Local Bird Walks and Bird Education
The fastest way to learn how to find and identify more birds is to spend time with experienced birders. Fortunately, there is a thriving community of skilled observers happy to share their knowledge. Follow the links below for more information on local groups that host bird walks and other resources for learning about local birds.
Local Walks: The Big Two
Organizes several bird walks and other naturalist-led programs every month, primarily in Open Space Preserves and County Parks, but also in other parts of Marin. Also conducts indoor educational presentations on birds and other natural history topics and special outdoor events for kids. All naturalist events are free and open to the public.
The Marin Audubon Society works for the conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems and organizes regular public bird walks. We particularly recommend Marin Audubon’s first Thursday walks at Las Gallinas Ponds in San Rafael for beginning birders (these take a break in summer).
Other Local Walks
The Madrone Audubon Society promotes education, enjoyment, and protection of the natural world, especially birds. They are based in Sonoma County, but offer frequent bird walks throughout the North Bay.
The Golden Gate Audubon society has a huge and active membership in their territory encompassing San Francisco and the urban East Bay, but their large selection of monthly field trips often includes a walk or two in Marin County.
This nature preserve on Richardson Bay in Tiburon hosts a walk on their property on the second Thursday of each month (excluding July and August). See website for times and RSVP information.
The Parks Conservancy leads occasional bird walks, most often around Rodeo Lagoon in the Marin Headlands.
Hosts two monthly walks at the Ellis Creek Ponds and Shollenberger Park in Petaluma (excluding the summer months).
The Point Reyes Birding and Nature Festival (April), the Richardson Bay Waterbird Festival (January), and the Flyway Festival (February) all feature a variety of walks, often extending beyond their immediate territory to include other nearby preserves. Fee and advanced registration required for many events.
Classes (Fee Required)
Point Reyes Field Institute: The Field Institute hosts mostly one-day classes at Point Reyes that offer more depth than typical public bird walks. Many offerings in other natural history topics as well as birds.
Birdwatching in Marin at College of Marin: Taught by our friend Lisa Hug through College of Marin’s Continuing Education department, this casual class is conducted almost entirely in the field through weekly field trips and will introduce you to several of the county’s best birding spots.
Ornithology at College of Marin: Taught every other year, this is a two semester sequence with formal class time spent going systematically going through the biology of birds as well as observation time in the field.
Crowd-sourced Bird Knowledge
Another way to tap into the knowledge of local birders is through the active North Bay Birds Yahoo Group (you can view recent posts without registration at the Birding Lists Digest) where notable sightings are reported and through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird. eBird has a rich and constantly growing database which you can use to seek out particular species, see the recent observations at local hotspots, or explore the map to find new sites where birds are being reported. Another tool you may find useful is our checklist of regularly occurring birds here in our hometown, Novato, CA.
Several skilled local birders can be hired as guides for an individual or group outing. Visit the websites of Lisa Hug (lisahugsnorthbaybirds.com), David Wimpfheimer (calnaturalist.com), and Daniel Edelstein (warblerwatch.com) for more information.