A Year of Abbotts Lagoon

As we reach the final weeks of 2021, here is a four-season review of a coastal lagoon in one of my favorite parks, Point Reyes, in Northern California.

There are 70,000 acres (300 sq. km.) of protected land on the Point Reyes Peninsula. Abbotts Lagoon is just one small section, located on the northwestern coast of the peninsula.

More info: Point Reyes Wikipedia and Abbotts Lagoon Wikipedia.

This year, like many people, we did less out-of-state traveling and stayed closer to home. We enjoyed day trips to Abbotts Lagoon almost every month.

It was enlightening to watch the flora and fauna shift as the seasons changed and gave us an intimacy with the lagoon area as never before.

The brisk months of early spring–February, March and April–brought displaying birds and a profusion of wildflowers.

An easy trail takes the hiker through northern coastal scrub, like this yellow bush lupine, where ground birds flourish. In spring and summer this bush is vibrant with blooms.

The gravel trail leads hikers between rolling fields and the lagoon, until eventually we reach sand dunes and the ocean. The seaside offers bracing coastal winds, frequent fog, and briny sea air. We often escaped inland heat waves here this past summer with the cool marine layer.

We discovered a pocket of land further down the road that almost always had mammals, and in May had the thrill of seeing this new fawn and mother.

By summertime the grass had turned brown, our usual summer look in Northern California. The coastal fog, however, provided moisture for native wildflowers. Hummingbirds could often be seen extracting nectar from this Coastal Hedge-Nettle.

Brush rabbits greeted us on every visit this year. One June day we observed this relaxed brush rabbit stretched out on the trail. At first we thought the rabbit might be injured, but it quickly dashed away as we approached.

Summer also brought the new generation of birds.

A white-crowned sparrow adult discussed the ways of life with his progeny.

Nearly a dozen immature quail chicks were a pleasant surprise; we watched this covey grow up. They were always skittish, with good reason.

Every Abbotts Lagoon visit this year (ten) we saw coyote. They had lustrous coats and full bellies from plenty of prey.

Dragonflies, butterflies, birds and bees punctuated all our summer visits.

A few miles north up the road is a tule elk preserve. By mid-August the tule elk males were bugling their dominance.

And as summer turned to fall, the new young coyotes were out on their own.

Late autumn rains returned the hillsides to verdant splendor, and ground-dwelling gophers and voles multiplied. This attracted more predators and raptors.

Winter birds greeted us, like this Say’s phoebe who is never here in spring or summer.

This molting elk’s coat is not at its finest in the winter, and he only had one antler, having shed the other one already.

There’s something sacred about watching the seasons change–the wildlife, the earth beneath our feet, the light, and temperatures.

Very soon the early spring will be upon us, and a new year of cycles will begin again.

I can hardly wait to get back to Abbotts Lagoon to see who will greet us.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

Taking a short holiday break, dear friends, see you in January.

Courtesy Wikipedia.

77 thoughts on “A Year of Abbotts Lagoon

    • Thanks Cindy. It was great to see that kestrel, as they weren’t ordinarily in that area, which is what made me realize the uptick in prey had brought in more raptors. Thank you for your visit and kind words.

  1. Thank you for taking me back to this wonderful land! It’s been several years now since I was last there. The Quail in the Yellow Lupine was quite fancy looking and a delightful image, and the brush rabbit made me giggle. I recalled my own birding, flowers, Elk, and insect sightings there while reading this post and viewing your images. It is a wonderful and beautiful park/reserve.

    Have a wonderful Christmas holiday and blogging break Jet, and Athena!! See you here in 2022!

  2. How wonderful that you got to visit Pt. Reyes so often this year. A silver lining in a pandemic cloud. One year I walked the trails in the nature center near my home almost every day. It really does give you a new perspective to see the changes. Thanks for sharing this with us. It looks like a lovely place.

    • I’m really glad you got the gist of our frequent trips to Pt. Reyes, LuAnne, and that you had a similar experience one year at your nature center. New perspectives are always a wonderful thing. Thanks very much.

