You’d be hard put to find a nicer place to take your mom or other special woman for a Mother’s Day walk than in Volunteer Canyon of Audubon Canyon Ranch near Stinson Beach, CA. Join in the festivities—a delightful Mother’s Day barbecue and guided nature walk—on Sunday, May 12, 2013, 11 A.M. to 3 P.M. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this delightful event. Volunteer Canyon is 2.66 miles north of Stinson Beach, and 1/3 mile south of the regular entrance to Audubon Canyon Ranch on Hwy. 1.
The Mother’s Day nature walks will take you into areas not usually open to the public—and you’ll be able to view nesting areas of the Great Egret and Snowy Egret. Food will be served from noon to 2:00 P.M. and will include free-range chicken or vegetarian quiche with sides of beans, salad, and dessert. There will be a no-host bar. To order tickets online, click here or you can call 415/453-2216 for more reservation info. Proceeds will benefit Marin Audubon & Audubon Canyon Ranch.
Visit on your own: All is not lost, however, if you cannot attend this special event; you can visit Audubon Canyon Ranch on your own Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from mid-March to mid-July. The opening coincides with the annual return of nesting Great Egrets to one of the most significant and well-studied heronries on the West Coast.
Viewing the egrets: Most people who visit Audubon Canyon Ranch’s 1,000-acre Martin Griffin Preserve come to view the nesting birds and to hike in the serene setting. With six-miles of moderately challenging trails to choose from, visitors can easily spend a couple of hours hiking through the oak, chaparral, and coastal scrub. The Zumie Loop trail takes you on a relatively steep, but short, hike up the side of the canyon to a couple of major viewpoints.
The first stop, Clem Miller Overlook, provides views of nearby Bolinas Lagoon, where you will usually see egrets and other birds feeding in the shallow water. The second viewing platform, Henderson, has benches and scopes you can enjoy while you look out, almost at eye level, toward the birds in their nests in the Redwoods. Depending on the time you visit, you may see different stages of the egrets’ cycle: courting rituals, blue eggs, chicks and first flights. When I visited this week, there were 17 occupied nests and the adults were tending the blue eggs.
In addition to the egrets, there is other wildlife to observe. Immensely popular with school groups who visit are the ponds that support newts and other aquatic life. Another big attraction is the bird “hide,” which is a cool place to sit quietly to watch quail, junco, jays (and squirrels) visit the feeders. After your explorations, you can enjoy a picnic lunch and find a good selection of books, tee shirts, and other nature-related items for sale in the bookstore.
- Tickets for Mothers’ Day are $25 adults, $12 children under 12 years of age.
- Carpools are recommended (parking is limited)
- Wheelchair access
- Suggested that you bring your own re-usable picnic utensils
- Entrance to Audubon Canyon Ranch for on-your-own hikes is free, but $15 is requested.
- Map, click here.
- Map: http://www.egret.org/acr_map
- Audubon Canyon Ranch, 4800 Shoreline Highway One, Stinson Beach, CA.