Birdwatching Bonanza at Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve

Palo Alto, Ca – Some of the best birdwatching in the entire South Bay is right in your backyard. Learn more about bird diversity and plan your visit to the Palo Alto Baylands.

About the Park

Palo Alto, Ca – Nature Preserve

Science Spotlight: Bird Diversity at Baylands

The Palo Alto Baylands Park is a favorite of mine and Dan’s in the area. Considered one of the best places to go birding in the South Bay, the Baylands Nature Preserve offers tremendous bird diversity no matter the month. When visiting, we’ve found that the entrance near San Antonio Road is a great starting point.

As you enter the park, scan the tall vegetation around the creek to your left for a belted kingfisher in flight. As you continue, cliff and barn swallows can be found darting across the skies around the forebay just beyond the bathrooms to the right. In the spring and summer, be sure to look out for their mud nests on the linings of the small building near the San Antonio Road entrance. In the later stages of nesting, small fledglings can be seen waiting outside the nest for parents to swoop in with food.

Just beyond the swallow-dense area, you approach the Charleston Slough to your right. Here, we’ve seen tons of awesome shorebirds: long-billed curlews, American avocets, black-necked stilts, marbled godwits, willets, and many more in large numbers. To your left, scan the browning reeds for unusually-shaped clumps. These “clumps” are most likely black-crowned night herons.

Along your walk, check out the edges of the water for great egrets and snowy egrets. Various species of waterfowl can also be found here, depending on the season. In the distance, you may be lucky to see northern harriers – recognizable by the white patch on their rumps (just above their tail on the top side of the bird).

As if the amazing waterbirds and raptors weren’t enough, peek in the vegetation dotting the sides of the path for smaller songbirds. We’ve seen all kinds of sparrow species, house finches, and the occasional yellow-rumped warbler.

Grab your notebooks and binoculars – there’s a world of discovery at the Palo Alto Baylands!

Park History

At 1,940 acres, the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve is one of the largest protected marshland habitats in the San Francisco Bay Area. The area itself has a history in waste disposal, from landfill to recycling plant. In 2012, these operations were shut down.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are allowed on leashes.

When visiting, we recommend starting at the entrance near San Antonio Road.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:

Gallery

Nature in the Heart of Silicon Valley: Pearson-Arastradero Preserve

Palo Alto, Ca – The Pearson-Arastradero Preserve offers grassy hills and miles of trails for hiking and dog walking, right in the heart of the Silicon Valley.

Species to Look Out For

About the Park

Palo Alto, Ca – Open Space

Science Spotlight: Restoring Native Californian Grasslands & Oak Habitat

With the settlement of the Spanish came the introduction of non-native grasses to the Bay Area. These non-native grasses, lacking natural predators in their introduced environments, were able to spread rapidly and out-compete native grasses and wildflowers. As a result, 90% of the native habitat has been lost to foreign invaders.

Native oak habitats have also suffered. Spanish settlers cleared large oaks to make the land available for cattle grazing, and the livestock in turn ate many of the oak saplings and acorns. This, along with depleted soil moisture from non-native plants, has contributed to the loss of much of the oak habitat.

Today, local organizations work with Pearson-Arastradero to restore the habitats that were lost. For more information on how you can get involved, check out the Grassroots Ecology volunteer page or the California Native Plant Society volunteer page.

Park History

The area that is now Pearson-Arastradero was once a working ranch. In 1976, the Palo Alto City Council purchased the land to protect it from developers. They have been acquiring more land for the preserve since, and it now has a total of 622 acres.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are allowed on leashes.

When visiting, we recommend taking the Juan Bautista de Anza trail down to see Arastradero Lake. There, you can find a great assortment of waterfowl, song sparrows, and the occasional black phoebe. When walking along the grassy trails, be on the lookout for American kestrels, western bluebirds and lesser/American goldfinches.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:

Gallery