Birding Tours and Classes




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The following classes are sponsored by the Point Reyes Field Institute

Shorebirds at Bodega Bay
September 9. 2017
9:00 am - 4:00 pm

Bodega Bay is one of the most popular birding sites in the Bay Area and with good reason. The tidal mudflats here are habitat for an excellent variety of godwits, sandpipers, plovers and other species. Sandy beaches often provide Snowy Plover and Sanderling while the rocky coast is preferred feeding area for turnstones, oystercatcher and Wandering Tattler. Shorebirds will be the main focus of the day, but we will also enjoy the great variety of loons, grebes, ducks, raptors

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Hidden Wetland Habitats of East Marin
November 19, 2017
9:300 am - 3:30 pm


Many people have enjoyed the abundance and bird diversity at Limantour, Bolinas Lagoon and other West Marin sites. However, few have been to the Hamilton Field Wetlands, which has some of the finest shorebirding in the area. This class will focus on bird identification and distribution at some special places that are closer to many of our homes, but are seldom visited. Mid-winter is an excellent time to see a large variety of shorebirds, ducks, grebes, raptors and other birds in these habitats. In addition to the Hamilton Wetlands, other sites that may be visited include Starkweather Shoreline Park, Pickleweed Park and Bel Marin Keyes.




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Down for the Count: Exploring Bird Diversity and Rarities
Sunday, December 17, 2017
9:30 am to 3:00 pm
For over forty years the Point Reyes Christmas Bird Count (CBC) has been an annual tradition monitoring the winter populations of over two hundred species of birds that winter here. The National Seashore and adjoining areas rank in the top ten of over two thousand counts nationwide in terms of species diversity. This remarkable accomplishment is mostly the result of the wide variety of habitats here. The day after the 2013 count we will enjoy some of this amazing avian diversity and also look for any rarities found on the count. This will be a moderately fast paced day aiming to see a lot of birds, but allowing time to learn bird identification by sight and sound. David compiled the CBC for twenty years and will share information on population trends of the birds of Point Reyes. Learn

Winter Birds of Tomales Bay
Saturday, January 13, 2018 - 9:00 am to 4:00 pm

Tomales Bay is an important wintering area for thousands of loons, grebes, ducks and other waterbirds. The tidal flats, marshes, rocky shores, and beaches provide diverse feeding areas for raptors, shorebirds and waders. We’ll focus on bird identification and behavior during short and easy walks. Our class begins at the bakery in Tomales and then goes to the mouth of the bay, a dramatic ecosystem. After returning to Tomales we visit habitats along the east shore of the bay, including Cypress Grove Preserve, a research center of Aububon Canyon Ranch, which protects nearly 500 acres of important and diverse lands. The class will end with an overlook of the Giacomini wetlands, one of the largest wetland restoration projects on the California coast and a joint effort of the Point Reyes National Seashore Association and the National Park Service.

Birding 101

Saturday, January 20, 2018

9:00 am to 3:00 pm

Discover the incredible bird diversity of Point Reyes National Seashore. Coastal estuaries such as Tomales Bay, Drakes Estero and Bolinas Lagoon are rich feeding areas for huge numbers of waterbirds, raptors, flycatchers, and other land birds. This class covers the basics of field identification as well as insights into the use of binoculars, scopes, and field guides.



Birds of the Delta; A Natural History Cruise
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Sponsored by Dolphin Charters - register at http://www.dolphincharters.com/delta.html

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Come aboard for a wonderful day exploring the rich habitats of the California Delta system. Our trip will begin in Antioch and we’ll cruise the meandering tidal channels in comfort aboard the Delphinus or River Dolphin with their high viewing platforms. We’ll search for shorebirds, raptors and thousands of waterfowl, such as Tundra Swans, Snow Geese, White-fronted Geese, numerous ducks and even stately Sandhill Cranes that spend the winter in the Delta. In previous years, participants have sighted six or more species of raptors in the first hour, including harriers, kites and Peregrine Falcons. Enjoy a specialized look at the rich natural and human history of the California Delta at a time of year when bird life is abundant.

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Petaluma River Birding and Natural History Cruise
April, 2018
Cruise down the Petaluma River in the afternoon and out into San Pablo Bay aboard the Delphinus charter boat. By following the river as it meanders past sloughs, oxbows and marches, gain a better understanding of this vital link to your natural world. On San Pablo Bay, it is likely that you’ll see large rafts of ducks, many feeding godwits and willets as over wintering birds will still be present. Other highlights include a heron rookery and perhaps a curious muskrat, river otter or sea lion. For many decades, the Petaluma River was the third busiest river in California and contains much cultural, as well as natural history. You will hear about some of this history, as well as learn more about sloughs, wetlands, estuaries and rivers during this adventure.

