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Posted by: Sandy Steinman | September 1, 2012

Fall Schedule For Marin Open Space Naturalist Walks

Marin Open Space District’s Naturalist Walks are outings for adults who are interested in the diverse flora and fauna of Marin County. Our walks cover a variety of topics; some are quite specific, others are more general, but we never fail to take a moment to marvel at whatever natural wonders we encounter. Binoculars, a pocket sized magnifying lens, and your favorite field guide(s) are recommended for all walks. Most of the walks are moderately paced and cover less than 5 miles. Walks that are longer or more strenuous are noted in the descriptions. Bring a lunch if you plan to stay all day, and remember to bring plenty of water.

Click Read More to see schedule and descriptions of walks

Thursday, September 6. 9am – 12pm

Botany at Stafford Lake

Botany? In September? That’s right, we can dust off our hand lenses and dig out our copies of the Marin Flora and go look at a few annuals that have yet to go to seed. As the water in our reservoirs recedes, the exposed shorelines give rise to some unusual plants that are seldom found elsewhere. We’ll search the shore from the dry upper banks to the water’s edge and try to identify whatever we come across. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at Stafford Lake Park. Enter the park from Novato Blvd. There is a pay station, but you will get a free parking pass when you join the group. Turn left and go to the last parking lot. Stafford Lake Park is located at 3549 Novato Blvd in Novato.

Sunday, September 9. 9am – 3pm

Big Rock Ridge East

We’ll drive to the bottom of the Chicken Shack Fire Rd and make our way up to the ridge where we will enjoy a fabulous view of the whole Bay Area. With luck we’ll have lunch on a spectacular perch from which we might get close-up views of soaring hawks, swifts, and swallows. The 1400 foot ascent is a challenge, so bring plenty of water, an extra energy bar, and walking poles if you have them. On this moderately strenuous 6-mile hike we’ll take in some of the most pristine open space in the eastern portion of the county. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the end of Queenstone Ct. From Hwy 101 in San Rafael, take the Marinwood exit west onto Miller Creek Rd and turn right at Queenstone. Car shuttle, please be on time.

Tuesday, September 11. 10am – 1pm

Spiders at Roy’s Redwoods

Late summer is the best time to look for many of our local spiders. Many of the “annual” species are now adults and are in breeding mode, plus the spiders and their webs are relatively large, which makes them a bit easier to find. With luck we might also locate some of the more primitive burrowing species that live in our cool forests and survive for many years. We will discuss the biology of spiders in general and learn how to identify many common species and discuss their life histories. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. Shannon Burke will lead. Questions: Contact Shannon at (415) 893-9520 or SBurke@marincounty.org. Meet at the Roy’s Redwoods entry gate. From Hwy 101 in Larkspur, take Sir Francis Drake Blvd west 9.6 miles and turn right at Nicasio Valley Rd. MCOSD gate is less than ¼-mile up on the right.

Saturday, September 15. 10am – 12pm

Ring Mountain Burn Recovery

Join Naturalist David Herlocker and Ring Mountain Steward Sam Abercrombie for a special walk behind the scenes of the recent wildfire on Ring Mountain. The burned area is currently closed to the general public, but we will be leading an interpretive hike through the area to discover what plants have regenerated and to discuss fire ecology, natural resource management, and strategies for balancing public access and recreation with preservation. This walk will be the first in a series dedicated to tracking the recovery of the Ring Mountain grassland after the wildfire. Additional walks will be held in the spring and summer of 2013. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. Questions: Contact Sam Abercrombie at (415) 473-2128 or SAbercrombie@marincounty.org. Meet at the end of Taylor Rd in Corte Madera. From Hwy 101 in Corte Madera, take the Paradise Dr/Tamalpais Dr exit east and turn right at San Clemente Dr (becomes Paradise Dr). Follow Paradise Dr for 1.5 miles and turn right at Taylor Rd. Gate is on the right.

