An afternoon well spent hiking the Enchanted Elk Horn Slough Preserve aka the ESNERR.  This is actually owned and operated by the California Department of Fish and Game, hence the free entry if you have a California fishing or hunting license.  Hint: The entry fee is much less then the fee for either license but if you already have one.....


Another entry requirement not shown here is they don't take cash and all foot gear has to be brushed to remove any hitch hiking (non-native or weed) seeds from your shoes.
 

This used to be a dairy farm as evidenced by some of the old structures. The one in the background was a milking barn and the one in the foreground, a smaller capacity milking barn.  The small shed on the left could have been for milk storage.


In spite of being on a budget, the farmer still had time to manufacture a steeple atop this shed.  Or maybe this was the church.


A rear view of the Moss Landing Energy Plant, taken from three miles away at the preserve from an overlook site.  Supposedly operates only on Natural Gas.  


Kayak yak yak rentals allowing exploration through several miles of the Elk Horn Slough.  If you rent one, you can expect to see Otters and various Seals in their natural habitat.  Respecting that they are wild, you would keep your distance.  I did this rental thing once.  If you think it's a fun thing to do, which it is, be sure to select a day when the tide is two hours away from it's high mark to assist in paddling in and then assist on the return when the tide is going out.  On my trip, the West Wind came up preventing us from returning.  We had to beach our Kayaks and hike back about a mile.


Strutting his stuff down the board walk.  A Blue Heron  (Ardea herodias).  (Photo taken from the Pier.)


Photo taken from the Pier.


Photo taken from the Pier.


A very capable fisherman, also a Snowy Egret (Egretta thula).   There are lots of different Egrets: Cattle Egrets, Great Egrets, Lesser Egrets, etc.  You can distinguish which one it is by their feet colors and beak colors, size and other distinguishing markings.  In this case, the yellow feet and yellow beak markings, give this away as being a Snowy Egret.  The Great Egret and the Snowy Egret are the same size so feet and beak markings are necessary to differentiate. If no yellow markings then it's a Great Egret.  The Lesser Egret and Cattle Egret, are about half the size of the one shown here. (Photo taken from the Pier.)


Where angel wings come from.  If you saw John Travolta in the 1996 movie "Michael" where he walks down the stairs with his wings flapping and says, "I'm not that kind of an angel," this Egret was used to model his wings.  (Photo taken from the Pier.)


Launch!  Photo taken from the Pier.


So, the obligatory Poppy.


If a person is out of the closet, do they go into an out house?  This really is a functional out house, all joking aside with real TP inside instead of a Montgomery Wards catalog.  Located close to the Hummingbird Island Trail.


I watched four trains, one a commuter, go through this section without even slowing down.  An "E" ticket ride from my view point.  I wonder if as a passenger, you get that funny tingling tummy feeling as you go over this.  You have to cross these tracks to get to "Hummingbird Island."


Do you spot the Skipper?  A smaller stunted version of a butterfly.  (On Hummingbird Island.)


Vacant, proven catching location, for rent now, today, as is.  Curtains and carpeting extra.  (On Hummingbird Island.)


A California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) trying to figure out if he should charge me modeling fees or not.  (On Hummingbird Island.)


"And then Mabel said, if I use the salad fork properly, she wont make me wash the dishes.  Cool, huh?"  A couple of older dudes, with standup paddle boards, taking a break from trying to beat the tide and the wind.  (From Hummingbird Island.)


This little guy was made even littler by something that tried to eat him tail first.  They do shed their tail in a case such as that, growing it back to be used as bait again.  This is a Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis). Of curious distinct, if you ever get to see its underbelly, it is white with blue stripes.  Very pretty coloring, yet seldom seen.  (On Hummingbird Island.)


An Elk Horn Slough Sun Dial.  Unlike a Ground Hog, it wasn't worried about his shadow.  I wonder though, it seemed awfully easy to spot from the air, from any number of flying predators.  Perhaps this Ground Squirrel is destined to be removed from the gene pool.  Check out his feet.  The toes look remarkably flexible.  Not like our toes at all.  More like fingers.   (Photo just outside Hummingbird Island.)


Having lunch in his tree house.  An Acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus).  On the trail just past the Rookery Pond.  There is a huge lot of these Woodpeckers in this immediate area.  Always active, always fun to photograph.


Ohh say can you see.............. by the afternoon light, where so proudly, etc.  From the trail behind the Vistors Center.

Hiking The Enchanted Land of the Elk Horn Slough
Several hiking trails are available.  My favorite is to hike down to the large barn (shown above) and veer to the left of it down to the waters edge and to an observation pier jutting out over the water.  This pier usually yields some up close photos as detailed above.  Returning off the Pier, go left and acrooss a bridge and sometimes muddy levee to get to the other side of the marsh pond.  Stop and observe which way the water is flowing under the bridge, if at all.  Flows in (to your right) if incoming high tide, flows out (left) if outgoing low tide.  No flow?  Tide is either high or low.  During the higher winter tides, the levee path on the other side of the bridge, may be flooded.  Continue hiking till coming to the next trail and turn left towards Hummingbird Island and the railroad tracks.  Follow the path across the railroad tracks and onto HB Island. ( Caution:  This is an active railroad track so listen for approaching trains from either direction, before crossing the tracks.)  Select a trail and explore the island while enjoying abundant bird sightings and other things.  The only trail onto the island is also the only trail off of the island.  Go back across the tracks to the same juncture that took you to the island in the first place.  Continue straight and follow the trail back to where it juts off to the left (by the barns) and back to the visitor center.  This entire loop is only 3.1 miles and 216 ft elevation change barring side excursions of which there are many. 

         

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