A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

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

 


©2011 Google – Imagery ©2011 DigitalGlobe, USDA Farm Service Agency, GeoEye, Map data ©2011 Google


Location aliases: None, but often referred to as just “The Laguna,” and that can refer to almost any part of this large wetland complex.


Location: The Laguna is extensive. See Access below for information about entry points

GPS address: The Sebastopol Community Center is at 390 Morris St., Sebastopol, CA 95472 

GPS Coordinates: The intersection of Morris St. and Hwy. 12 is at 38 24 11N, 122 49 09W. The Laguna parking lot is at 38 24 33N, 122 49 14W.


Access: Despite its large area, much of the Laguna is not easily accessible. The most convenient entry point has long been on the eastern edge of Sebastopol (but see information below about the new trail and trailheads), near the Sebastopol Community Center (390 Morris St., Sebastopol CA 95472). There is an entrance to a small parking lot just beyond the Community Center’s parking lot, if approaching on Morris St. from the direction of Hwy. 12. Parking is free. A bridge (summer only) allowed access to the eastern side of the main channel. From the parking lot, a maze of trails goes through marshy areas that can be good for ducks in the winter and for sparrows and other woodland passerines otherwise. A small trail behind the baseball fields takes you into more wooded areas on the west side of the main channel. The areas accessible from Morris St. are outlined on the map above.


New trail, new trailheads: A substantial new trail through the east side of the Laguna was added in late 2012. An entry point is now available right off Highway 12. The trailhead is marked with a prominent sign (photo left), but the Chevron gas station just east of Sebastopol on Highway 12 is a good landmark as well (visible in the background here). The trailhead is just before the gas station if approaching from Santa Rosa (the east) or just after the gas station if approaching from Sebastopol (the west). The new trail traverses the area just off the map above on the right.



A second trailhead has been added on Occidental Road, near the Hanna Winery tasting room. At the time of writing, there were no signs, but the foundations for them have been built. Expect to see a sign like the one above here, too, before long. There are small parking areas at both trailheads. There is essentially a single long trail through mostly open grassy areas studded with mature oaks and eucalyptus and flanked by vineyards from Highway 12 to Occidental Rd., but main trail has a number of looped side trails giving views over some of the watery areas and through wooded areas, likely to have more bird life than the main trail, which, however, offers good views of Mt. St. Helena (photo above). The small parking lots at the Hwy. 12 and Occidental Rd. trailheads are free of charge.


Another entry point (allowing access to the Laguna also by kayak) is near the intersection of Occidental Rd. and High School Rd., further north of Sebastopol (off the map at the top). On the map, note that N. Main St. in Sebastopol becomes Healdsburg Ave. as it bears left (both are considered part of Hwy. 116). If, instead of following the main road here onto Healdsburg Ave., you stay to the right (passing a large church on your left on the corner) you will find yourself on High School Rd. Continue until it dead ends at Occidental Rd. You will see the Laguna on your right. Turn right onto Occidental Rd. and look for the parking pull-out on the right. By GPS, an address of 6150 Occidental Rd., Sebastopol, CA 95472 should be close. Coordinates of the informal parking area are 38 25 31N, 122 49 38W. 


Habitats: Riparian corridor with mature deciduous woods, brush, open fields, seasonal marshy areas. Vineyards and farmland surrounding.


Typical Species: Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Mallard, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Black-crowned Night Heron, Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Kite, American Kestrel, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Acorn Woodpecker, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Black Phoebe, Warbling Vireo, Hutton’s Vireo, Scrub Jay, Crow, Raven, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bewick’s Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Violet-green Swallow, Tree Swallow, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Mockingbird, Spotted Towhee, California Towhee, Song Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, House Finch, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch


