I've also enjoyed a book by John Muir Laws on Sierra Birds. It's just the size to tuck into your backpack or guide bag, and organized by color of bird, perfect for us novices. So when the newest Sunset featured a column by the estimable Mr. Laws, and his top recommendation for local birdwatching was Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District facility in Marin, I was doubly pleased.
We first heard of LGVSD from James' parents, the veteran birdwatchers. It's a place where a short walk bringing great dividends. The ponds and wetlands occupy over 300 acres, but hiking trails along the levees are compact, with benches spread conveniently along the way. Great swaths of marshland border a placid San Francisco Bay. It's a stopping point for shorebirds, egrets, and trees full surly night herons, who appear in the late afternoon to need their first cup of joe.
The ponds are a side benefit of the Marin water treatment plant. The treated water becomes a life source for whatever the birds feed on. A potential ecological minus becomes a plus, as a place for birds is created amid all the encroachments of "civilization."
James is greatly amused by the sludge tanks, where large arms move slowly about the circular tank. The birds--mostly gulls--use the revolving arm as a sort of merry-go-round. They perch on the arm, ride around, and slowly flutter up and back down as it approaches an overhanging beam. They seem to think it's a special ride just for their enjoyment.
Las Gallinas led to our exploration of sewage treatment ponds as sites for drive-by birding. Not all facilities are so easily accessible, or turned into such a beautiful haven for wildlife. Unfortunately, many others cover their sludge vats, depriving the gulls and their watchers of harmless entertainment.