California Buckeye

Identification: When in leaf, buckeyes are hard to mistake: they are our only tree with opposite, palmately compound leaves (i.e. divided into 5 “finger” leaflets, like a palm, a hand). In leafless fall and winter, you can often still recognize them by their nicely rounded shape in open areas or more sprawling form in crowded canyon […]

Varied Thrush

Photo above by Eugene Beckes on Flickr The varied thrush is the second of our two larger thrushes, along with the American robin (some outdated names include “winter robin” and “mountain robin”). But where the robin is familiar, the varied thrush is mysterious. While everyone knows robins, to most people in our latitudes the varied […]

American Robin

American Robin Robins are the most familiar of our thrushes: large and visible, comfortable in both human neighborhoods and forests, widespread and abundant across the country, and present all year round in much of it, including here in the Bay Area. Although they seem to have gathered an association with spring in many people’s minds, […]

Rush Creek

Rush Creek Open Space Preserve on the northern border of Novato offers several hundred acres of public wetlands and woodlands, but is set alongside several thousand more acres of protected land together comprising the largest natural tidal brackish marsh in California, including the Petaluma River marshlands managed by California Fish and Wildlife and Marin Audubon’s […]

Bahia Lagoon

Above: Common Goldeneye by zenbikescience on Flickr Bordering the Bahia neighborhood in northern Novato, the main area of interest discussed here is the “East Lagoon” or “Horseshoe Pond” found on the right side of this map. Note that public access areas are marked in green; see below for specifics on location and access. Marin Audubon […]

Madrone

Identification: Madrone’s most distinctive feature is undoubtedly its smooth red-tan bark, which encompasses the entirety of younger trees and the younger limbs of older individuals, and which often peels off in large papery strips. Old, thick trunks have dark brown, scaly bark, but somewhere on a madrone you will always find that hard to mistake smoothness. Unlike their […]

Manzanita

Identification: Often a shrub, but not uncommonly a small tree. Manzanita’s most distinctive feature is its smooth, hard, red bark, which sometimes peels off in small flakes. Leaves are small (~1.5”), simple, sturdy, and untoothed; flowers are white or pinkish little bells in winter and early spring; fruits are red berries. Madrone also has smooth reddish bark, but […]

Thrushes – Overview

Thrushes The thrush family (Turdidae) is a group of medium-small to medium-large songbirds represented in our area by five species: two big colorful thrushes (robin and varied thrush), two small brown thrushes (hermit and Swainson’s thrush), and the western bluebird. All have small, thin bills for feeding primarily on bugs and berries. This means that […]

Toyon

Identification: Essentially always a small tree or shrub (generally upright, but sometimes forced to sprawl a bit) with simple, toothed, evergreen leaves that are not strikingly distinctive. If in doubt: they aren’t young madrones because they don’t have smooth red bark, and they aren’t young bays because the leaves are toothed, not smooth-edged, nor do they […]