Natural History Classes

Birds and Natural History of San Luis Obispo County: The Coast and Interior
February 9 - 11 9:00 am Friday - 2:30 pm Sunday

$190.00 This special tour is sponsored by the California Naturalist. To register contact David directly at

San Luis Obispo County is one of the most diverse regions in the state. Over 450 species of birds occur here, but our weekend outing will also focus on seals, sea otters and the varied plant communities both on the coast and in the drier interior habitats. Our adventure will begin at Morro Bay State Park where the salt marsh, eelgrass beds, and tidal waters attract brant, ducks, shorebirds, 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 visit Coon Creek to explore lush 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 National Monument. This unique preserve, now protected by the Bureau of Land Management, is a large raptor wintering and feeding area where we will look for Burrowing Owl, Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon and Ferruginous Hawk. Roadrunner, Pronghorn Antelope, Tule Elk and Badger are some of the other species we hope to encounter. Join us for this fun adventure in a unique corner of the state. Accommodations are not included, but hotel recommendations are available.
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Baja: West Coast and Sea of Cortez:
March 26 - April 6, 2018

This is one of my favorite tours and I’ve enjoyed leading it for the Oceanic Society and Wild Wings for over twenty years. Simply put, the Pacific coastal zones of the Baja peninsula and Sea of Cortez are feeding and migratory regions for the greatest variety of whales, dolphins and other cetaceans on the planet. Blue, Humpback, Fin, Sperm and Bryde’s Whales some of the cetaceans we encounter. This tour includes two days in San Ignacio Lagoon, an extraordinry habitat where Gray Whale mothers approach our skiffs with their young calves, often close enough to touch. Laysan and Black-footed Albatross, Black-vented Shearwater, Red-billed Tropicbird, Craveri’s Murrelet, Blue-footed and Brown Booby are some of the many seabirds seen on this expedition. In total over 120 species of birds are usually seen including Reddish Egret, Xantus’ Hummingbird, Gray Thrasher, Black-throated Sparrow and Pyrrhuloxia. Although diverse wildlife, wonderful snorkeling and rocky, desert landscapes are awesome this special tour offers a unique opportunity to escape to tranquil sites far from the stresses of modern civilization.

This cruise is sponsored by
Wild Wings.

Natural History of Coastal Monterey

April, 2018
Dates to be determined

The varied habitats of Monterey County are wonderfully scenic especially during the spring. Over 450 species of birds have been found here and the botanical diversity is also remarkably rich. On Friday, explore the justly famous Point Lobos State Reserve, peering into coves for breeding cormorants and watching oystercatchers feed in the tidal zone. Not far beyond the cypress bluffs and kelp forests, migrating grey whales can often be seen and sea lions are always present. You will continue exploring this dramatic coast to the south towards Big Sur, visiting a surprise canyon where a redwood and fern-lined stream flows out to a dramatic headland. A special feature of this class will be our lodging for Friday and Saturday nights at Hastings Preserve, a unique University of California reserve not open to the public. We will enjoy a full day exploring the grasslands, oak woodland and riparian habitats here and adjacent parts of the Carmel Valley where the display of lupine and other wildflowers can be spectacular. At the UC reserve you will learn about the natural history of lizards, gophers, oaks, Acorn Woodpeckers, magpies and many other birds that breed locally. Sunday will be the time to explore Elkhorn Slough by pontoon boat, offering an excellent platform from which to see and photograph the myriad of godwits, willets and other shorebirds. The boat also provides a perfect opportunity for close viewing of sea otters and harbor seals. Grebes, loons, pelicans, ducks and many other water birds are almost constantly in view. In addition to the boat trip, you will walk a trail through lichen-draped oaks and salt marshes at the National Estuarine Preserve, affording even more birding opportunities. Includes access to Hastings Preserve, two nights lodging, meals from Friday night through Sunday morning and boat trip on the Elkhorn Slough.
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Estero Trail Discovery Hike
April 19, 2018
9:00 am - 4:30 pm

The peak wildflower bloom is always an excellent time to take a rich, eight-mile walk along the Estero Trail to Drake’s Head overlooking Limantour Estero. Pausing to view the diversity of wildflowers and other plants along the trail will give us an opportunity to rest along the way. Of course, we will also stop to view the many grebes, scoters, shorebirds, and other water birds that are migrating and feeding in the rich estuaries. Many land birds will already be in the midst of nesting activity and we will identify them by voice and sight. Join us for a full day of natural history exploration in a less visited part of Point Reyes National Seashore. Expect to hike all day on uneven trails.

Exploring the Tomales Bay Watershed

May, 2019

Tomales Bay is one of the most productive and dynamic estuaries on the California coast. This class will be a unique opportunity to explore the watershed from its headwaters to the terminus of Lagunitas Creek as it flows into the bay. Our first walk will be on the slopes of Mt Tamalpais. The firs and oaks here are the home of Black-throated Gray Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker and Calypso Orchid. Our second creek walk will be below Alpine Lake through a riparian canyon. Another walk along the creek is near Samuel P Taylor State Park where the creek now flows widely by large alder, willow and maple trees. Redwoods tower above the side canyons here. Our final walk will be to a point overlooking the Giacomini wetlands where Lagunitas Creek flows into Tomales Bay. There are few watersheds such as this where one can travel from the headwaters to its tidal mouth in a relatively small area. Come join us to explore these unique and diverse sites that are joined by the waters flowing through them.

Mono Lake: Birds and Natural History

July 13 -15, 2018
sponsored by the Mono Lake Committee
This field seminar will concentrate on the identification and ecology of birds that breed in the Mono Basin and others that migrate by Mono Lake during the summer. In sagebrush meadows and riparian and montane forests, the class will explore a number of sites, mixing short leisurely walks with periods of observation and natural history discussion. Woodpeckers, corvids, flycatchers, warblers, and other passerines display fascinating, varied behaviors. However, a major focus will be Mono Lake and other wetlands where phalaropes and other shorebirds feed.
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Birds and Natural History of Malaysian Borneo
October 10 - 28, 2018
Sponsored by Paradise Birding,