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May 20, 2024

Bird Scat Alley

By Alexandra Queen

Bird Scat Alley

Alexandra Queen - warrior@filthypikers.com

Out by the Ripon Golf Course is an unlikely local treasure. An undeveloped field blocks the view from expensive houses of a little place on the banks of the river that some of the locals like to call Bird Scat Alley*.

The view approaching Bird Scat Alley.
First View

Warning signs under a gnarled oak are the only welcome for the visitors who come to explore Bird Scat Alley. No small wonder, for the alley is where the city of Ripon pumps its treated waste water to allow it to trickle back down into the underground water table that many Valley communities rely on. As unsavory as it sounds, these large ponds by the river play host to a wide array of birds and wildlife. For those intrepid souls willing to brave the occasional faint whiff of "funk", Bird Scat Alley is a nature-lover's treasure, only a short walk from home.

Warning signs under the oak caution against driving on the levy roads and the dangers of golf balls from the right.

Sunny afternoons and weekends, it's almost not worth going if you're hoping to play naturalist, because the wide levy roads leading between the ponds and along the river's edge are such a pleasant walk that herds of bicycle riding families, dog walkers and joggers flush much of the wildlife, if you'll excuse the turn of phrase, down into the more private underbrush on the banks of the river. The area gets so much use that there is talk of designating the land along the river as a city park. A visit before the midday heat sets in, however, is still guaranteed to show an enticing array of local waterfowl brunching on bugs in the shallows.

The causeways and ponds.

Killdeer and ducks are common fair, as well as a large population of avocets. Depending on the time of year, flocks of geese use the ponds as rest stations in their travels. These and other varieties enjoy basking on the causeways between ponds, leaving behind great quantities of the little landmarks that have earned the place its nickname.

Avocets are common and beautiful residents of the Alley.

Crossing the causeways to the river trail is a noisy business, filled with the shrill warnings of birdsong. Along the banks of the river is evidence of the region's shier wildlife - rufies, coots, loons, quail, woodpeckers. If you are lucky, you may spot a coyote, and there are unsubstantiated rumors of beaver. There is no mystery about whether or not there are ground squirrels - evidence of their destructive burrowing habits is easy to find and is part of the reason why only authorized vehicles are allowed along the dirt roads of the causeways.

Howie, a local canine resident, inspects the damage done by ground squirrels.

Shaded and cooled by the tall growth, the well-kept dirt roads along the river provide a comfortable walk punctuated by the types of sights, sounds and remains guaranteed to spark interest in the average backyard naturalist. Is it any wonder then that so many of the locals slip off down to the water treatment ponds for a leisurely stroll along Bird Scat Alley?

The river side of the causeways.
The river is a lush surprise sheltering a variety of wildlife.

*Scat is not exactly the word used, but the meanings are identical.

Article © Alexandra Queen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2002-05-20
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