Another of my favorite places to bird is Big River located just South of Mendocino. I’ve spent many hours surveying birds here during the Spring and Fall seasons and during the new Fort Bragg Christmas Bird Count. A bike ride along it’s over 8 miles of mostly level Haul Rd. is a very enjoyable ride. Big River was “saved” in 2002, a few years before I arrived in Mendocino County. I’m glad they saved it. Once again the Mendocino Land Trust was involved. Read about it on their site.
“The property’s unique natural resources include:
1,500 acres of wetlands, including brackish, freshwater, saltwater, and fresh emergent marshes, the 8.3-mile long estuary, and associated riparian habitats.
27 endangered, threatened, or species of concern.
60,000 acres of connected wildlife habitat between this and adjacent public land, and over 100 miles of joined trails.
50 miles of Big River and its tributaries, home to Dungeness and shore crab, freshwater mussels, ghost shrimp, river otter, beaver, harbor seals, and over 22 fish species including coho and steelhead salmon, bocaccio, starry flounder, Pacific halibut, Pacific herring, eulachon, buffalo and prickly sculpin, and 7 species of surfperch.”I ripped that last section from their website because they can say it better then me. They have over 130 bird species on their bird list and I believe that I just added a new one.
Last Thursday I took the bike ride. Only rode 4 miles in but enjoyed every moment. Basically mirrored my CBC route. Bird wise not much new was happening until I started back. I spotted a couple of dots down the river. They turned out to be a Pied-billed Grebe and an American Wigeon well over 2 miles up river. Not a great picture. While riding back I realized that I had never seen an AMWI on big River. Returning home I checked the Big River Bird list and did not find it listed. I checked Ebird and all of the records for Big River that I had, no AMWI’s. Will continue checking but it appears to be the first “reported” record for Big River and a year bird for me.
I can’t write about Big River without mentioning a certain amount of sadness that I feel when I’m there. I first started doing Big River Bird Surveys shortly after I moved here. At first I was just an observer but was convinced that I could lead these surveys by one person. That person was Matt Coleman. Matt was an employee of the Mendocino Land Trust who did about everything for them. He coordinated the surveys, provided transportation, had tons of keys to get us through locked gates, he did the recording. All we had to do was show up. He also coordinated beach clean ups, monitored salmon, removed invasive plants, etc. When you’re out in the early morning surveying birds you get to know a person very well. Matt Coleman was my friend. On August 11, 2011, Matt was murdered by a mentally ill young man while he was working on another Mendocino Land Trust property. The Land Trust’s, Autumn 2011, Newletter was published in Matt’s memory. It can be downloaded here. Matt would have been thrilled to learn about the American Wigeon. Matt has a memorial bench over looking Big River.