Water High and Low

The water level in the North Basin dropped nine feet (9.08 to be exact) in just over seven hours (7’9″ to be exact) on Sunday. That change in water level is even greater than the dramatic drop on December 23, following the Winter Solstice.

At its peak, the high tide inundated the southern third of the pedestrian/bike path that runs along Marina Boulevard opposite the hotel.

Ped/bike path along Marina Boulevard becomes a salt water lake

The gap in the sea wall that the City has not fixed since 2011 — why rush stuff? — brought in a twisted log.

Twisted log floated in on gap in sea wall

The inundation continued around the corner, where the path meets the Virginia Street Extension (dirt road going east-west).

Another decade-old breach in sea wall at the corner

As for the Virginia Street dirt road, the salt water lake at high tide merged with the rain puddle of the last few days.

I thought I would be able to navigate around the lake on the little footpath at the water’s edge, but ran into this:

No way to get around the lake without wading through ankle deep water

Runners and walkers at both sides of the lake gave up and turned around.

While the water was an obstacle for people, some birds didn’t mind it at all. At least two Spotted Sandpipers showed curiosity like a cat about the changed environment. One hopped on top of the twisted log:

Spotted Sandpiper on twisted log

Another checked out what things of interest might have surfaced from the saturated soil:

Spotted Sandpiper

Half a dozen Mallards paddled on a water-filled trench alongside the boundary fence of the Berkeley Meadow. They all flew away with loud protests as I approached, except this handsome drake:

Mallard drake in ditch on Virginia Street dirt road

The happiest birds by far were the American Coots, who used the new lake as access to fresh banks of grass on the opposite shore. The Coots are not ducks (they are rails) and have their legs far enough forward on their bodies to allow for nimble navigation on land. Ducks can at best waddle.

American Coots grazing on shore

All the above took place between 10 and 10:45 in the morning. At 5 p.m. the scene at the gap in the seawall with the twisted log looked very different. Acres of bay mud lay exposed:

Mudflats in southwest corner of North Basin

I could walk to the other end of the Virginia Street dirt road without wading boots. The Schoolhouse Creek delta lay broader and wider than before and exposed the depth of its channel. This creek supplies freshwater to the North Basin and makes it an estuary.

Schoolhouse Creek channel and estuary

My hopes for a shorebird photography feast quickly dimmed with the afternoon light under the heavy overcast. Half a dozen egrets worked the mud briefly and flew off. Only the Coots found something fascinating that drew dozens of them into a tight cluster:

Coots in a cluster at dusk

A look south from the Open Circle viewpoint at dusk shows the broad expanse of mud that the receding tide laid bare as night fell.

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