California has some of the most spectacular scenery and wildlife in the country. Day trips allow us to search further afield for greater wildlife diversity. Trips begin at 9am and end at 4pm, generally with 1-2 hours of driving each way. We stop mid-day to relax and have lunch. (Bring lunch and drinks with you, unless a local spot is noted and available.) The fee is $75 per person. Directions to the site will be sent after payment has been received. Species totals for these trips are typically 40-60. They usually involve 1-2 miles of easy walking. Earn a 20% discount by registering with a friend! All tours and trips require prior registration.
Fall 2021 Tours
Sandhill Cranes of the Sacramento Delta
Sat. Oct. 16, 10am-4pm
A trip to the Sacramento delta during the fall and winter months is like returning to old California before the Gold Rush, in the 1840’s, when it teemed with wildlife of all kinds. In these pioneer days the valley was full of birds of every description and grizzlies, elk, beaver, otters and Mule deer roamed the land. The grizzlies are gone, but the Cosumnes River Preserve is still pretty close to paradise for bird-lovers! Located a few miles north of Lodi, just off I5, the preserve is home to tens of thousands of migratory birds from October to March. Ducks, Tundra swans, geese, raptors (Red-tails, harriers, Kestrels), shorebirds and many songbirds are there in great numbers. These birds include the majestic Sandhill Cranes, which spend the winter in the nearby fields and sloughs. They fly overhead in V- shaped patterns constantly bugling to one another. Songbirds, including warblers, swallows, kinglets, thrushes and finches, flit in and out among the large trees along the river’s edge. Scaup, Gadwall, teal, Shovelers, Wigeon, Pintail dabble among the wetlands pools and marshes. Even Great Horned Owls, Bitterns and Peregrine falcons can sometimes be spotted! In the afternoon after lunch we'll visit nearby Woodbridge Road to see even more cranes, waterfowl and hawks. The trip is easy walking, less than a mile. Bring lunch, drinks and cameras for great photography. Allow for a two hour drive from the East Bay, slightly more from San Francisco or the peninsula. Two main routes: from 580 to I5 north, exit at Franklin Blvd. Slightly shorter route is directly through the delta: from 80 in the East Bay take 4 east to 160 north, near Antioch; then take 12 north-east to I5, and then north about 10 miles to Franklin Blvd. Exit, make right and go several miles to the Visitor’s Center, meet in the parking lot.
Birds of Bodega Bay and Sonoma Coast
Sat. Dec. 11, 10am-4pm
Scenic Bodega Bay, nestled on the Sonoma coast west of Sebastopol, is one of our most exciting Bay Area birding locations in the winter. In recognition of its migration hot-spot status, it has been designated as an IBA (Important Bird Area) by the American Bird Conservancy. The great headlands overlooking the ocean and the marshes surrounding the bay protect great numbers and varieties of birds. These include Peregrine falcons, Brant geese, plovers, loons, shorebirds, songbirds and many species of ducks. Rarities like Harlequin ducks or Red-necked Grebes also make an occasional appearance. We will circle the bay, visiting locations such as Bodega Head, Doran Beach, Owl Canyon, Spud Pt. Marina and Hole-in-the-Head. We expect to see 40-50 species of birds, some in large numbers. Minimal walking; bring lunch (or purchase one locally) and drinks. Many opportunities for great outdoor and wildlife photography. Allow 1-2 hours driving time from the East Bay. On 101 north at Petaluma take Bodega Ave. west to Valley Ford Road, continue north and west to Hwy 1. Continue several miles north on Hwy 1. Check Google maps for additional info re directions. Meet at Lucas Wharf Restaurant), 595 Hwy 1, which is found on the water (on the left side) pretty quickly when you reach the coast.
The Birds of Lake Solano and Putah Creek at Winters
Sat. Jan. 22, 10am-4pm
This day tour highlights several beautiful Sacramento Valley locations, including Putah Creek and Lake Solano. It starts at Winters, an old, charming valley town several miles west of I80 near Davis. We’ll stop for a snack and a walk along lush Putah Creek, looking for songbirds, woodpeckers, ducks, egrets and perhaps Kingfishers. Then we’ll head off to nearby Lake Solano. Surrounded by stunningly beautiful hill country, this wooded lake has a great variety of songbirds, woodpeckers and ducks in the warm winter months. Commonly found are mergansers, Bufflehead, Wood ducks, teal, goldeneye and Wigeon, together with grebes, cormorants, geese, herons and egrets. Woodpeckers frequently include sapsuckers, Nuttall’s, Flickers and occasionally Lewis’. Hard-to-find Phainopeplas are also occasionally seen around the lake, as are Lewis’ woodpeckers and Red-shouldered hawks. Totals for the day usually reach at least 40 different species, of every variety. Opportunities for good water bird and landscape photography. Bring lunch and drinks for a picnic at the lake, or purchase them in Winters when we arrive. Quickest route from the East Bay: take 80 to 505 north, left at Winters exit, and proceed to the center of town at Grant and Railroad Ave, where we will meet at the Putah Creek Café, 1 Main St., at 9am. Allow at least one hour for travel from San Francisco or the East Bay. You will love Winters and Lake Solano, everyone does!
Bolinas Lagoon and Marin Coast Tour
Sat. Feb. 12, 10am-4pm
The secluded coastal village of Bolinas, just south of Pt. Reyes National Seashore, is our destination today. It is nestled between the Pacific coast and the Inverness Ridge, in a spectacular location just north of Stinson Beach. This trip will combine birding along the lagoon and strolling along the beach with a tour of the village. We’ll visit the fascinating studio of the renowned bird artist Keith Hanson, which doubles as a mini-museum. After lunch in the village we’ll take a stroll along the dramatic and beautiful coastline. Birds typically seen include a great many shorebirds, herons and egrets, ducks and songbirds, with Osprey and Bald eagles possible. From the East Bay take the Richmond Bridge, 101 north and go west at San Rafael to Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. This goes all the way to Olema near Pt. Reyes, where we will meet at the parking lot of the Farm House Deli (at the base of a very steep hill). The Deli is at the junction of Hwy 1 and SFD Blvd in Olema. Moderate amounts of walking, level terrain. Wonderful landscape and marine photographic opportunities. Allow 1.5 hours from the East Bay.
