If the only bird you pay any attention to is the one you see on Twitter, then Palo Alto has an outdoor surprise for you. Baylands Nature Preserve is considered one of the best birding spots on the West Coast and gets bragging rights as one of the largest tracts of undisturbed marshland in the San Francisco Bay Area. So go see some seriously cool birds (and art installations) via 15 miles of interconnected trails between Baylands Nature Preserve and neighboring Byxbee Park. We’re talking over 100 different species of birds to spot.
The marshland trails are well defined, so after parking near the ranger station, make your way over to the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center (open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends). The center has loads of information about the area and a nice boardwalk over the mudflats. As you wander the marshland trails, keep an eye out for a prize sighting: glimpsing the endangered clapper rail … bird’s the word on that one! Be sure to follow the Marsh Front Trail to the Adobe Creek Loop Trail past Byxbee Park’s concrete fish bone “Overview” and “Pole Field” art installations.
After passing over a dam, walk a mile on the mixed-use trail to the pelican nest viewing location. Hundreds of pelicans flock to this area ever year to raise their young in the protected marsh. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for wading ducks, hunting egrets and herons, and the low-flying northern harrier hawk. Feather in your cap.
Birds spotted: burrowing owl, Anna’s hummingbird, black-necked stilt, American avocet, sanderling, greater yellowlegs, long-billed curlew, American coot, snowy egret, great egret, great blue heron, northern shoveler, northern pintail, gadwall, mallard, pied-billed grebe, American wigeon, song sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, marsh wren, greater and lesser scaup, ruddy duck, green-winged teal, bufflehead, Canada goose, red-tailed hawk, northern harrier, American crow, common raven, double-crested cormorant, American white pelican, western meadowlark.
From San Francisco, take Hwy. 101 south, exiting east at Embarcadero Rd. in Palo Alto. Follow signs for Embarcadero Rd. and continue on Embarcadero about a mile and a half until it dead-ends at a stop sign. A left turn will lead you to the free Baylands Nature Preserve parking lot next to the park ranger station. Dog friendly!