Wednesday, September 19. 10am – 3pm

Birding from White House Pool to Bolinas

This is a special time of the year for birds and bird lovers in Marin County. Species diversity is at its highest, some migratory species that stay all winter are just arriving, some are simply stopping by, and some unusual species will show up here having strayed from their typical migratory route. We’ll start our day in the willow-lined marshes at the south end of Tomales Bay, then head south to the forest at Pine Gulch and the shores of Bolinas Lagoon. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at White House Pool. From Olema go north on Hwy 1 (Sir Francis Drake Blvd) 2 miles, turn left just before the bridge (Sir Francis Drake Blvd), and go 0.7 miles to White House Pool parking area.

Sunday, September 23. 9am – 2pm

White Hill to Gary Giacomini

We’ll employ a car shuttle to allow us to walk one way between White Hill and the Gary Giacomini preserves along San Geronimo Ridge. On the way we’ll pass through extensive tracts of serpentine chaparral and pygmy Sargent Cypress forests. Total distance: 6.5 miles, 1200 foot elevation gain. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the entrance to the White Hill Trail. From Hwy 101 in Larkspur, take the Sir Francis Drake Blvd exit west 8.6 miles. Park on the right side, just below the crest of the hill. Car shuttle, please be on time.

Thursday, September 27. 9am – 12pm

Birds of Rush Creek

The wetlands adjacent to this preserve are a great place to see shorebirds, waterfowl, and a good variety of raptors at this time of year. With luck we can work together to distinguish between the different species of ducks that will still be in eclipse plumage, and we might even get started on some gull identification. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the Binford Rd gate. From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the Atherton Ave/San Marin Dr exit  east and turn left at Binford Rd. The gate is on the right.

Tuesday, October 2. 10am – 1pm

Birding at McInnis Park

We will start by exploring the hill above the park where there is a small pond, and then we’ll walk out onto the levee that runs between the water treatment ponds and the tidal marsh. Shorebirds, waterfowl, raptors, and many other birds can be expected in these mixed habitats. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at McInnis Park. From Hwy 101, take the Smith Ranch Rd exit east and follow to the end. Smith Ranch Rd turns left just before the entrance to McInnis Park. Park in the area at the far end of the large field on the right. McInnis Park is located at 310 Smith Ranch Rd in San Rafael.

Sunday, October 7. 10am – 1pm

All about Oaks at Mount Burdell

Oaks and their acorns are vitally important to a broad spectrum of animals (including humans). We’ll discuss the role of these trees in local ecosystems as we compare five oak species and several interesting hybrids. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the San Andreas Trailhead. From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the Atherton Ave/San Marin Dr exit west on San Marin Dr for 2.3 miles and turn right at San Andreas Dr. Trailhead is near the end on the right.

Friday, October 12. 10am – 2pm

Blithedale Summit

This road allows us to climb to the long ridge that extends from the east flank of Mount Tamalpais and runs between Mill Valley and the Larkspur/Corte Madera area. The climb is steep, but once we are on the ridge we can scan the sky for passing raptors as we enjoy a 5 mile loop that includes the Huckleberry Trail and the Southern Marin Main Line Fire Road. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the trailhead near the end of Glen Dr in Mill Valley. From Hwy 101 in Mill Valley, take the Tiburon Blvd/ East Blithedale Ave exit west on East Blithedale Ave, turn right at Carmelita (0.7 mile), turn right at Buena Vista Ave (0.2 mile), and follow Buena Vista, which turns into Glen Dr. Trailhead is about 1-mile up on the left.

Thursday, October 25. 10am – 1pm

Cascade Canyon

We visit this gorgeous valley quite often, usually hiking up the creek to see the waterfall, but this time we will head up the north facing slope where the oaks and maples should be resplendent in their fall colors. There is one steep section of trail along the way, but we will take it slowly. Our goal will be to enjoy lunch in the upper reaches of a sheltered canyon where the creek runs all year. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the gate at the end of Cascade Dr. From Hwy 101 in Larkspur, take the Sir Francis Drake Blvd exit west to Fairfax. In downtown Fairfax, drive about 0.4 mile west on Bolinas Rd and make a soft right at Cascade Dr (at the stop sign). Continue about1.5 miles to the gate. Parking is limited, please carpool if you can.