Unusual birds, sightings: Swainson’s Hawk (May 21, 2013 Robert Jackson); Yellow-breasted Chat (May 20-30, 2013, Lisa Hug); Hooded Merganser (Feb 20, 2013, Andy Hudson); Short-eared Owl (12/17, 2012, Mary Bates Abbott), White-faced Ibis (1/24, 2012, Dan Nelson); Hooded merganser (1/24, 2012, Dan Nelson); Breeding Sora--Lisa Hug discovered here the first-ever confirmed breeding pair in Sonoma County (5/14, 2011, witnessed by Linda Hammer, photographed by me on the following day; See the Sora page for details); Hooded Merganser (2/21, 2011); Swamp Sparrow (1/5, 2010). Black-crowned Night Herons sometimes roost in the trees in large numbers. Swallows and finches may also be present in large flocks. Peregrine Falcon occasionally present. 


Restroom facilities: May be available at the parking area near the Community Center (to be confirmed). None at the Occidental Rd. location.


Restaurants Nearby: If you’re headed out to Bodega, it may make sense to eat in Bodega Bay rather than in Sebastopol. See the Bodega Bay Overview page for restaurant suggestions. If eating in Sebastopol is more convenient, try East-West Café at 128 N. Main St., Sebastopol, CA 95472, 829-2822) for good Mediterranean-influenced fare, including many vegetarian dishes. If you want a delicious sit-down lunch to linger over, I recommend K&L Bistro, right in downtown Sebastopol (119 S. Main St., Sebastopol, CA 95472, 823-6614). Excellent also for dinner--one of the best restaurants in the North Bay, in my view. Close to Ragle Ranch Park is The French Garden at 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol CA 95472 (824-2030), which I have not personally tried (but it has a good reputation). For quick take-out sandwiches, Sebastopol has a Safeway (406 N. Main St., Sebastopol CA 95472, 823-1101) and a Whole Foods Market (6910 McKinley St., Sebastopol, CA 95472, 829-9801). In neighboring Graton, try Willow Wood Market Café (9020 Graton Rd., Graton, CA 95444, 823-0233). Always delicious.


Nearby attractions: The eclectic Sebastopol downtown area has interesting shops to browse, including art galleries, music stores, and the excellent Copperfield’s Used & Rare Books (176 N. Main St., 829-0429), and others. Incredible Records & CDs (112 N. Main St., 824-8099) is something of an institution in its own right (recommended for vintage rock & roll fans). The West County Museum (261 S. Main St., 829-6711) has high-quality exhibitions of items of local interest. The museum, housed in a former railway station on the electric rail line that once connected Petaluma and Santa Rosa is of some interest in itself. Florence Ave. is worth a visit. Home to sculptor Patrick Amiot, whose whimsical sculptures decorate the front yards of most of his neighbors, the street has become an outdoor sculpture garden. Park and walk to view the artwork (driving slooooowly down the street annoys the locals. For antique hounds, The Antique Society (2661 Gravenstein Hwy, Sebastopol, CA 95472, 829-1733), the last large antiques mall in Sebastopol to survive the recession remains a good place to look for the unusual. The neighboring town of Graton has galleries and antiques as well. If you happen to be in the area in late April, the Apple Blossom Festival can be entertaining, and the apple orchards are beautiful when in bloom, although many orchards have been replaced by grapes in recent years.


Related bird watching spots: Santa Rosa birding spots lie to the east (see appropriate pages for details--links on front page). To the west is Bodega Bay. On the way to Bodega Bay are Ragle Ranch Park and the Bodega Farm Pond.


Notes: 1. Depending on recent rainfall, areas some trails can be muddy or impassable; The newer Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail should be reliably dry . Water levels vary. 2. Vagrants are known to camp in some of the more inaccessible areas. Probably safe, but use caution. 3. Watch out for poison oak in wooded areas here (and throughout the county).


The bird in the photo: White-crowned Sparrow, Laguna de Santa Rosa, November 2009

All photos by the author, unless otherwise indicated

Maps by Google Maps

 

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© Colin Talcroft, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

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.

ctalcroft@yahoo.com

Laguna de Santa Rosa, Sebastopol CA 95472