City of Palo Alto: The Baylands

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101 to Alviso

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Don Edwards SFBNWR

High Tide at the Palo Alto Baylands Preserve and Byxbee Park, November 26, 2011

On Saturday November 26, 2011, extreme tides were predicted. At the Palo Alto Yacht Harbor, the tides were expected to reach a high of 9.2 feet at 12:19 PM and a low of -1.1 feet at 8:23 PM.  To see the effect of the tides, I went out to the Baylands just before noon and stayed until sunset. These pictures below were taken on that day and show the effects and changes of the tides and lighting throughout the day. For more information about the area and pictures taken at other tidal conditions, see the Palo Alto Baylands links on the left.

Besides seeing the effects of the tides, the primary motivation for going out to the Baylands was to try to capture a picture of the holy grail of Bay birdwatchers: a clapper rail. I had read that high tides were the best time to see that elusive and endangered bird. High tides supposedly flush the birds out of their hiding places in the marsh. I did see one eventually, but not where I expected.

High water in San Francisquito Creek near the Baylands Athletic Center, 10:55 am

Interpretive sign by the Bay Trail at the Palo Alto Yacht Basin, 11:01 am

High water in the former Palo Alto Yacht Harbor Basin, now a tidal marsh, inundating most of the vegetation, 11:02 am

Trail running next to the Yacht Harbor Basin, leading to the former home of the Sea Scouts and future home of the Environmental Volunteers Ecocenter, 11:06 am

Bird watchers watching a great egret in the marsh near the sailing station dock, 11:13 am

Great egret flying over the marsh near the parking lot. The water is almost up to the level of the road. 11:15 am

The Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center next to the lagoon fed by pipes under the causeway leading to the center, 11:21 am

Walkers along the lagoon near the duck pond, 11:24 am

This is the causeway leading to the nature center parking lot. The water in the Yacht Harbor Basin is almost up to the road. Water flows under the causeway in large pipes, filling up the lagoon on the other side, 11:28 am

The pier leading out to the sailing station dock, 11:33 am

The shoreline on the bay side of the sailing station dock at the mouth of the Yacht Harbor Basin, 11:34 am

Looking into the Palo Yacht Harbor Basin from the sailing station dock, with Byxbee Park in the background, 11:35 am

The boardwalk at the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center, 12:04 pm

Great egret in the marsh next to the boardwalk, with the Dumbarton Bridge in the background, 12:04 pm

Marsh hawk, 12:09 pm

This is "Rail alley," the channel in the marsh where clapper rail are sometimes spotted feeding along the muddy banks of the channel, 12:19 pm. Even though the pickleweeds are inundated, the other vegetation, like the gum plants shown here, are tall enough that the clapper rails can still remain hidden.

The viewing platform on the Bay at the peak of high tide, 12:19 pm

Boaters on the Bay, with the Newark salt mounds in the background, 12:22 pm. If that boat was there at low tide, they might be stuck in the mud.

Great egret feeding in the marsh, with Hangar One at Moffett Field in the background 12:30 pm

While I searched the marshes in vain for a live specimen, this is the only clapper rail I saw this day. This is a stuffed clapper rail in the interpretive center. They are an endangered species that live in the pickleweed marshes around the Bay, particularly in the marsh next to the center. They are shy, reclusive, and are rarely seen, but can be heard making a clapping sound, which gives the bird its name. The bird was once common, but were hunted in great numbers in the early 20th century. Over-hunting, along with habitat destruction due to marsh reclamation and the introduction of non-native predators nearly caused their extinction. Species and habitat protection in recent years has caused their numbers to slowly increase, though they still face danger from predators.

Greater yellowlegs, 1:15 pm

Black-necked stilt in the foreground, seagulls and snowy egret on the PG&E catwalk behind it, the Nature Center's boardwalk, and the inactive Dumbarton train crossing trestle in the background,1:21 pm

Snowy egret, black-necked stilts, and the PG&E catwalk, 2:14 pm

A giant bird heading for the Palo Alto Airport, 2:19 pm

The Yacht Harbor Basin and the Ecocenter, 2:25 pm

The Yacht Harbor Basin and the hills of Byxbee Park, 2:26 pm

The chevrons at Byxbee Park, pointing towards the Palo Alto Airport, overlooking the Yacht Harbor Basin, with the Ecocenter in the background, 2:32 pm

This sign shows the expansion of Byxbee Park due to closure of the Palo Alto Landfill. 36 acres were added to the existing 29-acre park on 7/1/11. 10 more acres will be added on 12/1/11. The final 51 acres will be added in 2013.

The new area of Byxbee Park is bare so far, with an asphalt trail and some graded dirt trails marked by temporary trail markers, 2:49 pm

Flocks of birds on Mayfield Slough, below Byxbee Park, 3:17 pm

The Byxbee Park Pole Field, 3:29 pm

The receding tide in the Palo Alto Yacht basin, 3:19 pm

Looking towards the Sailing Station on the left at the mouth of the Palo Alto Yacht Harbor Basin, with Hooks Island on the right, 3:46 pm

Pickleweed on the shore above Mayfield Slough, with Moffett Field in the background, 4:04 pm

This is the point where the waters of the Bay touch the Bay trail (left), with Mayfield Slough on the right, 4:12 pm

San Francisco Bay reaches the shoreline on the right, with Hooks Island in the background on the left, 4:13 pm

Mayfield Slough, 4:32 pm

Mayfield Slough, Byxbee Park, 4:33 pm

Sunset, on the trail between Byxbee Park on the left and the Yacht Harbor Basin on the right, 4:34 pm

Palo Alto Yacht Harbor Basin, same spot as at 3:19 pm above, 4:35 pm. Notice how much the water has receded. The lowest tide would be 4 hours later at 8:23 pm, when the tide would be -1.1 feet. Such an extreme low tide would not have been noticeable in the Yacht Harbor Basin, which would have drained long before that. It would be more noticeable in the Bay itself, with huge areas of mudflats and underwater channels being revealed.

Byxbee Park Pole Field, 4:37 pm (see above at 3:29 pm)

The duck pond by the Palo Alto Airport, 4:53 pm

Web page developed: 11/27/2011 by Ronald Horii