Bird watchers
The unCommon Marin Birdwatcher, seen here in its winter plumage, often gathers in flocks at the sides of local ponds around Marin County. Photo Maggie Rufo

Field Trips

Marin Audubon Field Trips are open to the public. Bring lunch, field guide, and binoculars.

Information & Questions:
Phone: 559-760-1551

Currently scheduled upcoming field trips are listed here by date in ascending order (i.e., soonest first). For a complete list of all past and currently scheduled field trips click here.

Birding in Marin Third Saturday Field Trip Series:  Jim White and Bob Battagin have graciously offered to lead a trip for Marin Audubon on the third Saturday of every month for 12 months. These trips are included in the list below. Click here for the complete list.

Skaggs Island
Location: Sonoma County
Trip Leader(s): Murray Berner
Start Date: Saturday, February 24, 2018
Start Time: 8:45 AM
End Time: 3:00 PM
Description: Murray Berner led trips for Napa-Solano Audubon for many years and authored the Solano Co. Breeding Bird Atlas. With him as our guide, we will be allowed access to Skaggs Island, generally closed to the public. The island, a former naval facility, is now part of San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, an addition of more than 3000 acres. February is peak season for raptors, including Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk, Prairie Falcon and Burrowing Owl, plus dozens of kites and harriers, all of which were seen on last year's field trip. Black Rail is resident and was heard by our group last year. Songbirds flock in the former residential area, harassed by Merlin and Accipiters. Allen's Hummingbird will be displaying among the eucalyptus.

We will meet at the south entrance to Skaggs Island off of Hwy 37 and travel by car across the island, stopping to bird along the way. Some birders may wish to leave when we reach the island's north gate. Interested birders may continue with the group to Hudeman Slough where we will bird on foot. Dress in layers and sturdy shoes and bring lunch and water. Heavy rain cancels.

Directions: Take Hwy 101 north to Hwy 37 East. At the intersection with SR 121 (Sonoma Raceway), continue straight on Hwy 37 for 3.8 miles and turn left at Skaggs Island Road. No restrooms available.

The Ponds at the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District (LGVSD)
Location: San Rafael
Trip Leader(s): Sande and Bob Chilvers
Start Date: Thursday, March 1, 2018
Start Time: 8:30 AM
End Time: 12:00 PM
Description: Beginning birders are especially welcome on the first Thursday of each month for a leisurely walk around the Las Gallinas ponds. Join us as we search for waterfowl, waders, songbirds, raptors, and shorebirds. February trip participants witnessed an American Kestrel chasing a Merlin. Other recent observers have reported a Eurasian Green-winged Teal in the area. This monthly Las Gallinas trip is consistently interesting!

We welcome bird enthusiasts of all levels. We all help each other to find and identify the birds, so come assist in our search. You don't even have to arrive on time because we spend the first 30-60 minutes studying the birds around the first pond and the group is easy to find. Heavy rain cancels.

Directions: From Hwy 101, exit at Smith Ranch Rd. Drive east on Smith Ranch Road toward McInnis Park. Turn left immediately after crossing the railroad tracks and drive about .5 mile through the LGVSD gates and into the parking lot at the end of the road. Meet the group by the bridge just past the parking lot. There is an outhouse in the parking area for public use or you can use the bathrooms at nearby McInnis Park.

Stafford Lake
Location: Novato
Trip Leader(s): Bob Atwood
Start Date: Saturday, March 3, 2018
Start Time: 9:00 AM
End Time: 12:00 PM
Description: Located west of Novato, Stafford Lake is a beautiful but less birded area that is productive for waterfowl and raptors. Approximately 172 species of birds have been spotted at Stafford Lake throughout the years with our group likely to see a considerable variety of the resident as well as wintering birds. The county park has facilities and plenty of parking. The mostly level terrain and water views make for pleasant birding as we walk around a portion of the lake and the surrounding area. Heavy rain cancels.

DIRECTIONS: From Highway 101 in Novato, take the exit for San Marin Drive west 2.9 miles. Turn right onto Novato Blvd. and follow for 2.6 miles. The park is on the left. Turn left after the gatehouse and travel to the parking lot. Our trip has been scheduled on a "Measure A" day of free entrance to Marin County Parks, so no fees will be required. Nice scheduling, Bob!

