Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 30, 2014

Marin Winter Naturalist Walks

From Marin County Parks Newsletter

NATURALIST WALKS -Winter Naturalist Led walks in Marin County from December 2013 to February 2014

These outings are for ages 15 and up 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.

Thursday, December 4. 9am to 2pm

Mushrooms at Indian Tree

The mixed forests of this Novato preserve usually host an amazing array of mushrooms at this time of year. With luck we’ll make it to the top where we’ll enjoy spectacular views in every direction (Distance: 6.5 miles; elevation gain: 1,300 feet). Remember to bring enough water and food. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact David Herlocker at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the trailhead on Vineyard Rd in Novato. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the exit for San Marin Dr west 2.7 miles. San Marin Dr turns into Sutro Ave at Novato Blvd. Follow Sutro Ave 1 mile, turn right at Vineyard Rd and follow 1 mile. Trailhead is on the left where the paved road becomes a dirt road.

Tuesday, December 9. 10am to 2pm

Focus on Gulls

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 carpool to several different locations in Pt. Reyes searching for the various gulls that frequent these areas. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact Shannon Burke at (415) 893-9520 or SBurke@marincounty.org. Meet at the Chicken Ranch Beach pullout. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in Larkspur, take the Sir Francis Drake exit 20.4 miles to Olema. Turn right onto Hwy 1 and go 2 miles. Turn left onto Sir Francis Drake and follow 4.7 miles, parking is on the right.

Sunday, December 14. 10am to 1pm

Birds at Las Gallinas 

The ponds at the Las Gallinas water treatment facility are a fabulous place to get close looks at a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds, plus there are usually plenty of hawks hunting for rodents and other prey in the surrounding fields. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact Shannon Burke at (415) 893-9520 or SBurke@marincounty.org. Meet at the Las Gallinas Sanitary District water treatment ponds in San Rafael (310 Smith Ranch Road). DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in San Rafael, take the exit for Smith Ranch Rd east approximately 0.7 miles. Drive over the railroad tracks and immediately turn left to stay on Smith Ranch Rd. (If you go through the park entrance, you have gone too far). Follow Smith Ranch Rd 0.8 miles to treatment facility. Park on the left.

Sunday, December 21. 10am to 2pm

Mount Burdell

This can be a great place to look for mushrooms if we’ve had a few good rains. Even if it’s been dry we should be able to observe a variety of birds who make this beautiful Novato preserve their winter home. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact David Herlocker at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the gate on San Andreas Dr in Novato. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the exit for San Marin Dr west 2.3 miles. Turn right onto San Andreas Dr and follow approximately 0.5 miles. The gate is on the right (before dead end).

Sunday, December 28. 9am to 2pm

White Hill

We’ll aim for lunch at the summit, exploring a variety of habitats and the plants, animals and mushrooms that live within them. We’ll make the 1,000 foot ascent at a pace that will allow us to enjoy all of the scenery we encounter along the way. (6.5 miles round trip.) Remember to bring enough water and food. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact David Herlocker at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the roadside parking area near the top of White Hill Grade on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in Larkspur, take the exit for Sir Francis Drake Blvd west 6 miles. Park in the big gravel pullout on the right side, below the crest of the hill.

Tuesday, January 6. 10am to 2pm

Birds at Bolinas Lagoon

We’ll start the day at the south end of the lagoon while the tide is high and ducks should be plentiful. Then we’ll work our way north to watch the shorebirds come in to feed as the tide recedes. After that, we’ll head up to Pine Gulch Delta to look for flocks of songbirds in the alder and willow forest, and enjoy lunch with a view of the water. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact David Herlocker at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet in the pullout adjacent to Stinson Beach School (just north of the town of Stinson Beach). DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in Larkspur, take the exit for Sir Francis Drake Blvd west 20.4 miles to Olema. Turn left onto Hwy 1 and follow 12.5 miles, the school is on the left, park in the big gravel pullout on the right side.

Sunday, January 11. 10am to 2pm

Birds at Rush Creek

These tidal wetlands at the edge of San Pablo Bay are a fantastic place to appreciate our winter birds. Ducks (in gaudy breeding plumage), shorebirds, raptors, and many types of land birds should keep us entertained all day. The road sometimes gets quite muddy, so bring appropriate footwear. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact David Herlocker at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the Pinheiro Fire Rd gate on Binford Rd in Novato. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the exit for Atherton Ave east. Turn left onto Binford Rd. The gate is on the right.

Thursday, January 15. 10am to 2pm

Indian Valley

What we see this day will depend on the timing of the rains. Will the amphibians be breeding? Will there be a bumper crop of mushrooms? Will the flowers of the giant manzanitas be buzzing with pollinators? Whatever the weather, we’ll have plenty to discover and discuss. Our route will include one sustained, steep section, but we’ll take this part very slowly. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact David Herlocker at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org.The parking fee is $3. Meet at the College of Marin Indian Valley Campus in Novato, parking lot 6 (1800 Ignacio Blvd). DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the Ignacio Blvd/Bel Marin Keys Blvd exit west onto Ignacio Blvd approximately 2.5 miles all the way through campus. Parking lot 6 is adjacent to the police station.

Wednesday, January 21. 12pm to 1pm

Lecture: Amphibians of Marin County

What’s that frog you hear all winter long, and why are there newts out walking on the trails? This lecture should provide the answers to these questions as well as illustrate the life histories of the salamanders and frogs that live around us. This lecture is intended for ages 15 and up. Questions: Contact David Herlocker at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet in Room 427 at the Civic Center Library in San Rafael (3501 Civic Center Dr).  DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101, take the exit for N San Pedro Rd east. (If coming from Hwy 101 south, follow signs to get to N San Pedro Rd). Turn left onto Civic Center Dr, then turn left onto Peter Behr Dr. The entrance to the Civic Center is at the top of the archway.