  3. After all of my years of visiting Pt. Reyes, I finally hiked out to Abbots Lagoon this past spring, Jet. What a treat. Thanks for reminding me with your enticing commentary and photos. Peggy and I will definitely go back to this beautiful part of the National Seashore. –Curt

    • I so loved knowing that you hiked out to Abbotts Lagoon for the first time this past spring, Curt. It’s a little off the beaten track, and I think because dogs aren’t allowed and the beach is 1.5 miles from the parking lot, it is generally less travelled. Thanks for dropping by, my Pt. Reyes friend.

      • It was strange that I hadn’t Jet. There isn’t much of Pt. Reyes that I haven’t explored in the 50 years I have been going there. πŸ™‚ I’ll be back. –Curt

    • Yes, I agree, Anneli, the wild world that is the Calif. coast is very special. We are especially lucky that Pt. Reyes has been protected for all these decades. It was a fight against development, to be sure, and we are so very lucky that our forebears made it possible. Thanks very much, it’s always a joy to see you.

  4. What a lovely resource to have so close to home, esp. in summer when the inland temps soar. I think it is brilliant that so much of the CA coast is preserved for wildlife, a ray of hope for endemic species. Beautiful captures and happy weekend to you both. ❀

    • I count myself very lucky to have the CA coast so close by, Eliza, and you’re right, it gives a ray of hope for endemic wildlife and flora. My warmest thanks for your visit and warm words today.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Brian. Pt. Reyes is a wonderful place to share, and Abbotts Lagoon is always loaded with Calif. Quail. I’m happy you had the joy of your first Calif. Quail, they are so magnificent.

  5. It’s common to See Red-Winged Black Birds along the side of highways here. I am not sure why. They are the only place I’ve seen them. It was comical one day, when supposed am I to know of all wildlife (not correctly so in it’s entirety) I got a call, the question was, ” What are those black birds with red wings?” To which I grinned as I stated, with confidence, “Red-winged black birds” I was dubbed a “Smarta**” despite being assumed I was correct. … and I was : ) I love the rare bits of their songs I do catch. And, all these creatures you have shared are equally amazing and beautiful.

    • I agree, Dawn Renee, the red-winged blackbirds are such eye-catching birds, they do stand out in their beauty and mystique. I liked your story of being able to proudly and correctly answer their species identification. And oh, their song, it truly is heart-warming, isn’t it? I’m glad you enjoyed the Pt. Reyes post, and appreciate your visit.

      • It was just funny how the conversation went : ) I don’t recall hearing their songs. For some reason, I too, but on rare occasions have only seen them near the highways and ramps. I’m going to hear their songs online now. Thanks.

  6. This was a lovely tour of Point Reyes through the seasons, Jet. It looks walking and hiking friendly most of the year, and much wildlife to be seen. With the grass being brown, it sounds like summer can be pretty warm. Agree there is something sacred about watching seasons change. Summer is my favourite season and I hate to see it go. But summer and all seasons come and go whether you want them to or not…and come and go at certain times of the year. So magical.

    Loved all of the images, especially the one of the quail chicks out and about πŸ™‚

    • I so enjoyed your words, Mabel, on recognizing the beauty and seasons of the Pt. Reyes post. And you’re right, the seasons come and go whether we want them to or not, so we move forward, as it is in life, and try to embrace all that comes before us. Those quail chicks were an utter delight. We saw them as little ones on one of our earlier visits, and they were so incredibly skittish, it was impossible to even look at them with binoculars, and forget photographing them. But over the months we started looking for them and knew just where to look, and one day we finally spotted them before they saw us, and Athena was able to snap a photo before they all disappeared under the lupine bush. Mabel, it’s been a joy, thank you.

      • It is so lovely to hear your encounters with the quail chicks. One moment they are very young and a few seasons later they have grown. May you get to see them again and capture them in their element. Have a wonderful holiday season, Jet and Athena 😊

  7. Point Reyes is beautiful. Thank you Jet for taking us through natures amazing variety of wildlife that occupy this incredible area! Wonderful photos Alexander! Without these illuminating posts we would miss out on the wonders of life on Earth.
    have a peaceful weekend, Eddie

    • Dear Eddie, it is such a delight to share the wonders of life on Earth, to use your words, and the glory of Pt. Reyes with you. There is so much beauty on this planet and it is a pure joy to share it with you. Thanks so much for your visit and warm words today.

