A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

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


Bodega Bay: “The Hole in the Head”

Location aliases: I’m not sure this place has an official name. Birders and most other people call it “The Hole in the Head,” referring specifically to the deep, freshwater pond and surrounding areas just inland from Campbell Cove (the photo above shows the pond from behind). Note, however, that birders frequently (and confusingly) use “Campbell Cove” to refer to this area as well, although “Campbell Cove” should properly be reserved for the ocean inlet and beach area that is adjacent to Hole in the Head.
©2011 Google – Imagery ©2011 DigitalGlobe, USDA Farm Service Agency, GeoEye, Data CSUMB SFML CA OPC Map data ©2011 Google

Location: At the end of Westshore Rd., Bodega Bay. Beyond Owl Canyon at the bottom of the hill reached by the switchback leading up to Bodega Head.

GPS address: None appropriate, as there are no addresses here.

GPS Coordinates: 38 18 19N, 123 03 28W will take you more or less to the Campbell Cove parking lot.

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

Access: Free parking in the parking lot at Campbell Cove gives easy access to “The Hole in the Head.”  There is roadside parking also on the ocean side of the road, before entering the Campbell Cove parking lot. There is a boardwalk and observation deck that gives good views of the pond and surroundings.

Habitats: Freshwater pond, marshy areas, coastal scrub, coastal woods

Typical Species: Pied-billed Grebe, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, Great Blue Heron, Western Scrub-jay, Crow, Raven, Brewer’s Blackbird, Red-winged Blackbird, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Harrier, Black Phoebe, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch

Unusual birds, sightings: Clay-colored Sparrow (10/3/17, Dea Freid); Black-and-white Warbler (9/24-9/25/16, Brook O’Conner); Baltimore Oriole (8/27/16, Jeff Miller); Magnolia Warbler (10/5-10/6/15, Link Van Cleaf); Bell’s Vireo (10/3-10/6/15, Gene Hunn); Black-and-white Warbler (6/1/15, Dan Nelson); Prothonotary Warbler (5/30/15, Mike Heffernon); Northern Waterthrush (5/30/15, Dan Nelson); Least Bittern (5/24-6/12/15, Peter Colasanti); Rose-breasted Grosbeak (5/14/15, Peter Colasanti); Dusky-capped Flycatcher (11/25-11/26/13, Lisa Hug); Summer Tanager (11/25/-11/27/13, Denise and David Hamilton); Tropical Kingbird (9/28/13, Eric LoPresti); Tennessee Warbler (9/13/13, Dan Nelson); Baltimore Oriole (9/13/13, Dan Nelson); Indigo Bunting (9/11-9/16/13, Dan Nelson); Northern Waterthrush (9/11-13/13, Dan Nelson); Orchard Oriole (9/11-9/13/13, Dan Nelson); Black-chinned Hummingbird (9/10/13, Ruth Rudesill); Canada Warbler (9/7-9/13/13, Mike Parmeter); Indigo Bunting (8/25-8/27/13, Scott Carey); Rose-breasted Grosbeak (6/9-6/10/13, Dan Nelson); Ovenbird (6/10/13, Ruth Rudesill); American Redstart (6/10/13, Dan Nelson); Palm Warbler (10/1/12, Colin Talcroft); Black-throated Blue Warbler (9/24-25/12, Hugh B. Harvey); Great Horned Owl (9/5-8/12, Colin Talcroft); American Redstart (9/6/12, Dan Nelson); Orchard Oriole (9/6/12, Dan Nelson); American Redstart (9/3/12, Linda and Scott Terill); Rose-breasted Grosbeak (6/19,/12, David Hofmann); Indigo Bunting (9/13-14/11, Ruth Rudesill, Peter Colasanti).

Restroom facilities: Restrooms in the Campbell Cove parking lot and up the hill, at Bodega Head.

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

Nearby attractions: See the Bodega Bay Overview page.

Related bird watching spots: The “Hole in the Head” is adjacent to Campbell Cove. Beyond Campbell Cove and the “Hole in the Head,” up the hill beyond the sharp switchback, is Bodega Head. Campbell Cove overlooks the Doran Beach area, but visiting Doran Beach requires backtracking all the way around Bodega Harbor.

Notes: 1. The pond is manmade. It was created by the initial excavation for a proposed Pacific Gas & Electric nuclear power station here in the early 1960s. The project was stopped by local and statewide protest. The force of the protest efforts was bolstered by the fact that the San Andreas fault runs through the spot.

2.  Although not officially sanctioned, it has in the past been possible to enter the fenced area through holes in the fence. The easiest hole is well to the right of the entrance to the observation deck (photo). This allows you to walk around the perimeter of the pond*. Some of the best birds are often behind the pond and visible only from that vantage point. In addition, there is a rugged and hard-to-find extension of the trail that will drop you down into Campbell Cove proper, at the water line, but this is heavily covered with vegetation and not easy to pass through. During migration, the unusual warblers will most likely be found in the areas around the back of the pond. Tread lightly.

*In early 2015, rangers closed the holes in the fence. At present, it is still possible to walk around the pond inside the fence, but the openings are less obvious. Please be very discreet. Try not to be seen entering or exiting the fenced-in area, especially if rangers are around.

The bird in the photo: Wilson’s Warbler, The Hole in the Head, June 23, 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.