Field Trips

February 22nd, 2018

GGAS Is Looking For New Field Trip Leaders

If you’re a birder and have favorite spots that you would like to share, please consider joining our cadre of volunteer field trip leaders.

It might sound a little scary (“Who me? I can’t lead a field trip.”) but it’s really fun and quite easy.

We’re planning some training walks.  We’ll help you write trip descriptions and find background resources on the places you love to go birding.

And you don’t need to be able to identify every bird. You’ll be successful by organizing an enjoyable walk at an interesting location.

Need a coach? If you’d like a mentor, we’ll match you up with an experienced field trip leader.

If you’re interested (even if you’re maybe a little interested, but also a little nervous) contact
Maureen Lahiff, adult education committee chair, or our field trip coordinator, Steve Lombardi,

March 2018


Tilden Nature Area, Tilden Regional Park, Berkeley
Friday, March 2, 8:30 — 11:30 a.m.
(First Friday bird walk)
Alan Kaplan, or (510) 526-7609 for messages.

Meet in the Tilden Nature Area parking lot (in front of the EEC/Little Farm) for a walk to Jewel Lake and back again. Trail is flat, but could be muddy. Today’s theme: “Birdwatching with American Women: a selection of nature writings by Deborah Strom” will be our inspiration for today. Young people of an age to enjoy the walk are always welcome! Restrooms and water at the start and mid-way.


Bodega Bay, Sonoma County
Sunday, March 4, 8:30 a.m. — noon
Rusty Scalf,, 510-495-5837; Holly Bern

Meet at Doran Beach at 8:30 a.m. There is an entrance fee and often a queue at the entrance. We will convene at the 3rd parking lot on the left (the first two lack restrooms). ‘Doran Beach’ works in Google maps and navigational software.Depending on weather, people & dogs, we shall work the beach first then the mudflats across the street, then the end of the Doran Beach peninsula at the harbor entrance. Then we shall work our way around the Bay, eventually to Bodega Head. Expect to go till noon. Shorebirds should be in full force; Bodega Bay is always good for Loons and other divers. Hopefully the Brant will still be there. Google Maps link:


Lafayette Community Park, Lafayette
Sunday, March 4th, 8:30 — 11:00 a.m.
(First Sunday bird walk)
Madeline Brane,, cell 650-235-5325; Johan Langewis,,cell (510)541-1353

We’ll meet at the Lafayette Community Center and walk the trail behind the Community Center. This level trail features a variety of mature trees and grassy hillsides, alongside a stretch of riparian habitat.  Raptors, nuthatches, and woodpeckers are sited regularly, along with a variety of sparrows. If that trail is muddy, we can walk the paved bike trail across the street. Heavy rain cancels. Families with kids are encouraged. Parents, please respect the other birders and leave the walk if your child becomes a distraction.

We’ll be walking about 2 miles. Meet at the Lafayette Community Center, 500 St. Mary’s Road.  From CA-24, take exit 9, the Orinda-Moraga exit.  Drive south on Moraga Way.  At the T intersection, turn left on Moraga Road, then turn right at the first traffic light onto St. Mary’s Road.  The Community Center is about 2 miles down St. Mary’s Road on the right; drive to the far end of the parking lot.  The URL for the Community Center is Community Center restrooms may be open at the end of our walk.


San Francisco Botanical Garden
Sunday, March 4, 8:00 — 10:30 a.m.
(First Sunday bird walk)
Ginny Marshall,; Robert Cullison,; Angie Geiger, (Leaders vary by month.)

Meet at the front gate of the garden in Golden Gate Park, 9th Ave. at Lincoln Way. The garden has several micro-habitats that attract an array of resident, migrant, and vagrant birds. This monthly trip is oriented toward helping beginning birders develop their skills. Families with kids are encouraged. Parents, please respect the other birders and leave the walk if your child becomes a distraction. Entry is free before 9:00 AM.


The Second Friday walk has moved to the fourth Friday, March 23, this month only. See the write-up below.


