For the second part of our tour of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, we are going to head back across Marshlands Road and take the Harrier Spur Trail along the slough which circles around to the Tidelands Trail and the Newark Slough Trail to the salt ponds. Click on photos for full sized images.

As we make our way down the Harrier Spur Trail, the slough on our left gives up good views of foraging Willets and Greater Yellowlegs as well as a juvenile Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) sunning itself on the shore.

Double-crested Cormorant

There were also Northern Harriers flying low over the marsh as well as Common Ravens playing on the wind and Turkey Vultures showing off their soaring skills.

This is Hilltop Overlook as we look back over the marsh toward the refuge headquarters. In the upper left of the photo you can see agave plants on the hillside, remnants of the public park former landowner August Schilling (of Schilling Spice fame) tried to establish on the south end of this hill. Look for Anna’s Hummingbirds here when the agave is in bloom.

Hilltop Overlook

As the Harrier Spur Trail merges with the Tidelands Trail heading north, we can see the bridge crossing over the Newark Slough and the salt ponds on the left.

Newark Slough

Once you cross the bridge there are interpretive signs explaining the history of the salt ponds and their importance to the resident and migrating birds.

Salt Ponds Interpretive Sign

The Don Edwards San Francisco National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 46.88 square miles and contains more than 30 miles of hiking trails. From here, taking the Newark Slough Trail to the left takes you along the salt ponds where several species of shorebirds feed in the open water.

The small black outline on this map represents the visitor center trail map above. Looking at this gives you an idea of how extensive this refuge is.

Don Edwards Trail Map

Heading south along the salt ponds you might see flocks of Dowitchers (Limnodromus spp.)

Dowitchers

Or a Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) resting on an old wooden structure, most likely part of the old salt production apparatus.

Savannah Sparrow

When I was there at the end of March, I came across a large mixed flock of shorebirds.

Shorebirds

As I approached to get a closer view of the flock, I was able to distinguish several different species enjoying the bounty offered by these huge salt ponds. The Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), being one of my favorites, stood out in the crowd right away.

Black-necked Stilt

Then I noticed a flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls (Chroicocephalus philadelphia), one of our winter visitors.

Bonaparte's Gull

And as I carefully scanned the flock, a Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) made an appearance among the Dunlins, Greater Yellowlegs, Willets, and peeps. I placed it right in the middle of the frame to make it easier to spot.

Black-bellied Plover

And of course, a favorite of nearly everyone, the American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), showing off that beautiful orangy buff head and neck in breeding plumage.

American Avocet

Stay tuned for the final iteration of Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge as we head back up north on the Newark Slough Trail to complete the loop back to the visitor center. Several historic landmarks are seen on this final leg of our trip as well as several species of ducks with video to enhance your viewing pleasure 😉

Be sure to watch the informative video of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Complex at the top of the sidebar giving you an overview of the seven National Wildlife Refuges that make up this incredible treasure of wildlife habitat in California.

You may also want to check out what’s happening this summer at the refuge by visiting their “summer activities” page. Just looking at all these activities offered turns me green with envy of the residents down there!

If you haven’t already done so, please click on the Facebook widget in the side bar and “Like Us” on Facebook, and if you are interested in showing support for our project, check out the “About Us” page, send us your information and we’ll add you to the page! Also tell your friends about the Wildlife Conservation Stamp project and help us spread the word!

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