagoon and ocean. I WAS WRONG.
After Brian spotted a Spotted Towhee (that I didn’t even get to see), our trail was pretty empty. Maybe it was too hot out? But, after about ten or so minutes of walking, I saw a small group of California Quail ahead on the trail. We watched them pick at the ground and scurry off into the Coyote Brush. As we approached where they darted off, A SNAKE crossed from one end of the trail to the other. It was long and thin! Brian saw a green stripe down its body, so the best guess is Aquatic Garter Snake, I believe. Will need to see what snake observations have been made there, but WOW! I pretty much never see snakes! It was exciting.
We heard a bird sound that was familiar but not obvious, and then we spotted a wren on top of a bush. Our best guess is Pacific Wren, but I’m not positive on that. Wish we’d been able to see it longer or get a photo.
As we got closer to the lagoon, we started seeing blooming Trailing Blackberry (I think), Pacific Aster, Pacific Pea, and Milkmaids. And, then I spotted a yellow flower I didn’t recognize. Slender Yellow Woodsorrel! A newtome snake and flower, and we hadn’t even reached the lagoon yet!!
We made it to the east side of the lagoon and saw a Great Blue Heron across the way in a sea of greenery. A Common Raven appeared to want to annoy it, but there was not much reaction. We crossed the bridge that goes over the connecting part of the two lagoon pieces, and an odd scattering of large bones and seagull-looking feathers was on display to our right. What happened there exactly?
On the sandy bits, I saw some blooming Oregon Gumplant and Searocket. And, in the main / west part of the lagoon, three Eared Grebes were diving. Closer to the ocean, a couple blooming Beach Suncups were enjoying the sunshine. We were at the very end of the lagoon where it’s closest to the ocean, and we saw a Sanderling. LIFE BIRD! We thought it was a Snowy Plover, but photo IDing it later proved us wrong. It was hanging out with some Least Sandpipers. And, at one point, they were all nuzzled into their bodies, seemingly to protect themselves from a relatively mild wind that picked up. Guess when you’re that small, you have to batten down the hatches pretty early?
The ocean was amazing. Large waves crashed as we got to it. An Osprey flew over to the ocean from SOMEWHERE. And, some Surf Scoters were out surfing the waves. We sat for a bit to take our break and just breathe it all in. Oh, and as Brian walked into the surf a little, he saw tons of small crabs get whisked out of the sand by the waves only to get flung back when the waves came back.
Heading back, we noticed crab pieces in many places on the beach. Even intact claws! Turns out they were Dungeness Crabs. Guess that’s what those fishing bits were for near the bridge?
We were at the edge of the lagoon where a young guy and his dog on leash were. Brian mentioned that there was a sign saying “No Dogs” when we started the trail. So, he said something to this guy about it. And, the guy said he was a biologist. And, his dog was a senior dog. And, he was out looking at the plants and whatnot.
We were not accepting of this excuse, but what can you do. Glad we said something, though. I almost always don’t say something and end up wishing later I had. So, I was so thankful Brian was willing to do it. Ridiculous “excuse” if I ever heard one for such a thing. If you’re “a biologist” then you should know better! HELLO.
Looking at the main part of the lagoon again, we saw some brown creatures bopping about at the surface. NORTH AMERICAN RIVER OTTERS! In total, we saw FIVE. It was AWESOME. I never thought I’d see one in real life. Like, ever. We watched them play and swim and dive constantly. There were signs at the bridge to give them space and not crowd the bridge if they looked like they wanted to pass under. It’s one of those things that I practically always disregard, as I assume I won’t see the cool thing described. So, there you have it. YOU NEVER KNOW.
Fortunately, I got a couple photos of them in focus. And, I reported my sighting to the River Otter Project site. Yay!
Our walk back was relatively uneventful (minus one additional sighting of a snake by Brian), as many more folks were coming in at that point. But, how fantastic it was to come back and know the flora there now. And, to see quail and snakes. And, a newtome flower. And, a LIFE BIRD. And, flippin’ RIVER OTTERS! I don’t know if we could’ve taken any more sightings that day. It was FULL TO THE BRIM, FOLKS!