Albany Mudflat
Saturday, March 10, 7:30 — 9:30 a.m. 

An outgoing tide and morning light should afford good views of wintering ducks and shorebirds. If time allows, we may walk up to the Albany bulb burrowing owl enclosure. We will meet at the viewing station west of Highway 80 towards the end of Buchanan Street and north of Golden Gate Fields (Albany). Bathrooms nearby. Rain cancels. Bring a scope if you have one.


San Leandro Shoreline Bird and Bike
Saturday, March 10, 9:30 a.m. — 1:30 p.m.

Cathy Bleier (510) 414-5719,; Pat Greene (415) 481-5469 cell,

Meet at the San Leandro BART Station outside the pay area on the west side of the station. Leaders plan to be on trains scheduled to arrive at 9:30 and 9:15 from SF and El Cerrito, respectively. If you drive to the start, be at the station ready to roll at 9:30. We will ride up to 20 flat miles of paved or packed dirt trails and city streets. Shortcuts are possible. Bring binoculars and wear layers to stay warm on this leisurely paced ride. Bring snacks, lunch and water; we won’t pass places to buy. Bicycle helmets required. We will cycle urban streets from BART stations to the Bay Trail and then proceed to bike and bird the shoreline to view wintering ducks and shorebirds, as well as raptors and passerines.

The Bay Trail south of Grant Ave is unpaved. If you are uncomfortable on hard-packed dirt, join us at Grant Ave (where you can retrace to San Leandro BART or escape to Bay Fair BART). We will plan to bird down to Winton Ave, or time permitting, all the way to the Hayward Interpretive Center. This birding ride is co-listed with Grizzly Peak Cyclists. Rain cancels. If the weather is questionable, send your e-mail address to Pat the night before the ride to receive news on the status of the ride. Call or email Cathy Bleier with any other questions.


A Day in the North Bay

The following two trips can be combined; pack a lunch.

Wetland’s Edge Open Space and Napa River Bay Trail, American Canyon
Sunday, March 11, 9:00 a.m. — Noon   (Daylight Saving Time begins)
Maureen Lahiff,, 510.484.6529

It’s not wilderness, but it is wild: restored tidal and seasonal marsh alongside the Napa River. Wintering and resident waterbirds and shorebirds. We’ll be walking on level, mostly wide trails, paved or hard-packed. Meet in the parking area for Wetland’s Edge, at the intersection of Eucalyptus Drive and Wetlands Edge Road.

From the East Bay, take I-80 east to exit 33 for CA-37 towards Napa, west on CA-37 to CA-29, north on CA-29 to Rio del Mar. Left or Rio del Mar and then immediately right on Eucalyptus Drive to the parking area at the end.  Google Maps link:

Be prepared for wind. Please bring sun protection, water, and snacks. There is a chemical toilet in the parking lot. If you’d like to make a day of it and combine this trip with the next one, please pack a lunch!

Lynch Canyon Open Space, Solano County
Sunday, March 11, 1:00 — approximately 4:00 p.m.   (Daylight Saving Time begins)
Maureen Lahiff,, 510.484.6529

Resident Golden Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks, and other raptors, soaring over the ridgelines. Passerines along the riparian corridor. Western Meadowlarks and Western Bluebirds in the pastures. Waterbirds on the reservoir.

Lynch Canyon belongs to Solano Land Trust, which opened it to the public in 2014.  The property is still a working ranch. We will walk Lynch Road along the creek and then walk uphill on a wide, gentle, well-graded trail to a great viewpoint. There, we will sit for an hour or so of hawk watch, so please be prepared for wind and sun. (There are benches and picnic tables, so we can actually sit.) Spotting scopes would be very welcome!

