Birding Tours and Classes
The following classes are sponsored by the Point Reyes Field Institute
Birds and Plants of Mitchell Canyon
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: The Breeding Season
Saturday, May 13 8:30 am - 4:00 pm
The peak of Spring is an excellent time to see a large variety of birds throughout Point Reyes. This class will explore varied habitats. Around Bear Valley and Olema Marsh we will look for resident and Neotropical breeding species such as woodpeckers, grosbeaks, warblers and flycatchers. In grasslands near Olema and Drakes Estero, there will be breeding raptors, meadowlarks and others. At the headlands, we will familiarize ourselves with such breeding seabirds as murres, guillemots and cormorants, while migrant loons, scoters and others are on the move. 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
May 15 8:00 am - 12:30 pm
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.
Shorebird Hike at Point Reyes National Seashore
August 14, 2017
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
Date to be announced
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.
Shorebirds at Bodega Bay
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
Hidden Wetland Habitats of East Marin
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, Loch Lomond Cove and Bel Marin
Birds and Natural History of San Luis Obispo
January or February 2017
Explore the birding paradise of San Luis Obispo County, where over 450 species of birds occur. Our adventure will begin at Morro Bay State Park where the salt marsh, eelgrass beds, and tidal waters attract brant, ducks, shorebirds, gulls, terns, Brown and White Pelicans. The adjacent trees, chaparral, hillsides and grasslands are also habitat for California Thrasher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a variety of warblers, woodpeckers, finches and many other species. Morro Rock, in addition to being a breeding site for Peregrine Falcon, is an iconic landform that harbors other aerial birds. On Saturday, at Montaña de Oro State Park, we will watch oystercatchers and cormorants feed alongside seals, sea lions, and sea otters in wonderfully dramatic rocky headlands. Later, we’ll hike up Coon Creek to explore riparian and chaparral communities. A late afternoon visit will be made to the incredible Elephant Seal colony at Piedras Blancas. On Sunday, we will head inland where we will bird in the grasslands, alkali wetlands and saltbush of the Carrizo Plain. This Nature Conservancy Preserve is a large raptor wintering and feeding area where we will look for Burrowing Owl, Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcons and Ferruginous Hawks. Join us for this fun adventure in a unique corner of the state. Accommodations are not included but a helpful packet of information will be sent upon registration.
Natural and Cultural History of the Napa RIver
Date to be determined.
Cruise along the Napa River is like a voyage into the past. This trip begins at the historic Vallejo and Mare Island waterfront and continues into a different world, one of vineyards, backwater homes, and some of the largest contiguous marshes in the Bay Area. It was once the third busiest commercial river (vying with the Petaluma River) in California, after the Sacramento and the San Joaquin. Learn why theses salt marshes are among the most productive plant communities on earth. You will also learn about sloughs, estuaries, riparian, mud flat, marshes and inter-tidal habitats as you take in the bird life and history of the Napa River.Even before leaving the dock, diving ducks and grebes may be seen feeding in the river and marina. Across the way at Mare Island, osprey and egrets are found attending to their nests or roosting in nearby trees. Frequently a pair of peregrine falcons can be seen perched or in flight near their nest as the boat passes under the Highway 37 overpass. Just up-river we cruise alongside the Sonoma/Napa marshes and one of the largest inter-tidal marsh restoration projects in the United States. As a part of the restoration project, levees have been lowered to allow floodwaters to quickly spill over into former flood plains. This process greatly increases the food and habitat for not only birds, but also fish, amphibians and even smaller animals that help support us all. Large mud flats have been deliberately constructed along the river edge, creating abundant feeding and excellent viewing opportunities for large numbers and varieties of probing and wading birds. A variety of hawk species are common and occasionally both golden and bald eagles are seen, birds are always in sight.
Fall Migration Immersion at the Point
Date to be announced - Fall 2016
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.