A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

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


Bodega Bay: Owl Canyon

Location aliases: This location appears to have no official name. Bird watchers know it as “Owl Canyon.” Apparently it was known to be an owl hang-out in the past, but few owls seem to be present today. Now the place is regularly monitored by bird watchers (especially during the spring and autumn migration periods) not because of owls but because it often harbors unusual vagrants, mostly warblers from the East. Note that "canyon" is a rather grand term for this wooded gully.

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

Location: Westshore Rd., Bodega Bay (the road that runs along Bodega Harbor--although this section appears on Google Maps as Westside Rd.) between Gaffney Point and Campbell Cove (Owl Canyon is on the right--inland--when coming from the town of Bodega Bay, heading for Campbell Cove or Bodega Head, with the water on your left).

GPS address: None appropriate, as there are no addresses here. The location is on Westshore Rd. (or Westside Rd.), Bodega Bay. Pass Westside Regional Park on your left (toward the sea), go beyond the entrances to the Marine Lab residences and the Marine Laboratory (both on your right, neither very well signposted) and continue until you see a couple of stands of Eucalyptus and other trees on the right with a large bare dirt pull-out in front.

GPS Coordinates: 38 18 37N, 123 03 40W will take you to the big pull-out in front of Owl Canyon. The photo here shows the pull-out.

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

Access: At the large bare dirt pull-out, there will be two stands of eucalyptus. At the second (the farther of the two when coming from Bodega Bay, with the water on your left) look for a small trail leading into the wooded areas to the right of a large rock (see photo). The trail runs uphill and along a small creek that flows out of the hills here. Check for birds in Owl Canyon proper (up this trail), but also look for birds all along the wooded and brushy areas next to the pull-out. and in the area of the first stand of eucalyptus as well. Raptors often hang out in the tall trees. The mud flats on the other side of the road can be productive as well.

Habitats: Coastal eucalyptus, coastal scrub, creekside woods (willows, etc.)

Typical Species: The usual coastal woodland species, including Black phoebe, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Western Scrub-jay, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Anna’s Hummingbird, Allen’s Hummingbird, Bewick’s Wren, Pacific Wren (Winter Wren), Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Crow, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Song Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, etc., but see below--Owl Canyon is famous as a vagrant trap.

The mud flats and water behind you (when facing the Canyon) will have the typical shorebirds of the area.

Unusual birds, sightings: Chestnut-sided Warbler (6/13/17, Dan Nelson); Blackpoll Warbler (6/7-6/9/17, Dan Nelson); Northern Parula (5/26/17, Dan Nelson); Summer Tanager (5/26/27, Dan Nelson); Black-throated Blue Warbler (10/12-10/13/16, Colin Talcroft and others); Magnolia Warbler (10/11-10/13/16, Gordon Beebe); Pine Warbler (10/11-10/12/16, Don Kirker); Tennessee Warbler (9/12-9/18/16, Peter Colasanti), Prothonotary Warbler (8/29/16, Ron Storey); Blue Grosbeak (8/29/16, Mario Balitbit); MacGillivray’s Warbler (8/27/16, Jeff Miller); MacGillivray’s Warbler (8/11/16, Dea Freid); Yellow-billed Cuckoo (10/24/15, Will Anderson); Chestnut-sided Warbler (10/7-10/11/15); Prairie Warbler (9/24/15, Dea Freid);  Prairie Warbler (9/12/15, Lisa Hug); American Redstart (8/26/15, Dea Freid); Baltimore Oriole (5/26-5/27/15, Ruth Rudesill); Rose-breasted Grosbeak (5/26/15, Ruth Rudesill); Yellow-green Vireo--first Sonoma County record (10/10-10/11/14, Gordon Beebe); Prairie Warbler (9/16/14, Rob O’Donnell); Blackburnian Warbler (9/9-9/11/14, Dan Nelson); Orchard Oriole (9/9/14, Dan Nelson); Chestnut-sided Warbler (9/5-9/6/14, Gene Hunn); MacGillivray’s Warbler (9/6-9/9/14, Dan Nelson); Black-and-white Warbler (9/6/14, Ruth Rudesill); Black-and-white Warbler (8/29/14, David Hoffman); Red-eyed Vireo (8/29/14, Daniel Edelstein); Grey Catbird (8/28/-9/13/14, Peter Colasanti); Yellow-throated Vireo (6/4-6/6/14, Dan Nelson--second Sonoma County record); Palm Warbler (10/22/13, Jackie Sones); Black-throated Blue Warbler (10/11-10/24/13, Mike Parmeter); Hermit Warbler (7/30/13, Dea Freid); Tropical Kingbird (10/29/12, Scott Carey); Chestnut-sided Warbler (9/28/12-10/1/12, Jackie Sones); Blackburnian Warbler (9/26-29/12, Dan Nelson); Cape May Warbler (9/26/12, Dan Nelson); American Redstart, (9/25/12, Dan Nelson); Prairie Warbler (9/5/12, Scott Carey); MacGillivray's Warbler (9/4-5/12, Ruth Rudesill); Brewer's Sparrow (5/29/12, Scott Carey); Black and White Warbler (10/17/11, Scott Carey); Palm Warbler (10/17/11, Scott Carey); Nashville Warbler (10/17/11, Scott Carey); Chestnut-sided Warbler (10/8/11, Peter Colasanti); Prairie Warbler (9/10/11); Tennessee Warbler (9/10/11); Nashville Warbler (9/7/11); Peregrine Falcon (8/29/11);  Hermit Warbler (8/29/11); American Redstart (8/29/11); Black-and-white Warbler (9/9/10), MacGillivray’s Warbler (9/8/10)

Restroom facilities: No public facilities in the immediate area. Nearest are at Campbell Cove, Bodega Head, and across the street form the Spud Point Crab Co.

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

Nearby attractions: See the Bodega Bay Overview page.

Related bird watching spots: This area is between Gaffney Point and Campbell Cove. Near Campbell Cove is the “Hole in the Head.” Beyond Campbell Cove and the “Hole in the Head,” up the hill beyond the sharp switchback, is Bodega Head. Before Gaffney Point is the Spud Point Crab Co. See individual pages for these locations and the map above for geographical relationships. 

The bird in the photo: Black-throated Blue Warbler, Owl Canyon, October 14, 2013

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.