Hall Ranch to Horseshoe Bay
Location: Point Reyes National Seashore
Trip Leader(s): David Wimpfheimer
Start Date: Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Start Time: 9:30 AM
End Time: 3:00 PM
Description: Join David as we hike through several rich coastal habitats in our quest for birds, mammals, and some vigorous exercise. We will be hiking approximately four miles on relatively rough trails with a total elevation gain of some 500', so come prepared with comfortable hiking shoes, layered clothing, and plenty to eat and drink.

We'll start our hike at the Hall Ranch (Barn Owl, Say's Phoebe, and American Kestrel possible), walk towards Horseshoe Bay (Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Burrowing Owl possible), bird at Horseshoe Bay and Beach (Surf Scoter, Brant, various grebes and loons all likely), and hike up towards Drake's Estero Overlook (varied shorebirds, cormorants, ducks, gulls, and American White Pelican probable). Last year we were lucky to come across a dozen Surfbirds feeding on a rock close to shore.

Directions: We will meet near the monument at the Drake's Beach parking area at 9:30 AM, then carpool up the hill to our starting point. Follow Sir Francis Drake Blvd through Inverness out to Point Reyes National Seashore. Keep going until you get to the Drakes Beach Road where you’ll bear left. Expect about a 35-minute drive from Point Reyes Station to Drakes Beach. Heavy rain cancels.

Bodega Bay
Location: Bodega Bay
Trip Leader(s): Gene Hunn
Start Date: Saturday, March 10, 2018
Start Time: 8:30 AM
End Time: 3:30 PM
Description: We will begin birding at Doran Spit ($7 permit required for the day, or carpool with a permit holder). Our first stop will be the Cypress Picnic Area (public restrooms available) opposite the Rich Stallcup viewing platform. The tide will be falling and about halfway out, so we might hope for a variety of shorebirds. We will then walk the outer beach in search of Snowy Plovers and "whatnot" before checking the jetties.

Next stop will be Diekmann's parking lot overlook (hummers, warblers) before heading around the west side of Bodega Harbor out to Bodega Head for a sea watch via Coleman Cove. We'll eat our picnic lunches at the Bodega Dunes Campground amongst the pines (or pick up a chowder to go at Spud Point). Time permitting, we may continue north up the coast to the lookouts at Duncan's Landing, Goat Rock, and Jenner.

Pack warm clothing, hats, lunch, and snacks. Also, bring scopes. We will meet at Bodega Harbor at the pullout on the west side of State Highway 1 between the Doran/Bird Walk parking lot and Smith Brothers Road. Heavy rain cancels.

Mount Tamalpais/Corte Madera Marsh
No. 3, Birding in Marin Series

Location: Mount Tamalpais/Corte Madera
Trip Leader(s): Jim White and Bob Battagin
Start Date: Saturday, March 17, 2018
Start Time: 8:30 AM
End Time: 3:00 PM
Description: Join us this date in celebration of spring and Jim White's 78th birthday! Mount Tamalpais is a good area for seeing Pileated Woodpecker. We also hope to find Red Crossbills, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and a couple of early spring migrants like Western Tanager, Cassin's Vireo, and Black-throated Gray or Hermit Warbler. This year we will NOT be repeating the, might we say, "dicey" hike up the Simmons Trail, which proved challenging to a number of last year's participants.

We will picnic on the mountain then visit the lowland marshes in Corte Madera. Last year this was a particularly rewarding part of the day with sightings of 6 Blue-winged Teal, 3 Ridgeway's Rails, and numerous other avian marsh denizens.

Directions: We will meet at Rock Springs, which is located on East Ridgecrest Blvd. in Mount Tamalpais State Park. From Highway 101 take Highway 1 toward Stinson Beach and Muir Woods. Turn right on Panoramic Highway. In approximately 5 miles, turn right on Pan Toll Road. Then turn left on Ridgecrest Blvd in 1.2 miles. Heavy rain cancels.

