Description and review of a stargazing fundraiser event for the Yolo Basin Foundation at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area.
A friend and I recently participated in a stargazing fundraising event to benefit the Yolo Basin Foundation and its programs. The mission of the Foundation is to expand public appreciation and stewardship of wetlands and wildlife in the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area.
The stargazing event, part of the Foundations’ Explorer Series for adults, was led by the Davis Astronomy Club, a club of amateur astronomers.
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Stargazing at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
The stargazing event was held on a Saturday evening. The weather was perfect as the evening low was projected to be in the mid to-high 60’s. As advised, we dressed in layers so we were both comfortable that evening.
Yolo County had recently reported their first human case of West Nile virus, so we wore long pants and sprayed ourselves with “Off” to fend off any mosquitos.
It was a bit before 7:00 p.m. when we arrived at the group meeting location, a gravel parking lot within the wildlife area. As each car of attendees arrived, that car joined what became a long single line of vehicles.
Sabreena, the Volunteer Coordinator for the Yolo Basin Foundation, went car to car checking us all in. She drove the lead car taking us to the event location. We were instructed to stay close to the car in front of us so we did not get lost. Just to make sure she did not lose any of us, the event photographer had the assignment to bring up the rear of the caravan.
It took about 25 minutes, traveling at 15 mph, to reach our destination. During the ride we took in the scenery, which included wildflowers, cattails, various bird species including hawks, dragonflies and a rabbit. I am sure the crunch of the traffic on the gravel road warned many of the wildlife area inhabitants to take cover.
Event attendees parked in a single line along the side of the road leading up to the gravel parking lot where the event was held.
As the sun set, attendees were provided with self-serve beverages (beer, wine, soft drinks, water) and hors d’oeuvres (cheese, crackers, fruit).
Members of the Davis Astronomy Club had gone ahead to set up their equipment and exhibits. In addition to the viewing of constellations, star clusters, galaxies, the moon and the rising planet Saturn, the event included a short talk about the major constellations and other star grouping as well as an orientation of the nighttime sky.
The members of the Davis Astronomy Club were both knowledgeable and informative. All were happy to share their love for astronomy as they explained what we were seeing in the night sky. I certainly learned a lot!
The club members own a variety of advanced telescopes. These telescopes can be set to both track a target and align automatically – a real timesaver.
The Night Sky
The moon was in its first-quarter phase, and I enjoyed seeing its craters “up close”. It was also amazing to see Saturn and its rings as well as Titan, its largest moon.
Being in the middle of nowhere, so to speak, the stars shone brightly. One of the many interesting things I learned (and saw) that evening was that the middle star of the handle of the Big Dipper is, in fact, two stars aka a double-star (Mizar and Alcor).
After a most enjoyable evening, the group was advised at around 11:00 p.m. that there was time to take one last look as we were to get ready to caravan out. The estimated end time of the event, 11:30 p.m., was right on the mark!
To Sum Up
Stargazing at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area was a new and fun experience, and one I am glad I had the opportunity to take part in.
Background – Yolo Bypass/Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is located within the Yolo Bypass. The Yolo Bypass is a flood control structure operated as part of the Sacramento River Flood Control System. The Bypass protects Sacramento by carrying Sacramento River overflow during high precipitation and/or extreme run-off events to the Delta.
The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area covers 25 square miles. Restored to wetlands and other associated habits (seasonal and year-round ponds, grasslands, riparian forest), the floodway is home to nearly 200 species of birds. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife manages the wildlife area.
The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is open to the public every day of the week from sunrise to sunset (except December 25 and during periods of flooding). Permits and fees for daily public use are not required, but there are some restrictions.
Waterfowl, pheasant and dove hunting in compliance with hunting regulations is allowed during their respective seasons.
From Davis take I-80 East and exit at Mace Blvd. Turn left at the end of the off-ramp (Chiles Road). Go straight through the next light and travel approximately 4-miles to the end of the road. Drive up onto the levee, turn left at the top, and enter the Yolo Wildlife Area. The first parking lot you come across is Parking Lot A.
From Sacramento take I-80 West. At the west end of the Yolo Causeway bridge take the first exit (County Road 32A, East Chiles Road). Turn right at the end of the off-ramp and go under the freeway. Turn left onto the levee and enter the Wildlife Area on the left. The first parking lot you come across is Parking Lot A.
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