Exploring Alviso Marina

By: Stacy Repin + Save to a List

A bird's paradise

The first time I caught a glimpse of these unusual wetlands, I thought I entered an alien landscape – pools of rose and sky blue dented the crusted salt which expanded to the horizon. The salt was blindingly white, like witnessing snow on a clear, crisp day. The pools carve shallow formations of crunchy salt and change color reflecting the sun’s light – from a deep burnt orange to a carnation pink. Walking along the flat, long trail, one side is the colorful, almost un-unearthy landscape of salt ponds and the other is a different terrain of pristine marshland – the bay water is a clean, cerulean blue with grassland sprouting from beneath - protecting all the variety of birds that dwell within these parts from the songbirds that live in the brush to the unique marshland birds that unabashedly scoop down to the bay. As you continue down this path, the salt ponds abruptly disappear. There is a clear boundary marked by one of the many levees that cross through the waters which are more natural here – deep greens and rich blues vs the strange artificial pink and blue seen before. The further along you go, the more remote and desolate this area becomes, and the more frequent the birds become. Most people just stick to the salt ponds rather than exploring beyond to cover the full 9 mile loop, which is where the real fun is at. The first bird I laid my eyes upon was a stark white long-necked American Egret gracefully taking flight, swooping over the marsh with its expansive wingspan. As I kept walking, the more of these creatures I came upon, one by one. They seem to be solitary animals, minding their own business – living their own rules.  I came upon a levee that was marked by a “no trespassing” sign. This levee appeared brittle – narrow and worn by the sea’s waves. This levee was the home of several bird clusters. There appeared to be at least 4 different species of bird within a quarter mile radius, each species sitting segregated – Sandpipers, Pelicans, Ducks, Plovers. I didn’t want to disturb them, so I just stuck my neck out and squinted my eyes in that direction for a better view. Continuing on, I came across some photogenic Snow Egrets along the shorelines. Photographing them was a challenge – with the lightest footstep, they would scream and flutter away in a hurry. I had 5 chances to photograph them, walking by and one by one taking off like little white jets. Eventually I came to the halfway point of the loop, and I slowly started heading back. Just sitting quietly and bold a few feet away from me on an old metallic railing was a Great Blue Heron which posed for pictures - it flew like a prehistoric dinosaur, its low call echoing the sky. The hard light of the sun was now just peaking over the black hills – I had maybe a half hour of sunlight left. This was prime feeding time for the birds. Species of all kind were swarming all above me, haphazardly flying to us unknowing humans, but I am sure in reality it was a timely choreographed dance, effective for catching dinner. It was now getting chilly, and the creamy sherbet sky mirrored the salt ponds which I returned to. I felt like I was standing on a village of ice, not the Bay Area. It has been a satisfying day of exploration. If you want to escape for a bit, the Marina Alviso Park is a special treat -absolutely teeming with life with plenty of wild birds to visit.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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