Workshop: Outsmarting Your Digital Camera
Signups Open Now

Location: Mill Valley Library, Creekside Room, 375 Throckmorton Ave
Trip Leader(s): Dave Strauss
Start Date: Saturday, March 24, 2018
Start Time: 1:00 PM
End Time: 5:00 PM
Description: Want to be smarter than your camera? This workshop will provide an exploration of the 4 fundamental variables in photography (aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and focus/depth-of-field) with workshop exercises that demonstrate the creative opportunities that arise from switching your smart digital camera into MANUAL mode.

The current generation of smart digital cameras has amazing capabilities, but they make many decisions for you about focus, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO based on algorithms that may or may not comport with your creative intentions. This workshop is intended for photographers who want to venture beyond the GREEN BOX and automatic scene modes and learn how MANUAL mode expands creative opportunities and improves your photographs in challenging situations. Participants should have a digital camera (DSLR or mirrorless) that provides for manual control of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Participants should know how to switch their cameras into manual mode and how to make changes to aperture, shutter speed, and ISO on their respective cameras prior to the workshop.

THIS IS NOT A BEGINNING PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS. Participants should be familiar with their cameras and have some experience taking pictures with them. THINGS TO BRING: a digital camera that has a manual mode, plenty of room on its memory card, and a fully charged battery. If you have alternate lenses, consider bringing one or two of them. We strongly recommend bringing a second charged battery and a notebook.

Dave Strauss was born and raised in Marin County where he lived until graduation from high school in 1966. Four years later, he graduated from U.C. Berkeley College of Environmental Design with a degree in Design and began a 43-year career in computer systems, industrial automation, and electronics, first as a computer programmer and later as an executive, working for high-tech startups as well as large corporations including Bank of America, Lucent Technologies, and Motorola.

Dave has been an enthusiastic photographer since his childhood. His first camera was a Kodak Brownie, which he received as a gift at age 7. While he has made tens of thousands of photographs throughout his life, he re-engaged seriously and professionally with photography when he retired from the electronics industry in early 2013. In recent years his photos have won awards, been shown in galleries and museums and have been published in many media, including magazines, books, websites, and scientific journals.

Today Dave operates from his studio in Oakland, specializing in wildlife, studio portraits, editorial and advertising photography for periodicals, biological/paleontological research specimen imaging, and fine art capture. Dave's website:


This workshop is a collaborative offering of the Marin Audubon Society and the Mill Valley Library. While there is technically no charge for the workshop, we strongly encourage all participants to become chapter-supporting members of Marin Audubon if they have not already done so. Membership information will be available at the workshop.

Signups have already opened on the Mill Valley Library website ( Click on the Library Event Calendar for detailed information and registration. Marin Audubon members interested in attending BE SURE TO SIGN UP RIGHT AWAY as registration is open to the general public, and the workshop is likely to fill quickly.

Tolay Lake Regional Park
Location: Petaluma
Trip Leader(s): Peter Colasanti
Start Date: Saturday, March 31, 2018
Start Time: 8:45 AM
End Time: 3:30 PM
Description: This 1,700 acre park, located between the Petaluma River and Sonoma Valley, includes pristine farm and grasslands, ridges, a seasonal freshwater lake, ponds, wetlands, and many other natural resources. This area is not open to the general public without permits, but we will be allowed access with our guide, Peter Colasanti.

We will meet at 8:45 AM at the gate at the top of Cannon Lane, which is off Lakeville Highway just south of and across from Papa's Taverna (restaurant now closed). WE WILL DEPART FROM THE GATE PROMPTLY AT 9 AM. Peter's permit requires our group to enter and leave the park together, and anyone arriving late will not be allowed to enter. There is a $7.00/day vehicle use fee at the Park. We will hike several miles to check all the available habitats at the park: grassland, oak woodland, riparian corridors, ponds, ridgelines, and ranch buildings. For those who wish to continue birding after lunch, we can visit the Ellis Creek ponds a few miles north at the south edge of Petaluma. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and be prepared to hike for several miles. Bring water, lunch, sunscreen, hat and dress in layers. Heavy rain cancels.

Directions: The address of Papa's Taverna is 5688 Lakeville Hwy, Petaluma. From Marin take Hwy 101 north to CA-37 E toward Napa/Vallejo. Continue about 6 miles on Hwy 37 to Lakeville Hwy. Take a left on Lakeville and continue for another 6 miles. Take a right on Cannon Lane as Papa's comes into view on the left.