  8. I agree, there is something sacred about watching the seasons change and it was wonderful seeing how that happens in your part of the world. I loved the picture of the white-crowned sparrow parent imparting wisdom to its little one. πŸ’™ That must have been an impressive sound, the tule elk males bugling. I found a recording online and was surprised how high-pitched the call was. You’re fortunate to have such a beautiful park to visit so close by. Thanks for sharing the scenery of the changing seasons there, and enjoy your holiday break!

    • Hello Barbara, I just loved that moment with the white-crowned sparrows, and am glad you enjoyed the photo. Also, I liked that you took a moment to find a recording of bugling elk, and I agree, it is a much higher tone than one would expect, given their hefty size. Sometimes there is even a bit of a squeak to the bugling. It takes about 1.5 hours to get to Pt. Reyes from where I live, so it is a bit of a trek. To stay Covid-safe, we packed all our own food and stopped nowhere going there or returning home, and just went straight to Abbotts Lagoon. This eliminated any human contact. It was the only place we could go and feel safe. And then we just kept doing it, even after we got vaccinated, because it was so fun and freeing and felt like a normal life for a day. Sending smiles your way, my friend, and Happy Holidays to you.

    • Thank you, Julie. It was a true honor to have this past year to become more intimate with Abbotts Lagoon, and I’m happy you enjoyed the post. Thanks very much. Happy Holidays to you, too.

  9. I always love seeing quail – Not sure why but they have always been a favorite. It’s easy to see why Abbotts Lagoon is one of your favorites

    • There is a lot to love about quail, I agree, Bill. Their beautiful markings and that curious way they run as if their feet are wheels make me smile. I’m glad you enjoyed the Abbotts Lagoon post, and am always appreciative for your frequent visits. Thank you, Bill.

  10. What a great idea for a post! And it was beautifully executed, as always. Thanks for sharing all your adventures, insights and love of nature with us this year, Jet.

    • Dear Nan, it is a pleasure to share the delights of Abbotts Lagoon, and I’m glad you liked my four-season wrap-up idea. And many thanks to you for your frequent visits and dedicated comments and kind words. They were much appreciated every single week throughout the year.

    • I am so pleased that you enjoyed the plants and animals presented in the Abbotts Lagoon post, Eilene. It is such a magnificent place on earth, and a privilege to share its wonderment. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • It is truly wonderful, as you say Craig, to have a personal retreat nearby. Those day trips out to Pt. Reyes were so relaxing and liberating, as close to a vacation as we could get in Covid-isolated times. Thanks very much, Craig, it’s always a delight to have you stop by.

  11. Thanks for the seasonal report of one of your favourite places! I liked seeing the healthy coyotes, and the motley elk made me smile. Enjoy your winter break, and all the best for the holiday season to you both!

    • “Motley” is the perfect word for that molting elk, pc. I, too, like seeing healthy coyotes, it is a real indicator of the health of the immediate environment. My warmest thanks for your visit and comments, pc, throughout this whole year. I really appreciate seeing you here every week, and I have great fun visiting your site too: the PNW shores, wilderness and noteworthy ales. My best holiday wishes to you and Mrs. pc and your family for happy holidays.

    • Yes, you’re right, Michael Stephen, the maritime fogs are a lifesaver for us here in No. Calif. I’m happy you enjoyed the recap of our visits to Abbotts Lagoon. Thank you for stopping by.

  12. Thank you for sharing beautiful Abbotts Lagoon & Point Reyes in this yearly reflection. It is heartening to see & to read about this in a season with so many otherwise destructive aspects to it. May our wild places & our wild hearts flourish in the coming year as well!

    • It was a great balm to receive your words this morning, Walt. I will carry this sentence with me all day: “May our wild places & our wild hearts flourish in the coming year as well!” My warmest thanks for your visit and words, my friend.

  13. So lovely to visit your take on the many critters we share… a very special one (dear to my heart) was the quail peeking from the yellow lupine…
    In case I don’t get back to blogging this next week, I’d like to wish you and your friends and family a very warm, safe, happy and healthy holiday!!! πŸŽ„πŸ’•

    • Dear Gunta, So lovely to receive your message, thank you. I’m really glad you enjoyed our wildlife friends at Abbotts Lagoon, especially the Calif. quail in the yellow lupine. Thanks too for your holiday messages, and I send my hearty wishes to you and Eric and your family for a delightful holiday too.

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