Sure, in-the-know birders bring their tripods and mega-lenses and wait in breathless anticipation to snap close-ups of the great blue herons at Marin’s Las Gallinas Ponds. But you don’t have to be a winged wizard to enjoy the beauty—and variety—of the fowl gathered here in winter. Birds of all shapes, sizes, and species hang out in casual coolness at Las Gallinas’ three ponds: long-necked white egrets look like graceful hosts at a bird cocktail party, while their smaller cousins, snowy egrets, gossip and nosh; Canada geese honk loudly and swoop down like party-crashers, and the great blue herons wander around aimlessly, sometimes onto the trail that connects the ponds. Ducks in too many species to count add to the eclectic guest list. You can observe all the action from one of the many benches along the trail. Just don’t try the Chicken Dance—you may get quacked.
BONUS: Look for resident river otters in the middle pond—they hang out near the abandoned piers on the west side.
The Las Gallinas Ponds are part of the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District. To reach the ponds: Exit Hwy 101 in Marin at Lucas Valley/Smith Ranch Rd. Go east on Smith Ranch Rd. toward the end of the road. As you cross the railroad tracks, take the first left, following signs to “The Vine.” Pass The Vine and treatment center. You’ll find parking at the end of the road, though it’s limited. Dog-friendly!