Las Gallinas
Location: San Rafael
Trip Leader(s): Sande & Bob Chilvers
Start Date: Thursday, April 5, 2018
Start Time: 8:30 AM
End Time: [not specified]
Description: Save the date! Details will be posted soon.

Olompali State Park
Location: Novato
Trip Leader(s): Rich Cimino and Janet Bodle
Start Date: Saturday, April 7, 2018
Start Time: [not specified]
End Time: [not specified]
Description: Save the date! Details will be posted soon.

Petaluma River Boat Trip
Location: Boat leaves from and returns to Petaluma Turning Basin.
Online Signups Begin Monday, February 26, 2018
Trip Leader(s): Peter Colasanti
Start Date: Monday, April 9, 2018
Start Time: 9:00 AM
End Time: 2:00 PM
Description: This unique excursion with Dolphin Charters will take us through a small salt water estuary off San Pablo Bay that runs about ten miles through some of the last mostly untouched salt water marshes in the Bay Area. Cruising down the Petaluma River, passengers enter a different world. We will meander past sloughs, oxbows, and marshes offering views not visible from adjacent lands. Our boat will continue out into San Pablo Bay where grebes, ducks, and terns can be seen in the shallow water habitat. We will view the extensive mud flats along the edge of the bay, which often host large numbers of shorebirds as well as the raptors that feed on them. Last year's participants raved about this unexpectedly delightful trip! Once again we have scheduled the trip at low tide to enhance our birding opportunities.

The trip is limited to 25 people. The cost is $95 for Marin Audubon Chapter-Supporting Members and $120 for non-members. (Non-member price includes a 2018 MAS Chapter-Supporting Membership.) Registration and payment for the trip will begin on Monday, February 26, 2018. Register at BOOK YOUR SPACE ASAP AS OUR BOAT TRIPS FREQUENTLY SELL OUT QUICKLY. Include the name, email address, and contact phone number of each participant. Those confirmed on the trip will receive directions to the Petaluma Turning Basin and other instructions prior to the trip.

Piper Park
Location: Larkspur
Trip Leader(s): Rich Cimino & Janet Bodle
Start Date: Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Start Time: [not specified]
End Time: [not specified]
Description: Save the date! Details will be posted soon.

Pinnacles National Park
Location: Pinnacles National Park
Trip Leader(s): Rusty Scalf
Start Date: Saturday, April 14, 2018
Start Time: [not specified]
End Time: [not specified]
Description: Save the date! Details will be posted soon.

Muir Beach, Redwood Creek, Slide Ranch
Location: West Marin
Trip Leader(s): Jim White & Bob Battagin
Start Date: Saturday, April 21, 2018
Start Time: [not specified]
End Time: [not specified]
Description: Save the date! Details will be posted soon.

Return of the Terns
Location: Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda
Trip Leader(s): With East Bay Regional Parks District
Start Date: Saturday, June 9, 2018
Start Time: 11:00 AM
End Time: 2:30 PM
Description: Registration Opens on March 27, 2018, at 8:30 am
Join with other Marin Audubon members for this special visit sponsored by the East Bay Regional Parks District to a nesting colony of the endangered California Least Terns in Alameda. We will meet at the Crab Cove Visitor Center for a slide show demonstrating the tern's long migration journey and fascinating behavior. This will be followed by a bus ride to the proposed Alameda National Wildlife Refuge to view a nest site teeming with several hundred pairs of terns and their chicks. To avoid disturbing the endangered terns, visitors must stay on the bus to view activity. The site is accessible just once a year with limited space costing $9 for Alameda County residents or $11 for non-residents. Experts aboard the bus will interpret bird behavior.

RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED for the bus ride to this tern colony with REGISTRATION OPENING ON March 27, 2018 at 8:30 AM. Three bus tours will be offered on this date - at 11 AM, 12:15 PM, and 1:30 PM. Marin Audubon members may wish to reserve spaces together on the 11 AM tour but are free to reserve space on any of the three tours. Arrive an hour before the bus ride to view the slide show, then board the bus at 11, 12:15, or 1:30 for the visit to the tern colony. Gather after the tour for a picnic lunch near the visitor center. Reserve your space on this unique tour at the link below.
Link: http://

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