The other night I downloaded the new Taylor Swift album to my iTunes account, laced up some tennis shoes, grabbed an extra layer of warmth, and then headed out for an evening walk around Lake Merritt.
Lake Merritt is a large tidal lagoon in the center of Oakland, California, just east of Downtown. It is surrounded by parkland and city neighborhoods and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1966.
It is historically significant as the United States’ first official wildlife refuge, designated in 1870. Year round, the lake is home to many Canada geese and moderate numbers of black-crowned night heron, great egret, snowy egret, cormorant, American coot, and western gull. There are also small mallard duck and pelican (both American and brown) populations. From November through March, the lake plays host to a very large population of greater scaup and lesser scaup, which spend most of their time floating on the water, mostly just sleeping. The tufted duck, a rare bird from Eurasia, has also been recorded annually. Smaller numbers of canvasback, redhead, common and Barrow’s goldeneye, bufflehead, and other migratory diving ducks are also present during the cold season. From June until the end of September, the lake’s Canada goose population increases significantly; Canada geese become nearly ubiquitous around the perimeter of the lake. In late summer and early fall, a moderate pelican population also arrives, and Caspian terns can be seen on the lake.
The lake also features grassy shores; an interpretive center called the Rotary Nature Center; a boating center where sailboats, canoes, and rowboats can be rented and classes are held; and a fairy tale themed amusement park called Children’s Fairyland. A popular walking and jogging path runs along its perimeter. A “necklace of lights” encircles the lake. Featuring 126 lampposts and 3,400 pearly bulbs, the “necklace” was first lit in 1925. In 1941, the lights were removed to comply with World War II blackout conditions. After a decade-long campaign by the Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, the lights were again illuminated in 1987. The circumference of the lake is 3.4 miles and its area is 155 acres.
I don’t usually walk by myself when it’s dark but I still haven’t processed this whole daylight savings time thing and so when I set out at 4:59 p.m. I was treated to a beautiful dusk over the lake about five minutes later.