Wild Rice a Boon to Wildlife in Yolo Bypass

Wild rice harvestI had the good luck to tour the Yolo Bypass one morning when the farmer who has the lease on the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area was harvesting the wild rice. It is fascinating to watch as the fields are kept wet and a special harvester picks up the rice to lop off the heads.

It leaves in its wake a field with insects and crayfish exposed. The ibis and egrets enjoy a feast.

ibis and egretsThe Yolo Bypass is in the Pacific Flyway. In a few months ducks, and geese and other waterfowl will return to the 16,800 acres of the Yolo Basin Wildlife Area to feed and breed over winter. The wildlife area is a short distance from Davis and West Sacramento, and yet when I stood there with the Causeway within site, it felt like miles away from civilization.

The Wildlife Area offers designed wetlands with plants that provide food for waterfowl. Another section is leased to farmers who raise rice–both white and wild–that provides an income to the Wildlife Area and leaves behind a lot of rice grains for the birds.

Giant Garter Snake habitat could be quite extensive with good management practice like only mowing half the ditch.

Giant Garter Snake habitat could be quite extensive with good management practice like only mowing half the ditch.

Rice farmers also provide other habitat benefits. Some stage the draining of their fields to provide shorebird habitat. Others mow just one side of the ditch to benefit giant garter snakes.

The Yolo Basin Foundation provides tours of the Wildlife Area to over 4,000 school children a year and special events, such as bat tours and bird watching walks. You can also access the Wildlife Area during daylight hours. Start at Parking Lot A at the exit closest to the Causeway and drive up and over the levee. No dogs or bicycles allowed.

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