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Sonoma County Bird Watching, Bike Rides and Hikes - Part 2


Sonoma County Bird Watching,
Bike Rides and Hikes - Part 2

Take to the Hills Valleys & Waterways to find Sonoma County Birds

DOWNLOAD our MAP to Bird Watching Sites and Great Hikes to print and take with you

DOWNLOAD our MAP to Bird Watching Sites and Bike Rides to print and take with you

By Vinny Schwartz

Wildlife abounds in Sonoma County during all seasons and include seals, sea lions and the occasional elephant seal and the twice-annual flotilla of Humpbacks. There are bobcats, skunk, otter, raccoon, fox, muskrat, deer, coyote and lions. Also voles, opossum, mice, rats and a raft of amphibians, lizards and fish. The black bear has made a tremendous comeback as well with estimates of more than 30,000 in Northern California alone.

But no form of wildlife is viewed as often as birds. Open ocean, rocky coast, beaches, estuaries, bays, rivers and streams, wetlands, chaparral, farmland, vineyards, forested hills and mountains provide habitat for over 394 species of birds. This provides a rewarding and engaging pursuit for people of all ages making bird-watching America’s most popular and widespread hobby.

The mouth of the Russian River is reported to have 70 breeding bird species within a five-kilometer ‘block’ which encompasses it, according to the Madrone Audubon Society. It’s tops among the 195 blocks Madrone delineated to assist them in their breeding bird census.

Many species are more common during spring, autumn and winter but since we’re into summer, listed are a few of the more abundant and common summertime and year round species and where they might be found. 

In the woodland and brush along Austin Creek where it empties into the Russian near Casini’s campgrounds there’s an abundance of bird life. Houses line Austin Creek and their yards provide habitat for many species as well.

It’s where four different habitats, each especially attractive to particular species, come together. 

Thus pelagic birds like cormorants and gulls make excursions up from the river mouth, riparian birds such as herons, wood ducks, kingfisher which favor riverine wetlands are common (actually they’re spectacular but they’re still Common) 

Meadow and garden birds such as woodpeckers, grosbeaks and orioles, thrushes like the Swainson’s which we hear but rarely see, bluebirds, flickers and dozens more. 

Soaring hawks abound, buteos such as red-tails, red shouldered hawks, along with turkey vultures and the occasional bald-eagle.

Osprey are common and may be heard, seen and discovered in their nests without much trouble.

Bird Watchers at Shollenberger Park, Petaluma, CA

Shollenberger Park also boasts dozens of readily observed species as does Bodega Bay, the tidal flats and marshes, Spud Point Marina and the harbor where seals, sea lions and other species may be observed. Spring Lake, Annadel State Park, suburban back yards and farmland are accessible areas which many species frequent as well.

Along with the regular avian residents and visitors there are sporadic, vagrant, accidental and rare birds which surprise even veteran birders. 

There are many more species which could be added to this list but by seeing which species frequent which habitat(s), the thoughtful observer should be able to figure out in which a particular species may be seen. 

A decent pair of binoculars and a well-designed field guide are great tools, and of course remembering that body movement such as pointing and waving and loud sounds (“WOW” - LOOK AT THAT!!) serve to disturb most birds. 

Sparrows, swallows, thrushes, jays, ravens, crows, wrens, warblers, finches, blackbirds, orioles and grosbeaks and a variety of LBJ’s (“little brown jobs”) may be observed in many habitats through the county and the more birding one does, the more one understands, field marks, flight patterns, bill shape and behavior in general. Slim, pointed bills are for dining on nectar and insects, and stout bills are designed for cracking seeds and nuts.

Tail lengths and shapes are indicators of how a bird flies, as are how much time a bird spends aloft or grounded. 

Eggs which are somewhat tapered at one end are laid by birds who nest on sea cliffs and promontories so they will roll around in a tight circle instead of rolling off the edge. 

Learn how to tell a crow from a raven, and a Red-tail from a Turkey Vulture from a half-mile away. It’s much easier than you may think and you may impress your friends and relatives.

Choose your birding spots for accessibility, comfort and safety, and be aware of what you may be most likely to see.

Groups are better than solo expeditions because many more eyes are observing and you can usually learn something, even if it’s what not to do. 

Bring a notebook, put together a list, compare notes and don’t overdo it. When the fun stops, it’s time to take a break. And being a good listener may prove to be one of your best assets.

Happy Bird Day and many, many more.