Birds of Pescadero Village & the San Mateo Coast
Sat. March 12, 10am-4pm
The San Mateo coastline, with its miles of rocky headlands and deep blue ocean, small coves, inlets and sandy beaches, is one of the wonders of the Bay Area. The whole coastline from Pacifica to Santa Cruz is a national treasure for nature lovers! Perhaps the most diverse combination of these scenic natural areas is around Pescadero, a charming village about 15 miles south of Half Moon Bay. Coastal birdlife is extremely diverse, with shorebirds like curlews, godwits, Willets and plover, and raptors such as Red-tails, White-tailed Kites and harriers soaring over the inlets and lagoons. Many ducks, three species of cormorants, pelicans and songbirds (finches, sparrows, swallows) add additional excitement. Among the ocean headlands and crashing surf we can also find turnstones, heron and egrets, Oystercatchers and terns. Occasionally we spot rarities such as Snowy plovers or Harlequin ducks. We will break for lunch in the nearby village of Pescadero, sampling the small shops and village atmosphere. Species total is usually about 40-50 for the day, with minimal walking. Meet at Pescadero State Beach (in parking lot) at the junction of Hwy 1 and Pescadero Road, which is about 15 miles south of Half Moon Bay; park in the lot on the right (ocean) side. Allow 1.5-2 hours driving time from the East Bay, perhaps half this from San Francisco or Santa Cruz.
Magpies, Orioles and Roadrunners: The Livermore-Mines Road Tour
Sat. April 23, 10am-4pm
Journeying along Mines Road is a trip through wild and rugged country into the vanished past of old Alameda County. We meet and begin in Livermore at the Concannon Winery at 10am and drive through 30 miles of cattle ranches, meandering creeks with huge sycamores, oak woodlands and chaparral-covered hillsides. This wild country hosts a great assortment of birds, including Golden Eagles, Yellow-billed Magpies, Phainopeplas, Red-shouldered hawks, orioles and Great Horned owls. Even hard-to-find Lawrence’s goldfinches, Roadrunners and Lewis’ woodpeckers are possible! Bring drinks or lunch, or buy one at the Junction Café around noon. We expect to see up to 50 species for the day. This tour is primarily roadside birding with very little walking. From the East Bay take 580 south-east to the North Livermore exit, and proceed a mile or so through town, when the road becomes South Livermore (but still the same road). Continue a short way to Tesla Road; Concannon Vinyard entrance is immediately on the left; park in the large lot next to the main building. (Google maps are useful for additional info on directions.) Make sure you have a full tank of gas for the 60-mile roundtrip journey from Livermore and back!
Owl Prowl at Rush Ranch & Grizzly Island
Sat. May 14 10am-4pm
This enormous state wildlife preserve (over 10,000 acres) near Fairfield is renowned for a great variety of birds and wildlife, with grasslands, marshes and wetlands that stretch for miles to the distant hills. To the south, far beyond the marshes, majestic Mt. Diablo rises above the horizon. Raptors and hawks of all kinds and songbirds such as Loggerhead shrikes, meadowlarks, Red-wing and Brewer’s blackbirds, are fairly common. Our first stop will be Rush Ranch (see www.solanolandtrust.org for more info), a complex of old-fashioned farm buildings with horses, corrals, steers and a massive old red barn. It is also home to several kinds of owls (Barn, Horned and Burrowing), which can usually be found with a little searching. White-tailed kites, Kestrels, herons, egrets and songbirds are present in the fields, marshes and groves of trees. We will then explore Grizzly Island after lunch to see some of these exciting birds, and we’ll search for the giant Tule Elk herd. Bring lunch and drinks. Allow an hour plus from the East Bay; take 80 to 12 (east), and enter the preserve in four miles (a right turn) at Grizzly Island Road. Meet at Rush Ranch, which is the first right (1-2 miles) after the turn from 12, enter on the right down the driveway, meet at the parking lot by the big old Red Barn, maybe 200 yards ahead. Great opportunities for landscape and wildlife photography.
Local Bay Area: Morning Birding Tours
All-Day Birding Excursions
All trips and tours are at a relaxed pace and usually involve minimal walking on mostly flat terrain; where slopes may be involved, it is indicated. The safety and comfort of tour participants are always first priority. There are no rain dates; if trips are cancelled, fees will be returned or may be applied to future outings.
In general, for shorter trips and tours (up to four days) bring binoculars and whatever snacks, lunch and drinks you wish. If you desire to carpool, I will try to put you in contact with other trip participants, but I cannot guarantee transportation to the site. We will wait 15 minutes after the trip starting time for everyone to assemble and then head out, but it is the responsibility of the client to reach the starting location on time. Refunds will be made, minus a $25 processing fee, up to two weeks prior to the date of the trip. After this time any refund will be at the discretion of the tour operator (Ted Pierce), or may be applied to a future trip or tour. If minimum group tour size is not reached, a trip or tour may be cancelled, or an additional fee charged. Directions and any other necessary information will be sent by email at the time of registration and payment.
For longer tours (up to fourteen days), an itinerary and release form will be sent prior to registration that will provide helpful information and will summarize all terms and conditions. Please contact me for any additional questions about trips or tours you may have, and I will be happy to answer them.