Birds and Plants of Mitchell Canyon

May, 2018

Mitchell Canyon on the north side of Mount Diablo, is the home of a rich variety of breeding birds including flycatchers, vireos, finches and hummingbirds. Resident birds, such as jays, woodpeckers and raptors are joined by neotropical migrants, along the creek’s lush border of cottonwood, willow and alder. Warblers, including Wilson’s, Townsend’s, Black-throated Gray and Hermit can be especially numerous in the oaks here. On this relaxed hike of three to four miles, we will focus on identification by plumage, behavior, song and call. The trail begins in an oak savanna woodland before entering the creek habitat. The oak savanna and chaparral areas shelter many species. Besides birds, these areas can display Wind Poppies, Chinese Houses and other wildflowers not found at Point Reyes. This is a special area at a special time of the year. If time permits there will be an optional visit to another nearby site and a different group of birds.


Habits and Habitats along Bay and Ocean shores


The Breeding Season
Date to be Determined

Many species of water birds spend the breeding season in Point Reyes National Seashore. While most of the shorebirds migrate north to breed, a fascinating variety of herons, cormorants, murres, and guillemots remain to breed here. During this class we will explore several aquatic zones from Tomales Bay to Drake’s Estero to the Lighthouse headlands. In addition, a variety of raptors, sparrows, and other terrestrial birds will be observed, identified, and discussed.



Habits and Habitats in Forest and Wetlands

The Breeding Season
Date to be Determined



In visits to Olema Marsh, Five Brooks, Bear Valley, the Giacomini wetlands and other sites this class focuses on observing and identifying a variety of land birds including flycatchers, warblers, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, thrushes, and finches. Identification using field marks, voice, and habitat selection will be reinforced throughout the day. Spent entirely in the field at a variety of habitats, participants will take several easy short walks with little to no elevation gain.


Bird Song Hike at Point Reyes
Date to be Determined

This outing will concentrate on learning the songs and calls of the flycatchers, vireos, warblers, finches and other songbirds of the area. We will pause often during our four-mile hike, as we walk from the deep bay fir forest of Inverness Ridge through oak woodland and coastal scrub to the freshwater marsh and riparian habitat of Olema Marsh. In a relatively small area, we can expect to hear or see over 50 species of birds, including raptors, waterbirds and swallows, in addition to the songbirds that will be the main focus of the class.


Birds and Natural History of the Kern Valley
Date to be Determined

Located at the southern edge of the Sierra Nevada, the Kern Valley is a unique place where several major California ecological regions merge: Great Basin Desert, Mojave Desert, Chaparral, Sierran Forest, and Great Valley Grassland, including the largest remaining contiguous riparian forest in California. For a non-coastal area, this region has more species of birds, mammals, butterflies and plants than anywhere else in California. This class will focus primarily on the varied birdlife here, but other aspects of the regions' diverse natural history will also be a component. We will explore the area in many short walks in habitats ranging from 2500' to 7000' above sea level. There are few places that can offer Summer Tanager and Blue Grosbeak in cottonwoods while a few miles away Cactus Wrens and Scott's Orioles perch in Joshua trees. Accommodations are not included in the class fee. Participants are encouraged to stay with the leader at the Kern Lodge in Kernville.

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Shorebird Hike at Point Reyes National Seashore

August, 2018


Come spend the day looking for and observing migrant shorebirds that have traversed thousands of miles from their Arctic breeding areas. Some may stay within the rich habitats well into the winter. Others will pause only briefly before traveling south. Join David for a hike on Limantour Spit or around Abbotts Lagoon, depending on where the birds are. Both are wonderful places to learn the difference between a plover and a phalarope or how to tell sanderlings from other sandpipers. We will focus on identification and behaviors of shorebirds and other avian residents.


Shorebird Walk at Hamilton
September, 2018

This tidal marsh just north of San Francisco Bay it is an especially good habitat for viewing large numbers of migrant and resident shorebirds. Nesting avocets and stilts share the area with migratory godwits, peeps, plovers and phalaropes. Some species here are different form the coastal areas visited previously. Although the focus will be on the identification of shorebirds, we will not ignore the herons, terns, raptors and other birds here. Other nearby sites may be visited.






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Fall Migration Immersion at the Point
Date to be announced - Fall 2018


This migration immersion class will take place on the Point Reyes headlands giving participants a unique opportunity to study and appreciate this special area and its avian inhabitants. On Saturday, a series of short walks may take us to the Lighthouse, Chimney Rock, and Drakes Beach. Depending on weather patterns, many migrant warblers, sparrows, and other passerines concentrate in the surrounding cypress groves and willow thickets. Ranch ponds and marsh habitat hold shorebirds while scoter, loons, and other water birds rest on Drakes Bay… there is almost always a surprise.
We will spend the night in this dramatic setting and watch a digital presentation on the birds of Point Reyes. Sunday morning may find us visiting some of the same locations. We may also take a walk at Abbott’s Lagoon. The variety of sandpipers, ducks, terns, and other water birds can be dramatic. Many raptors migrate through this rich area. Rustic accommodations at the charming and historic Lifeboat Station are included for all participants. Expect to take several hikes throughout the weekend.