Sonoma County Birds

29 Great Places to Spot Birds  in Sonoma County

• Spring Lake (SL)
• Lake Ralphine (LR)
• Bodega Farm Pond (BFP)
• Shollenberger Park (SP)
• Ellis Creek Water Treatment Facility (ECWTF)
• Bodega Harbor (BH)
• Spring Lake Lagoon (SLL)
• Westside Park (WP)
• Place to Play Park (PTPP)
• Brush Creek (BC
• Santa Rosa Creek (SRC)
• Nagasawa Park, Santa Rosa ( NP)
• Hole in the Head (HITH)
• Doran Beach (DB)
• Smith Bros. Rd. (SBR)
• Sonoma Coast (SC)
• Russian River (RR)
• Austin Creek (AC
• Campbell Cove (CC)
• Annadel State Park (ASP)
• Porto Bodega (PB)
• Jenner (J),
• Goat Rock (GR),
• Port Sonoma (PS)
• Laguna de Santa Rosa (LDSR)
• Duncans Landing (DL)
• Ninth St. Rookery (NSR)
• Lake Sonoma (LS)
• Sugarloaf Ridge S.P. (SRSP) 

What Birds to Look for in Sonoma County

Canada Goose: SL, L.R, BFP,  SP,  ECWTF NP HITH

Red Shouldered Hawk

Brant: BH, Westside Park,

Mallard: FP, SLL, LR,  (BFP), LDSR, PTPP

Gadwall: ECWTF, DB, SL, LR : 

Bufflehead: J, GR, SL, LR, BFP, BH, DB

Surf Scoter: BH, CC,  SBR, SC

Common Merganser: LR, PTPP, RR, AC

California Quail: Brushy areas, SL, ASP

Wild Turkey: ASP, Pine Flat Road,

Common Loon : BH, CC, PB, BH, GR, J,  

Pied-billed Grebe: SL, LR, HITH, PTPP, SP, ECWTF

Western Grebe: J, GR, BH, CC, BH, SP, PS

Double-Crested Cormorant: RR, SL, LR, PTPP,  LDSR

Brandt’s Cormorant: : J, GR, DL, BH

Pelagic Cormorant: : J, GR, DL, BH

American White Pelican: Bodega Bay Mud Flats, PTPP

Brown Pelican: BB, PB, coastal areas

Great Egret: Common in appropriate
habitat throughout county. Ninth St. Rookery in Santa Rosa and  Spud Pt. Crab Co. during nesting season

Snowy Egret: LR, SL, NP, PTPP, NSR

Great Blue Heron: : BB, SL, LR, RR, SP

Black-crowned Night Heron: HITH, LDSR, LR, NSR, 

Turkey Vulture: Common throughout county (Just look up)

Osprey : SL, LR, BB, BH, RR, LS

Red-Tailed Hawk: SRSP,  BH, ASP, Skaggs Is. Rd., common throughout county

Red-Shouldered Hawk: S.L., PTPP,
common on utility wires and in suburbs

Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk): SRSP, ASP, BH, along coast

White-tailed Kite: : SP, Pine Flat Rd., towns, suburbia, Helen Putnam Park

Cooper’s Hawk: ASP, SRSP, suburban back yards and brush areas

Bald Eagle: Nesting pair at Penny (Santos) Island at the mouth of the Russian River, and increasing sightings along the lower reaches of the River. Also seen at SL, Lake Sonoma, LDSR and at the mouth of the RR.

American Kestrel: ASP, SRSP, perched on wires in suburbia and around the county

American Coot: SL, LR, ECWTF, SP, NP

Killdeer : SP, ECWTF, PTPP

Black Oystercatcher: BH, PB, most rocky coastal areas

Semipalmated Plover: : TF, FP, SC

Western Gull: SP, Tides Wharf, PB, CC, LR

Ring-billed Gull: SP, SL, LR, PB, CC

Elegant Tern: BB, PB

Forster’s Tern: BB, SC

Caspian Tern: BB, J, mouth of RR

Rock Dove (Pigeon): common

Mourning Dove: common

Band-tailed Pigeon: BH, suburbia

Barn Owl: Common around farms

Great Horned Owl: SL, BH

Western Screech Owl: common in woods, especially where there’s oak

Northern Pygmy Owl: Armstrong Woods, Ida Clayton Rd., SRSP, Pine Flat Road

Vaux’s Swift: Rio Lindo Academy,
Healdsburg during migration

Anna’s Hummingbird: SL, LR, ASP, SRSP, Ragel Ranch (Sebastopol)

Acorn, Downy, Nuttall’s Woodpecker: SL, ASP, SRSP, wooded and suburban areas

Black Phoebe: SL, LR, PTPP, NP, HITH many other locations