Please bring sun protection, water, and snacks. There is a chemical toilet in the parking lot. Please bring $6 exact cash for parking fee. Coming directly from the Bay Area, take I-80 east to exit 36, American Canyon Road. Turn right and then immediately left onto McGary Road, which runs alongside the freeway. After about 1.5 miles, turn left onto Lynch Road, pass under I-80, and drive to the parking lot. Google Maps link:


Hilltop Lake, Richmond
Wednesday, March 14, 9:00 — 10:45 a.m.
Cathy Bleier, 510-414-5719 (cell);

Join me for my monthly walk at Hilltop Lake.  Easy, flat 0.75 mile walk around Hilltop Lake in Richmond. Freshwater pond fed by Garrity Creek, surrounded by willows, cattails, and native and ornamental trees and shrubs.  We’re up to 111 species for this site; check out ebird bar chart: Ducks are mostly gone; Anna’s Hummingbirds were brilliant and ready to roll last visit, though no Allen’s in sight yet; and swallows have started to show up.

If you’re coming from Highway 80, take Richmond Parkway exit west, turn on to Lakeside Drive by the Hilltop YMCA and then take first left into the YMCA parking lot.  Follow the one-way arrows in the parking lot, down to and through the lower lot, up again and turn left to park at the end near the entrance to the park.  Please bring binoculars.  Also, despite heavy daily use by Y patrons (including me!), there have been occasional break-ins, so please don’t leave valuables in sight. NO RESTROOM AVAILABLE AT THIS SITE. Rain cancels; call if you’re not sure.


Corona Heights, San Francisco
Friday, March 16, 8 — 10 a.m.
(Third Friday bird walk)
Brian Fitch, (Leaders vary by month.)

Great views of the city and beyond meet us as we explore this hilltop park. We’ll be checking on permanent and seasonal resident species as well as watching for migrants in and over this surprisingly productive place. Trails are relatively good, but many require navigating stairs and ramps. Families with kids are encouraged. Parents, please respect the other birders and leave the walk if your child becomes a distraction. The Museum has just re-opened. Come to the walk and then visit the newly remodeled museum. Free parking is available at the end of Museum Way in the Randall Museum lot, and transit options are very good, with a bus along Roosevelt Way, and MUNI trains just below on Market Street. Google map:


No Birdathon this year.
We won’t be doing a Birdathon fundraiser this year. In lieu of the April Birdathon fund-raising trips, we’ll be running some special field trips throughout the year for which there will be a small fee. Here are the first two trips, led by Harry Fuller on March 17 and repeating on March 18.

Guided Field Trip # 1 with Harry Fuller, San Francisco
Saturday, March 17, 8:30 a.m. — 3:30 p.m.
Harry will lead participants to some key places in San Francisco’s natural history, including Land’s End/Sutro Heights, Tennessee Hollow, and El Polin Spring in the Presidio, Crissy Field, and Lake Merced. What would have been here in 1750? How have these places changed over time? Why is each location notable now? What may lie ahead? How can we make a difference in the future of natural San Francisco?

We will carpool from our first meeting site. Wear layered clothing. Bring water, lunch, and snacks and, of course, binoculars. Trip details and the meeting place location will be sent to participants a week before the trip. The trip will go rain or shine.

Limited to 20 people. $50 GGAS members, $75 non-member price.
Click here to register online

Guided Field Trip # 2 with Harry Fuller, San Francisco
Sunday, March 18, 8:30 a.m. — 3:30 p.m.

Trip 2 has the same itinerary as Trip 1 above. Limited to 20 people. $50 GGAS members, $75 non-member price.
Click here to register online

Please note: Harry Fuller will teach a class in conjunction with these field trips as a benefit to GGAS.  Learn more and sign up here.

About Harry Fuller:
Birder and author Harry Fuller had a successful career in television news. He lived and worked in San Francisco for many years. Working in television, he won two local Emmys for news coverage and a national Peabody Award for his coverage of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. He worked for an internet startup, moved to London to work for CNBC news, and returned to the U.S. He now lives in Ashland, OR. He is the author of Great Gray Owls of CA, OR and WA, and Freeway Birding and now San Francisco’s Natural History. Formerly a member of the Klamath Bird Observatory board, he is now an active ornithology instructor and volunteer. Harry is a bird guide, blogger, and active member of Rogue Valley Audubon, Point Blue and Golden Gate Audubon.


