A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

(Unless otherwise indicated, all phone numbers are in the 707 area code)


Bodega Bay: Doran Regional Park (Doran Beach)

Location aliases: Bird watchers know this place mostly as "Doran Beach." The park is officially called Doran Regional Park. Google Maps erroneously applies the label "Doran City Park" (see below). Doran Beach is really the sandy beach outside Bodega Harbor, but local bird watchers generally use "Doran Beach" to mean any of the locations good for birding in this area. The marshy area on the right side of the road before approaching the entry kiosk is often referred to as the  "Doran Park Entry Pond," the "Doran Entry Pond" or the "Doran Entrance Pond." Technically, Doran Regional Park is everything beyond the entry kiosk but not including the trails known collectively as "Bird Walk," so the Entrance Pond is outside the park. Also see the Bird Walk page, which covers the walking trails near the marshes "behind" that pond (behind from the perspective of the entry road). The Bird Walk page includes a more detailed map. There is no "Doran City Park." I have left it on the map here because it appears in Google Maps. According to the Sonoma County Regional Parks Service, there is no such place. 

©2011 Google – Imagery ©2011 DigitalGlobe, USDA Farm Service Agency, GeoEye, Data CSUMB SFML CA OPC Map data ©2011 Google

Location: The official address of Doran Regional Park is 201 Doran Beach Rd., Bodega Bay, CA

GPS address: 201 Doran Beach Rd. will take you to the RV parking area, but once you are on Doran Beach Rd., there is nowhere to go but down the little peninsula here, so it should be hard to get lost.

GPS Coordinates: Coordinates of 38 19 11N, 123 02 02W will take you to the intersection of Hwy. 1 and Doran Park Rd., the logical access point coming from the north.

Coordinates of 38 19 03N, 123 01 42W will take you to the intersection of Hwy. 1 and Doran Beach Rd., the logical access point coming from the south.

The entry kiosk is at 38 18 51N, 123 02 06W

Tide information: See the NOAA Tides & Currents page for Bodega Harbor

Access: The Doran Beach area is accessed from Doran Beach Rd., by way of Doran Park Rd. if coming from the north and by Doran Beach Rd. directly, if coming from the south. The first pull-out shown on the map above and the marshy areas indicated are outside Doran Regional Park. Short-term (30-minute) parking outside the park is free. Some good areas are visible from here, but many interesting spots are inside the park. Ample parking at a number of spots is available along the road in the park, but there is a $7 charge per vehicle. Sonoma County Regional Park annual pass holders enter free (inquire at the entry kiosk). 

Habitats: Protected bay, open ocean, sandy beaches, mud flats, tidal marsh, rocky shoreline, manmade jetties

Typical Species: Red-throated Loon, Pacific Loon, Common Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Western Grebe, Clark's Grebe, Bufflehead, Surf Scoter, Black Brant. All the common shorebirds may be present at water’s edge, especially on the mud flats on the north side of the peninsula. Gulls and terns of many types favor the Campbell Cove area visible from the end of the peninsula and can be seen flying between the Cove and Doran Beach proper (Western Gull, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Mew Gull, Heermann’s Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull, and others). Pigeon Guillemot and other alcids are sometimes in the channel from early spring to late fall. The rocky channel jetties are good places to look for Wandering Tattler and Surfbirds. The sandy outer beach is known as a spot for finding Snowy Plover

Unusual birds, sightings: Royal Tern (8/2/15, John Ehrenberg);  Greater White-fronted Goose (Denise Herzberg, 1/25/15); Snow Goose, Ross’s Goose (Brooke and Orion O’Conner, 1/25/15); Cassin’s Auklet (11/5/14, David Hoffman); Baird’s Sandpiper (9/6/14, Lisa Hug); Least Tern (8/23/14Lisa Hug); Semipalmated Sandpiper (7/28/14, Lisa Hug); Long-tailed Duck (4/24/14, Len Blumin); Eurasian Wigeon (Entrance Pond, 3/7/14, David Hoffman); Semipalmated Sandpiper (8/6/13, Entrance Pond, Lisa Hug); Red Knot (8/6/13, Entrance Pond, Lisa Hug); Wilson’s Phalarope (7/29/13, Dea Freid, Entrance Pond); Franklin’s Gull (5/22-5/24/13, Jeri Langham); Red-necked Phalarope (5/14/13, Dea Freid); Palm Warbler (12/26/12, Dea Freid); Eurasian Wigeon (12/3/12, David & Denise Hamilton); Greater White-fronted Goose (flyover, 11/30/12, Logan Kahle); Wandering Tattler (4/24/12, Rich Stallcup); Ruff (4/24, 2012, Ruth Rudesill)); Red Knot (4/24/12, Rich Stallcup); Eurasian Wigeon (12/19, 2011, Dea Freid); Wilson's Phalarope (7/24/11, By Dea Freid); White-winged Scoter (4/1/10); Red-breasted Merganser, Glaucous-winged Gull (11/18/10); Ancient Murrelet, Long-tailed duck (12/23/10, in the channel area).

Restroom facilities: Restrooms near the parking and camping areas

Restaurants Nearby: See the Bodega Bay Overview page for restaurant recommendations.

Nearby attractions: See the Bodega Bay Overview page.

Related bird watching spots: Aside from "Bird Walk, " Smith Brothers Rd., Tides Wharf, and Diekmann's Bay Store are the closest Bodega Bay locations. See the Bodega Bay Overview page for geographical relationships. Doran beach looks across to Campbell Cove, but visiting the Cove from here requires backtracking all the way around Bodega Bay. Because of its isolation from the rest of the Bodega Bay locations, making a visit to Doran Beach is most logical as either the first or last stop in a day of birding in the Bodega Bay area.

Note: There is a small platform overlooking the mudflats on the north side of the road inside the park (the right side with the ocean on your left, or the right side as you head down the road after passing into the park through the entry kiosk). The platform, dedicated to the late Rich Stallcup (a pioneer of bay area birding), is known as the “Rich Stallcup Platform.” 

The bird in the photo: Red-necked Phalarope, Doran Beach, September 5, 2012

All photos by the author, unless otherwise indicated

Maps by Google Maps




© Colin Talcroft, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Unless noted, all photos by the author. If you would like to use one of my images, please ask for permission for non-commercial use with proper credit or commercial use with proper compensation.