Big Year #4: April Update

What are the 26 new species I’ve found recently in my Thoreauvian Big Year? What spring birds can you see now in Novato? What reasonably common birds did I finally nail down after months of unreasonable elusiveness on their parts? And where are the special hotspots of our area that hide the uncommon, range-restricted, habitat-specialist birds that most casual birdwatchers don’t know about? Let me tell you.

Big Rock Ridge

Big Rock Ridge is the defining topographical feature of Northeast Marin, dividing Novato’s Ignacio Valley from San Rafael’s Lucas Valley. At 1,895 ft, this is the second highest point in the county, and the highest that is untamed and hence unshortened by roads and motors. Some work is required to gain the pleasures of reality rather than reverie, but those rewards are real and numerous: unobstructed 360-degree views and aquiline omniscience, breathing room above the lowland hubbub, and the company of birds and plants that eschew civilization’s crowds and tethers.

Mount Burdell

If any geographical feature has risen above the flat valley of Novato’s civic and commercial life to achieve a visible prominence in the mental landscape of its citizens, that feature is Mount Burdell. It’s a name that vividly conjures up the idea of a place to thousands of Novato citizens, of a sunlit expanse of green hillsides dotted with wildflowers and vast, benignant oaks. And no time is better to visit than spring, when the mountain fills with the songs of newly arrived migratory songbirds.

How to Use Binoculars

The purpose of this blog is to enrich your perception of nature. I try to use all the tools available to me to work towards this goal: I talk to people on a daily basis, sell them stuff to attract birds to their yard, lead walks, give presentations, and when I can’t seize an individual’s […]

Stafford Lake

Up in the hills to the west of Mount Burdell are the headwaters of Novato Creek, which then tumbles down through the rolling slopes until it runs into the Stafford Dam and forms the placid Stafford Lake, which now provides around 20% of our town’s water (the remainder comes from the Russian River). Much of […]

Olompali State Historic Park

Olompali State Historic Park encompasses a cluster of historical buildings and the wooded slopes that rise above them to the summit of Mount Burdell on the northern border of Novato. As with our other parks of predominantly north-facing slopes (including much of Indian Valley and Indian Tree), the topographical conditions here favor more continuous woodland compared […]

Hawks II: Wildland Hawks

In part one of our guide to local hawks, I covered the “neighborhood raptors” – the daytime birds of prey you are most likely to see around your yard and typical residential areas. And those birds – the red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk, Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and turkey vulture – are among our more common […]