Las Gallinas Storage Pond, San Rafael
Sunday, March 18, 8:00 — 11:00 a.m.
Miya Lucas,; Wendy Beers,

We’ll plan on walking around the settling ponds, as well as walking out to the marshes in hopes of hearing and even possibly seeing Ridgway’s Rails. One never knows what they might see or hear, but it’s also a good place to find Green Herons and look for the American Bittern which has been spotted again this winter. There are usually Northern Harriers and White-tailed Kites working the meadows and both Osprey and Bald Eagles have been sited flying over the ponds. You just never know what you’ll see.

It can be foggy or sunny and hot, so wear sunscreen and a hat and have some water with you just in case it gets really warm. It will be a leisurely and level stroll, suitable for all levels. Families with interested young birders are welcome to join this walk.

Port-a-potty at the parking lot. Meet at the parking lot at the end of Smith Ranch Road in San Rafael. Google Maps link: Rain cancels.

Fort Mason Community Garden, San Francisco
Sunday, March 18, 8:00 — 10:00 a.m.
(Third Sunday bird walk)

March may be the last month to see many of our overwintering waterbirds, as well as specialties like Red-Breasted Sapsucker, White-Throated Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Wandering Tattler and the overwintering Yellow Warbler.  Early migrants may already be showing up (we have had Western Kingbird at Fort Mason on March 16th). Allen’s Hummingbirds are already present, and there may be a migrating Rufous on its way through. Newly arriving and migrating swallows are possible. Meet in front of the Community Garden to explore several different habitats in this compact part of GGNRA. Restroom in meadow, ample parking if there is no race on the waterfront (also easily accessible by transit). Heavy rain cancels. Google Maps link:

UCSF Mt. Sutro Open Space Preserve, San Francisco
Sunday, March 18, 2018. 8:30 — ~11:30 a.m.
Pat Greene, (415) 566-6637, cell (415) 481-5469,

Meet at Woods Lot, 100 Medical Center Way, at 8:30 a.m.  Mt. Sutro is the site of a March 18 BioBlitz aimed at documenting biodiversity on Mt. Sutro ( We will assemble 1/2 hour before the official start of the BioBlitz, and do our bird walk as usual; beginners welcome. Our bird list will contribute to Bioblitz data; if you have the ability to photograph birds or record song, the BioBlitz data will be improved. We’ll walk ~2 miles, with climbs and descents on mostly well-graded trails (some rocky spots and exposed roots). Be prepared for muddy trails if there has been rain. Most wintering birds should still be present along with resident birds–now joined by a few migrants. We’ll listen and look for birds in the denser March vegetation. You may register for the BioBlitz at . Choose the ‘early bird’ group. Please rsvp to Pat Greene by email,

UCSF can be reached by public transit: N Judah light rail + UCSF elevator to Parnassus, and 43, 6 and 66 buses. Then hike uphill to the Woods Lot. Driving directions: from Clarendon, turn onto Johnstone Drive into UCSF Aldea Housing, turn R on Medical Center Way, and continue downhill to a wooden shelter for the UCSF Shuttle Stop; turn right into Woods Lot where parking will be available.

There is no restroom at the Woods lot. If you are driving, there is a nearby restroom at Aldea Community Center, 155 Johnstone Way (on the left at the Medical Center Way intersection).  If coming on public transportation, public restrooms can be found in Millberry Union on Parnassus.

Blake House Garden, 70 Rincon Road, Kensington 94707
Wednesday, March 21, 8:30 — 10:00 a.m.
(Third Wednesday bird walk)
Penn Hughes, or (510) 499-5491 for messages.

(GPS or) Go to Marin Circle in Berkeley, and then proceed on The Arlington, north toward Kensington. It is 2.4 miles, an estimated 7 minutes from Marin Circle to Blake House. Pass through the town center and on to Rincon Road, which angles off The Arlington to the left. The house and garden, and parking, are all on the left of Rincon Road. Rest rooms available. Children are welcome. Please, no dogs. Results of the bird walk will be reported on eBird. Include your email when you sign in on-site if you want to see the eBird report. You can tweak it for what you remember that I don’t!