Sunday, October 28. 9am – 2pm

Big Rock Ridge to the Summit

This walk will take us from Lucas Valley to the 1,895 foot summit of Big Rock Ridge, the second highest peak in the county after Mount Tamalpais. This walk involves a 1,200 foot elevation gain, but it doesn’t involve any particularly steep sections as it climbs through open grassland, oak woodland, and chaparral. The views along the way are excellent, and the panorama we’ll see from the summit is absolutely breathtaking. The total distance is a bit over 7 miles, so remember to bring extra water. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the Big Rock Trailhead. From Hwy 101 in San Rafael, take the Smith Ranch Rd/Lucas Valley Rd exit west on Lucas Valley Rd approximately 4 miles to the Big Rock where the trail begins (on the right).

Thursday, November 1. 9am – 2pm

Indian Tree

This north facing slope is a great place to see many “winter” birds (varied thrushes, cedar waxwings, and band-tailed pigeons) that come here to feast on the abundant madrone and toyon berries. If the rains have already soaked the ground, we might have to stop along the way to admire the first mushrooms of the season, but we will try to reach the ridge top to enjoy lunch among the towering redwood grove. The round trip is just over 6 miles with an elevation gain of 1,400 feet. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Heavy rain may cancel: Call (415) 893-9527 after 7am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Meet at the Vineyard Rd trailhead in Novato. From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the Atherton Ave/San Marin Dr exit west on San Marin Dr (which turns into Sutro Ave after the Novato Blvd junction), and turn right at Vineyard Rd. Trailhead is where the pavement ends.

Saturday, November 3. 10am – 2pm

Birds of Rush Creek

This walk takes us along the edge of a tidal wetland that is a haven for waterfowl and shorebirds. We will see ducks in fresh breeding plumage, and we will keep our eyes ready for peregrine falcons and other raptors that frequent this spot during the winter months. The route is all on level ground, but the road sometimes gets quite muddy, so bring appropriate footwear. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Rain may cancel: Call (415) 893-9527 after 7am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Meet at the Binford Rd gate. From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the San Marin Dr/Atherton Ave exit east and turn left at Binford Rd. The gate is on the right.

Thursday, November 15. 10am – 2pm

Birding at Bothin Marsh 

Along the west shore of Richardson Bay, Bothin Marsh is an example of what the wetlands surrounding San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay looked like before they were channeled, diked, and filled. During fall and winter, migratory waterfowl thrive in the open water and sandpipers and other shorebirds feast on the invertebrates that are found in the mudflats. We’ll also look and listen for year-round residents like clapper rails and common yellowthroats, which inhabit the surrounding cordgrass and pickleweed. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Rain may cancel: Call (415) 893-9527 after 7am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Meet at the end of Sycamore Ave in Mill Valley. From Hwy 101 in Mill Valley, take the East Blithedale Ave/Tiburon Blvd exit west on East Blithedale Ave, turn left at Camino Alto, and left at Sycamore.

Sunday, November 18. 9am – 2pm

Gary Giacomini

This ridge above the south side of the San Geronimo Valley is one of the great gems in the county. A pygmy Sargent Cypress forest and incredible views are our reward for the sustained climb that will bring us to the top (1,200 foot elevation gain, 7 mile round trip). This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. David Herlocker will lead. Questions: Contact David at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Rain may cancel: Call (415) 893-9527 after 7am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Meet at the Willis Evans Trailhead (formerly Bates Canyon). From Sir Francis Drake Blvd (in Woodacre), turn at San Geronimo Valley Dr, turn left at Redwood Canyon Dr, (not Redwood Dr).

Thursday, November 29. 10am – 2pm

Gulls at Tomales Bay

Gulls are certainly challenging but with a few tricks and a little patience we’ll learn to differentiate between the species we regularly see here in winter. We will discuss identification, plumages, and life-histories as we attempt to demystify these beautiful birds. We’ll spend the day along Tomales Bay, from White House Pool to Chicken Ranch Beach, searching for the various gulls that frequent these areas. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. This walk is for adults. We request that no animals (except service animals) attend. Shannon Burke will lead. Questions: Contact Shannon at (415) 893-9520 or SBurke@marincounty.org. Rain may cancel: Call (415) 893-9527 after 7am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Meet at White House Pool. From Olema go north on Hwy 1 (Sir Francis Drake Blvd) 2 miles, turn left just before the bridge (staying on Sir Francis Drake Blvd) and go 0.7 miles to White House Pool parking area.

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