A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

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


Sonoma State University Campus, Rohnert Park, 94928

Location aliases: Officially known as Sonoma State University, but locals generally call the school Sonoma State or just SSU.

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

Location: The official address is 1801 East Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park, CA 94928, but see access information below. Also see the Sonoma State University website.

GPS address: 1801 East Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park, CA 94928 is the official address, but that's the address for every building on campus--which is bizarre and confusing. Not even the new Green Music Center has its own address.

GPS Coordinates: The Rohnert Park Expressway entrance (not the main entrance) is at 38.3458N, 122.6706W (or 38 20 45N, 122 40 14W).

Access: The main entrance is on East Cotati Ave., but I recommend using the back entrance for birding (on Rohnert Park Expressway, at the very top of the map above). From the north (Santa Rosa), SSU can be approached from Petaluma Hill Rd., or, taking Hwy 101 South, get off at the Rohnert Park Expressway exit and head east (following the small SSU signs) on Rohnert Park Expressway until you see an entrance on your right. If you continue, you will hit Petaluma Hill Rd.--in which case you've gone too far (although making a right on Petaluma Hill Rd. will take you around to the main entrance to the campus, at the bottom of the map above). 

There are several miles of easy walking trails through campus. Any area of vegetation is a potential birding spot, but the best areas are along Copeland Creek, the creek you cross after you pass the Green Music Center and enter the campus proper. There is a $2.50 parking fee which gives you unlimited parking in any lot marked General Parking.

Recommended route:  Enter from the Rohnert Park expressway entrance. Get a parking ticket ($2.50) at the entrance kiosk (if it's not manned, you can buy tickets from the yellow machines at the parking lots). Pass the Green Music Center on your left. Park in Lot G, which you will find on your right, just beyond the arched metal bridge in the photo here (flanked by a second, pedestrian bridge, which is not visible in the photo). Between the bridge and the parking lot entrance you will find the start of a gravel path that leads along the creek, taking you through an area marked "Bird and Butterfly Garden" and beyond. You can follow this path on your way out, and the inner, dirt path closer to the creek on the way back, or vice versa. This creekside trail extends the entire length of the campus (and beyond). Woods along the creek (dense in patches) provide excellent habitat for the usual woodland species and for warblers during migration. You will pass the large "duck pond" (one of two, but the other is much smaller and less birdy), which is worth checking. The wooded areas around the pond are worth checking as well, but especially the trees between the pond and Parking Lot G (see map above). 

Habitats: Landscaped gardens, creekside woods, creekside brush, seasonal marshy areas

Typical Species: Canada Goose, Mallard, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Turkey Vulture, Cooper's Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Mourning Dove, Great Horned Owl, Barn Owl, Anna's Hummingbird, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pacific-Slope Flycatcher, Western Scrub-jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Oak Titmouse, Bushtit, Bewick's Wren, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Western Bluebird, American Robin, European Starling, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Spotted Towhee, California Towhee, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Brewer's Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Tanager, Bullock's Oriole, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch.

Unusual birds, sightings: Merlin (Mar 14, 2013, Becky Olsen); Golden Eagle (Feb. 27, 2013, Becky Olsen); Ferruginous Hawk (December 5, 2011, Becky Olsen); Western Wood Pewee, Hermit Warbler, Townsend's Warbler (October 7, 2011, Becky Olsen); Greater White-fronted Goose (September 22, 2011, Becky Olsen); Chestnut-sided Warbler (September 15, 2011); Hooded Oriole (Aril 20, 2010); Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (November 1 and 16, 2009, Andrew Kleinhesselink); MacGilliray's Warbler (August 27, 2008); Palm Warbler (September 20, 2005). White-throated Sparrow has been seen here. During migration, can be a good spot to see Yellow Warbler, Townsends' Warbler, Black-throated Grey Warbler. etc.

Restroom facilities: Restrooms in various campus buildings.

Restaurants nearby:  There are a couple of cafeterias on campus, but SSU is not far from Petaluma to the south, which may be the best bet for lunch if you're heading that way. For a proper sit-down lunch, my favorite has long been the Water Street Bistro at 100 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma CA 94952 (763-9563). Small, but delicious. Lombardi’s Barbecue (3413 Petaluma blvd. North, Petaluma CA 94952; 773-1271) has excellent sandwiches to eat in or to go. Try the pulled pork sandwich. Ask for your cole slaw IN the sandwich. Yum. See other Petaluma-area pages for more suggestions. If you're heading north, toward Spring Lake, Lake Ralphine or other points in the Santa Rosa area, see the relevant pages for restaurant recommendations.

Nearby attractions: The campus itself is attractive and features many quiet places to sit and relax. If you’re making an extended stay in the area, note that The Green Music Center is a remarkable new concert hall on the campus, now open (from 2012). There is a small art gallery on campus worth visiting. Otherwise, see Petaluma and Santa Rosa area pages for suggestions.

Related bird watching spots: Close to Crane Creek Regional Park, which is about two miles to the east. Petaluma area birding locations are to the south (see Shollenberger Park, Lucchesi Park, and Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility). Annadel State Park, Channel Dr., Spring Lake Park, and Lake Ralphine are to the north in the Santa Rosa area.

All photos by the author, unless otherwise indicated

Maps by Google Maps



© Colin Talcroft, 2009, 2010, 2011.

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.