Thursday, January 29. 10am to 2pm

Birds at Stafford Lake

This reservoir on upper Novato Creek is a great place to see a variety of winter birds. We’ll stroll along the shore and enjoy flocks of ducks, while keeping an eye open for raptors overhead. We often see golden eagles here, and now and again a peregrine makes an appearance. The trees here are always a good place to see a variety of woodpeckers, and there are usually plenty of mixed flocks of songbirds passing through as well. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact David Herlocker at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Park entrance fee is waived for participants. Meet at Stafford Lake Park in Novato (3549 Novato Blvd). DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the exit for San Marin Dr 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 gate house and follow to the parking lot.

Sunday, February 1. 10am to 2pm

Birds at Rush Creek

These tidal wetlands at the edge of San Pablo Bay are a fantastic place to appreciate our winter birds. Ducks (in gaudy breeding plumage), shorebirds, raptors, and many types of land birds should keep us entertained all day. The road sometimes gets quite muddy, so bring appropriate footwear. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact Shannon Burke at (415) 893-9520 or SBurke@marincounty.org. Meet at the Pinheiro Fire Rd gate on Binford Rd in Novato. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the exit for Atherton Ave east. Turn left onto Binford Rd. The gate is on the right.

Tuesday, February 3. 9am to 2pm

Big Rock Ridge

We’ll slowly ascend the eastern flank of this rugged preserve to enjoy sweeping views of the entire Bay Area as we look for early wildflowers and other signs of spring along the way. This is a moderately strenuous hike (distance: 6.5 miles; elevation gain: 1,200 feet). Car shuttle, please be on time! Thanks. Remember to bring enough water and food. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact David Herlocker at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the gate at the end of Queenstone Dr in San Rafael. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in San Rafael, take the exit for St. Vincent Dr west. Turn onto Miller Creek Rd, right onto Queenstone Dr, and follow to end (dead end).

Sunday, February 8. 10am to 1pm

Stroll on the Old Railroad Grade

We’ll enjoy a slow stroll along the old railroad grade, a route that takes us in and out of a series of forested valleys separated by open grassland and coastal scrub habitats. We’ll employ a car shuttle so we can have a relaxing morning walk. Remember to bring lunch. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact Shannon Burke at (415) 893-9520 or SBurke@marincounty.org. Meet at the trailhead at the end of Glen Dr in Fairfax. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in San Rafael, take the exit for Central San Rafael west. Follow 3rd St approximately 1 mile, continue on 2nd St, which merges into 4th St. 4th St turns into Red Hill Ave after 0.6 miles; follow for 0.5 miles. Stay right onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd and follow 3 miles, turn right onto Glen Dr and follow 0.5 miles to end (dead end).

Tuesday, February 10. 10am to 2pm

Birds at Bothin Marsh

We’ll start the day enjoying various waterfowl in their resplendent winter plumage and, with luck, we’ll watch a variety of shorebirds coming in to feed on the exposed shore as the tide recedes. Of course, we’ll also keep an eye out for the resident peregrine falcons that nest nearby. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact David Herlocker at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Park entrance fee is waived for participants. Meet at the Hauke Park parking area in Mill Valley. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in Mill Valley, take the Tiburon Blvd/E Blithedale Ave exit west on E Blithedale Ave west 0.6 mile. Turn left onto Roque Mores Dr and right onto Hamilton Dr. Parking lot is on the left.

Wednesday, February 11. 7pm to 8:30pm

Lecture: Wild Sex

Bring your favorite valentine to learn all about the bizarre spectrum of mating rituals found all around us in the natural world. Find out that bondage, group sex, and gender reversals are probably happening every day in a meadow near you! This lecture is intended for ages 15 and up. Questions: Contact David Herlocker at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the little theater at the Marin Humane Society in Novato (171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd). DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the Ignacio Blvd/Bel Marin Keys Blvd exit. Follow the signs to Bel Marin Keys Blvd, go past the overpass, and turn left at the first stop light into the parking lot.

Sunday, February 22. 10am to 1pm

Early Flowers at Mount Burdell

One of the many rare plants found here in Marin County is an inconspicuous nodding white lily called the fragrant fritillary. We’ll visit a small population that should be in bloom this early in the season. We’ll then head up the trail to see some other early bloomers such as shooting star, milkmaids, star lily, and maybe a few surprises. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact Shannon Burke at (415) 893-9520 or SBurke@marincounty.org. Meet at the gate on San Andreas Dr in Novato. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the exit for San Marin Dr west 2.3 miles. Turn right onto San Andreas Dr and follow approximately 0.5 miles. The gate is on the right (before dead end).

Thursday, February 26. 10am to 3pm

The 680 Trail

We’ll meet at a trailhead in Lucas Valley (elevation 150 feet), and then carpool up to the Big Rock trailhead (650 feet) to start the walk. It sounds like that would give us a nice 500 foot stroll downhill, but we’ll have to go over (or around) Loma Alta along the way. This 7.5 mile walk will include the beautiful new 680 Trail. If we’re lucky, we should see a spectacular bloom of Indian warrior along the way. Remember to bring enough water and food. This walk is for ages 15 and up. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. Rain may cancel. If questionable weather call (415) 893-9527 after 8am on the morning of the event to hear a recorded message if cancelled. Questions: Contact David Herlocker at (415) 893-9508 or DHerlocker@marincounty.org. Meet at the trailhead on Lucas Valley Rd directly across from Mount Muir Ct in San Rafael. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 101 in San Rafael, take the exit for Lucas Valley Rd west 2.1 miles. Turn left into the parking area on left (or south side) of Lucas Valley Rd.


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