I spy with my little eye…or rather, with a great pair of binoculars…over 200 different birdies passing through the neighborhood on their annual flight path.  Show the kids birds of a feather really do flock together during the spectacular and annual spring migration, a.k.a. the Pacific Migratory Flyway. From Feb 15th – May 31st, head out to the parks, the streams and the bay and don’t forget those binocs! The family will get a kick out of spying on, pointing out and taking note of all the winged creatures who return to the bay area every year to rest, lay their eggs and make like a Northern Cali resident and take a little time to just chill out.

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San Francisco

San Francisco Botanical Garden
Take a leisurely naturalist-led walk through the micro-habitats of the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park, The guided tour is about 2 hours long, participants will be encouraged to search for the California Quail and other birds that stop off here to rest or nest.

Good to Know: Children must be accompanied by an adult.

San Francisco Botanical Garden
MLK JR Drive, near 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way
San Francisco, Ca
Dates: Every first Sun of the month
Time: 8:00 am -10:00 am
Cost: Adults $10.00, children free
Phone: 415-661-1316
Online: sfbotanicalgardensociety.org

El Polín Spring
Located smack-dab in the middle of the PMF, more than 300 bird species have been observed in this super cool, fully-restored habitat in the Presidio, considered to be a rarity among the increasing concrete jungles of civilization. Some year-round sightings include the White-Crowned Sparrow, the Pygmy Nuthatch and the Dark-Eyed Junco and this spring, little eyes might spy a Barn Swallow or a Yellow-Ruped Warbler.

Tennessee Hollow Watershed
Off of MacArthur Ave, The Presidio
San Francisco, Ca
Online: presidio.gov/explore/el-polin-spring-birding

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Marin

Martin Griffin Preserve
Lucky for Bay Area families, Stinson Beach is also home to one of the most awesome and well-studied nesting sites for Egrets on the West Coast. Head to the 1,000-acre Martin Griffin Preserve and feast the eyes on the annual return on the Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets. From watching mating rituals to watching the eggs hatch, birders can check out the wee hatchlings from start to take off.

Good to Know: The preserve opens to the public for the season on March 16th, 2013

Audubon Canyon Ranch
Hwy 101 from Stinson Beach to Bolinas
Dates: Mid March – Mid July, Weekends and Holidays
Hours: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Open Weekdays by Appt. Only
Phone: 415-868-9244
Online: egret.org/visit_bolinas

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Las Gallinas Ponds Thursday Walks
The Marin Audubon Society hosts a beginner bird walk every Thursday at this hidden gem of a spot in northern San Rafael. This is a great “starter” spot for people, especially those of a younger age, to learn about birding etiquette and more. Participants will learn about raptors and wildfowl as well.

Good to Know: Check out the awesome Junior Birdwatchers Program!

Las Gallinas Storage Ponds
McGinnis Park Entrance
Smith Ranch Road
San Rafael, Ca
Hours: 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Cost: Free
Phone: 415-299-2514
Online: marinaudubon.org/events-field-trips

Winter Bird Walk in Richardson Bay
The Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary is hosting a Winter Bird Walk the kiddos will love! This tour led by Sanctuary Manager Kerry Wilcox will cover local fauna such as shorebirds, waterfowl and songbirds native to the area. Reservations are required.

Winter Bird Walk
376 Greenwood Beach Road
Tiburon, Ca
Date: March 3rd, 2013
Time: 8:30 am – 10:30 am
Cost: $7 per person
Phone: 415-388-2524
Online: richardsonbay.audubon.org/events/winter-bird-walk

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East Bay

Coyote Hills Bayview Trail
Grab the bikes and head for this 3.5 mile trail along the shoreline in the Coyote Hills Regional Park. Catch a glimpse of the super fantastic white pelican, some sporting up to a 9 foot wingspan. On the way back round, stop by the bird and butterfly nectar garden, which is currently open Wed – Sun, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

Coyote Hills Regional Park
Patterson Ranch Road/Commerce Drive
Fremont, Ca
Phone: 510-544-3220
Online: ebparks.org/parks/coyote_hills

Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline Park
A surprisingly small space squeezed in amongst East Bay highways and airports, the elevated platforms make for perfect birding. The best time to visit the Shoreline Park is most definitely during high tides, when, after having breakfast with the birds at Doolittle Pond, families can head for Arrowhead Marsh in hopes of spotting those elusive Clapper Rails and other cool feathered friends like the Black Rail.

Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline Park
7250 Doolittle Drive
Oakland, Ca
Hours: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm
Cost: Free
Phone: 1-888-EBPARKs
Online: ebparks.org/parks/martinlking

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Peninsula/South Bay

Baylands Nature Preserve
With 15 miles of exploration at the ready, many consider this area to be one of the best bird watching areas on the west coast. Want to take a peek at the endangered Clapper Rail? Head for the area by the Harriet Mundy Marsh. Or visit the Lucy Evans Center and marvel at the miracle of barn swallows and their nest building techniques.

Baylands Nature Preserve
2500 Embarcadero Road
Palo Alto, Ca
Hours: Open daily from 8:00 am – Sunset
Phone: 650-617-3156
Online: cityofpaloalto.org/gov/depts

Crystal Springs Reservoir
The local nature crew discovered a real find last year and are thrilled the same pair of Bald Eagles have returned to this San Mateo County preserve for a second year! This sighting must be seen from afar however, as these majestic birds don’t really dig human contact.

Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir
Black Mountain exit from I-280, a left on Skyline Drive
San Mateo, Ca
Dates:  Sat and Sun: 9:00 am – 12:00 pm, weather permitting.
Phone: 650-589-4294
Online: sequoia-audubon.org

Great Links for SF Bay Area Birding Info:
www.sfbaywildlife.info
www.marinaudubon.org
www.goldengateaudubon.org
www.tiburonaudubon.org
www.Baynature.org

Got a place where the birds come a callin’? We want to know!

–Gabrielle Cullen

photo credit:
Featured Image: Littler Birders Courtesy of Born 1945 via Flickr
Picture #1: courtesy of USFWS Mountain Prairie
Picture #2: Hummingbirds at El Polin Spring in the presidio Photo Credit: Elizabeth Madriz
Picture #3: Bay Bird Courtesy of David Paul Ohmer via Flickr
Picture #4: Great Blue Heron Courtesy of Koad Munkee via Flickr