Valle Vista Staging Area, Upper San Leandro Reservoir, Moraga 
Friday, March 23rd, 8:30 — 11:30 a.m.
(“Second Friday” bird walk moved temporarily to this date)
Madeline Brane,, cell 650-235-5325; Johan Langewis,, cell (510) 541-1353

This EBMUD watershed land features a great variety of habitats: chaparral and scrub, grassland, pine-oak woodland, marsh, and the top of the reservoir. Likely birds include raptors, sparrows, California Thrasher, nuthatches, wrens, and the shy Wood Ducks. Walking is on hard-packed trails, with some gentle up and down hill. There is a pit toilet at the staging area, but no drinking water.

We’ll be walking about 2 miles. Meet at the Valle Vista Staging Area parking lot. From CA-24, take exit 9, the Orinda-Moraga exit.  Head toward Moraga. Go about 4.5 miles to the T intersection. Then turn right onto Canyon Rd. Go about 1 mile and turn left into the Valle Vista Staging Area parking lot.

Families with kids are encouraged. Parents, please respect the other birders and leave the walk if your child becomes a distraction.


Displaying Greater Sage-Grouse and More, Susanville area
Saturday — Sunday, March 24 — 25
Dave Quady,; Bruce Mast,

This trip and the wait list are both full.
Please do not contact the leaders if you’re trying to get on this trip.

The centerpiece of this field trip will be a chance to see male Greater Sage-Grouse dance for females’ attention, but we will have much more to enjoy during our weekend in Lassen County. Nearby we’ll look for Sagebrush Sparrow and Sage Thrasher to complete the ‘sage trifecta.’ Elsewhere we’ll bird the Honey Lake Valley, a major waterfowl wintering area; visit Eagle Lake, a large endorheic alkaline lake in a spectacular setting; seek wintering Ferruginous and Rough-legged hawks; and try for mountain birds such as White-headed Woodpeckers, Pinyon Jays and Townsend’s Solitaires.

This trip will begin in Susanville very early Saturday morning, March 24 and end Sunday afternoon, March 25, after enjoying the bird feeder activity at a private residence on the edge of Eagle Lake as we eat our lunches.

There is no charge for this trip, but we expect that you will make a donation to GGAS if you enjoy yourself. A donation of $100 per person was requested last year, as part of GGAS’s centennial year Birdathon.

This trip is limited to 20 participants. We expect to arrange a preferred rate at a local motel; primitive camping is available 20 miles away. Contact the leader, Dave Quady, for further information at 510-704-9353 or Sign-ups begin at noon Tuesday, February 13, by email (only) to Dave.


Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park, Oakland
Wednesday, March 28, 9:30 a.m. – noon
(Fourth Wednesday bird walk)
Ruth Tobey, 510.717.3264,; Hilary Powers,

This month, you’ll see Double-crested Cormorants with crests, plus most of the winter migrants – some beginning to don their alternate plumage for party season.

Meet at the large spherical cage near the Nature Center at Perkins and Bellevue. We will bird around there, then go up the garden path toward Children’s Fairyland or walk down the lake toward Embarcadero, after which we will cover what we missed. Public transit: Take the 12, N, or NL bus to Grand and Perkins, and walk into the park on Perkins. Driving: The boathouse lot near the spherical cage is the best spot to park, but there’s plenty of parking along Bellevue between the boathouse and the nature center. Enter via Bellevue near Children’s Fairyland; the $2 “two hour” pass is probably OK even though the trip is about three hours, as the dashboard cards don’t have a start time on them.


