Yolo Basin Foundation docents will lead a free public tour of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 12. October can be one of the best birding months of the year at the Wildlife Area, with many species migrating to the area for the winter.
With an abundance of available food, diverse flora and seasonal and permanent ponds, the Wildlife Area offers favorable habitat to both migratory and resident species of birds. Cinnamon teals, gadwalls, northern shovelers and other ducks have begun to return from their summer feeding grounds and are finding welcoming conditions in the recently flooded-up ponds around Parking Lots B and C. Species such as American coots, horned larks and a variety of blackbirds visit the Wildlife Area year-round.
Coots are stout, chicken-like birds that are frequently seen in large numbers in the Wildlife Area. They are in the same family as gallinules and rails: a family of birds well adapted to wetlands.
Coots are dark-gray to black with a white bill that extends onto the forehead. Their legs are thick and greenish-yellow in color. Coots spend most of their time in the water yet do not have webbed feet. Fleshy lobes on the sides of their toes help make them efficient swimmers.
Coots are foragers that can be seen grazing on plants such as algae, wild rice and duckweed. They also will eat small vertebrates, insects and crustaceans. Due to their shape and size, coots must run across the water, beating their wings to gain enough momentum to take flight.
The Yolo Basin Foundation and the Department of Fish and Wildlife welcome members of the public to view these and other species on the monthly public tour of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. All interested tour participants should meet a few minutes before 9 a.m. in Parking Lot A of the Wildlife Area, at the west end of the Yolo Causeway bridge. Directions are available at www.yolobasin.org.
Participants should bring binoculars, water (there is no potable water on site), and field guide. Docents will have spotting scopes to enhance wildlife viewing. This is a driving tour on gravel roads with several stops and short walks.
A $5 donation is suggested from all trip participants. Children under 12 and Yolo Basin Foundation members are free. Tours run rain or shine and no reservations are necessary. For more information, call Michael Herrera at 530-757-1018 or visit www.yolobasin.org.