A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

(Unless otherwise indicated, all phone numbers are in the 707 area code)


Location aliases: None. Local birders call these the  “Bodega Bay Rail Ponds” or simply the “Rail Ponds.” The horse trailer pull-out near the rail ponds acquired a new sign in 2015 (photo below). It appears to be officially called the “Bodega Bay Equestrian Trailhead.” With the new sign, that name may stick, but most birders call the dirt pull-out the “horse trailer pullout.”

There are two ponds. Nobody seems to have names to distinguish them, but they should perhaps be called the East Rail Pond (to the right if the ocean is behind you, nearer the big dirt pull-out often used by cars towing horse trailers) and the West Rail Pond (to the left if the ocean is behind you).

This page also covers the road "behind" (farther from the ocean) the ponds that can be accessed from the Horse Trailer Pull-out. This often-birded stretch seems to show on maps both as the continuation of Bayflat Rd. and as Old Bayflat Rd.

©2011 Google – Imagery ©2011 DigitalGlobe, USDA Farm Service Agency, GeoEye, Data CSUMB SFML CA OPC Map data ©2011 Google

Location: North-end Bodega Harbor, Bodega Bay, CA 94923

GPS address: 1600 Bayflat Rd. Bodega Bay, CA 94923 should be close, but I have yet to confirm this one.

GPS Coordinates: 38 20 09N, 123 03 23W will take you to the Horse Trailer Pull-out

38 20 10N, 123 03 32W will take you approximately to the roadway (Westshore Rd.) in front of the West Rail Pond.

Tide information: See the NOAA Tides & Currents page for Bodega Harbor

Access: Bayflat Rd. and Old Bayflat Rd. can be accessed from the north end of the Horse Trailer Pull-out, a convenient place to park (although recently (2016) a sign has been added that says “Horse trailer parking only.” Look to the right. There is also an entrance to a horse trail here, but take the paved road, in front of you. You can also park on the main road further along Westshore Rd., toward the western end of the West Rail Pond. The ponds are best scanned from the ocean side, from Westshore Rd. (the road along the bay), but it's easy to make a complete circuit on foot (recommended) or in a vehicle using Old Bayflat Rd./Bayflat Rd. and Westshore Rd. and the areas behind the ponds are often birdy. 

Habitats: Residential, brackish ponds/marsh, coastal eucalyptus

Typical Species: Despite the name, rails are only occasionally seen and heard in the ponds, but Virginia Rail and Sora are present. Look for warblers and flycatchers in the vegetation behind the ponds. Red-winged Blackbird is almost always present. Marsh Wren is common. Band-tailed Pigeons and many other species that favor wooded areas along the coast are often in the tall trees well behind the ponds. Over and on the bay, look for the usual shorebirds, gulls, terns, pelicans, and ducks.

Unusual birds, sightings:  Northern Waterthrush (9/17/16, Ruth Rudesill); Northern Waterthrush (10/13-10/19/13); Tropical Kingbird (10/5/13, Becky Olsen); American Redstart (6/8, 2013, Peter Colasanti); Palm Warbler (10/13/12, Colin Talcroft); Gray Catbird (10/112, Ruth Rudesill); Northern Waterthrush (10/15-17, 2011); Northern Waterthrush (10/7-8, 2011). Uncommon warblers occasionally show up in the shrubs and trees behind the rail ponds during migration (on Bayflat Rd./Old Bayflat Rd.).

Restroom facilities: No facilities in the immediate area. Nearest are at Porto Bodega and across the street from Spud Point Crab Co. at the marina.

Restaurants Nearby: See the Bodega Bay Overview page for restaurant recommendations.

Nearby attractions: See the Bodega Bay Overview page.

Related bird watching spots: See the North-end Bodega Harbor page for information on the area across from the rail ponds. The rail ponds and the northern end of Bodega Harbor are between Porto Bodega and Spud Point Crab Co.  

All photos by the author, unless otherwise indicated

Maps by Google Maps




© Colin Talcroft, 2009-2016

Unless noted, all photos by the author. If you would like to use one of my images, please ask for permission for non-commercial use with proper credit or commercial use with proper compensation.


The Bodega Bay Rail Ponds