Further Out


Petaluma River: Birding By Boat
Friday, April 6, 11 a.m. — 4:30 p.m.
Dolphin Charters. GGAS Leaders; Miya Lucas & Wendy Beers

This small salt water estuary off San Pablo Bay runs about 10 miles north through some of the last (mostly untouched) salt water marshes in the Bay Area. Onboard, our passengers enter a different world. Cruising down the Petaluma River and meandering past sloughs, oxbows and marshes, participants will experience these vital, aquatic links in our natural world. Boating makes accessible an intimate experience of this backwater, riparian world that lies beyond the end of the road. The boat continues out into San Pablo Bay where a different set of birds – grebes, ducks, and terns – can be seen in the shallow water habitat. The extensive mud flats along the edge of San Pablo Bay often host large numbers of shorebirds and the raptors that feed on them.

Depart and return: Petaluma Turning Basin. Registered participants will be sent directions to the marina plus other logistical information about a week before the trip. Limited to 29 people.

Cost: $90 for Golden Gate Audubon members; $125 for non-members, which includes a one year membership to GGAS that will expire on December 31, 2018. Click here to register. Once the trip is full, you may register for the waiting list.


Palm Springs, Morongo Valley, & Salton Sea
This trip and the wait list are both full.
Friday — Monday, April 27, 28, 29, with April 30 as a possible add-on.
Emilie Strauss,; Rusty Scalf,, 510 495-5837
This will be a 3 day trip to deserts of southern California with an optional 4th day riding a tram to the top of Mount San Jacinto.

Destinations will be:
* Coachella Valley locations such as Indian Canyons where we will seek desert birds such as Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Black-throated Sparrow, Cactus Wren, and Roadrunner
* Morongo Valley, an oasis at 2600 ft where we might see riparian birds of such as Vermilion Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, and migrants
* The north end of the Salton Sea where we will see migrant land and water birds. This can be a very productive area with a chance for southern specialties like Gull-billed Tern, and Yellow-footed Gull
* The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will be our adventure on Monday 4/30 for those inclined. An amazing ride to 8516 feet where we will hike among the pines, and hope to see mountain birds like White-headed Woodpecker, and Red Crossbill.

Once you have signed up for this outing please secure lodging immediately. Do not delay. April Motel rooms in Palm Springs have gotten scarce. The leaders will be staying at the Motel 6 on E. Palm Canyon Dr. in Palm Springs (

 Some notes:
* We will consider transportation as people sign up, likely self-organizing into car pools
* Several of these locations require an entrance fee. We’ll let you know in our trip description and full details will be sent to confirmed participants.
* Our itinerary is not set in stone and we need to remain flexible. Conditions may change. As of now we will not be visiting Joshua Tree National Park.
* We will be hiking on some rocky trails though do not plan strenuous hikes. There will be an emphasis on morning and evening if midday is too hot.
* It’s been a dry year and the desert will not be very floral.
* The trip is part of GGAS’s spring fundraising trip series. Suggested donation is $100 per person, 100% of which goes to fund Golden Gate Audubon’s work (the trip leaders are unpaid volunteers, so be kind and generous).

Limit is 14 participants.

Click here to register. Contact the trip leaders with any questions.


Yosemite’s Bird Life, Yosemite National Park
Friday-Sunday, May 18 — 20
Dave Quady, (510) 704-9353 or, and Dave Cornman.

For decades, GGAS’s field trip to the lower and middle elevations of Yosemite National Park’s west side has been held on the weekend after Memorial Day. In a bow to climate change, and as an experiment, the 2018 field trip will be held two weeks earlier – on the weekend before Memorial Day. How will bird activity differ from past years? What will the weather be like? How will another year of re-growth have changed conditions in two major firescapes – from the two 2014 Foresta-area fires, and from 2013’s huge Rim Fire? Let’s see what we can learn.

This trip is limited to 20 participants. Sign-ups begin at noon on Wednesday, December 13 – by email only to, please.

Past participants have found it convenient to camp at Hodgdon Meadow in the park (reservations open January 15; campground fills up very fast), or to stay in campgrounds or commercial lodgings outside the park’s Big Oak Flat entrance. Details, including meeting times and locations, and lodging suggestions, will be provided to confirmed participants. Carpooling encouraged.

Participants should bring warm clothes, rainwear, and waterproof boots for wet meadows. Bring lunches for Saturday and Sunday and be prepared to walk about three miles each day.