A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

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


©2011 Google – Imagery ©2011 DigitalGlobe, USDA Farm Service Agency, GeoEye, Map data ©2011 Google

Location aliases: None really. Usually referred to simply as “The Laguna Trail.” “The Laguna de Santa Rosa” refers to the entire large wetland complex. “The Laguna de Santa Rosa Wetland Preserve” is a designated area within the Laguna (for more information, see the Laguna de Santa Rosa page). Kelly Pond is the pond about halfway between the two trailheads.

Location: Two trailheads, one on Highway 12, one on Occidental Rd.

GPS address: The Highway. 12 entrance has no real address, but the Chevron Station just up the road is at 5640 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol, CA 95472. On some devices, an address of 5640 Highway 12 may be required. Most devices will allow you to find the gas station by searching by topic and choosing gas. The Occidental Rd. entrance likewise has no address, but the nearby Hanna Winery tasting room is at 5353 Occidental Rd., Santa Rosa, CA 95401. 

GPS Coordinates: The Highway 12 entrance is at 38.4058, -122.8116. The Occidental Rd. entrance is at 38.4230, -122.8104.

Access: Trailheads on Highway 12 and Occidental Rd. The small parking lots at the trailheads are free of charge. Note that there are only a few space at the north end (Occidental Rd.). There is better parking on the Hwy. 12 side, which may be relevant on the weekends. The Occidental Rd. entrance is very easy to miss.

New trail, new trailheads: The Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail through the east side of the Laguna de Santa Rosa was added in late 2012. Entry points on Highway 12 and Occidental Rd., as described above. The trailheads are marked with prominent signs (photo left). On the south (or Hwy. 12) side, the Chevron gas station just east of Sebastopol is a good landmark (visible in the background in the photo here). The trailhead is on your right just before the gas station if approaching from Santa Rosa (the east) or just after the gas station on your left if approaching from Sebastopol (the west). The new trail connects the two entry points as shown on the map above. On Occidental Rd., the entrance is near the Hanna Winery tasting room. The entry point is a bit hard to see from the road, but slow down and look for signs like the one pictured above. The trail runs through mostly open grassy areas studded with mature oaks and eucalyptus and flanked by vineyards, but there is a looped side trail giving views over one of the ponds here (called Kelly Pond) and through somewhat more wooded areas likely to have more bird life than the main trail, which, however, offers good views of Mt. St. Helena (photo at top).

Another entry point (allowing access to the Laguna also by kayak) is near the intersection of Occidental Rd. and High School Rd., further north of Sebastopol (off the upper left corner of the map above). On the map, note that N. Main St. in Sebastopol becomes Healdsburg Ave. as it bears left (both are considered part of Hwy. 116). If, instead of following the main road here onto Healdsburg Ave., you stay to the right (passing a large church on your left on the corner) you will find yourself on High School Rd. Continue until it dead ends at Occidental Rd. You will see the Laguna on your right. Turn right onto Occidental Rd. and look for the parking pull-out on the right. By GPS, an address of 6150 Occidental Rd., Sebastopol, CA 95472 should be close. Coordinates of the informal parking area are 38 25 31N, 122 49 38W. 

Habitats: Light woods, brush, open fields studded with mature trees, ponds. Vineyards and farmland surrounding.

Typical Species: Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Mallard, Canada Goose, Black-crowned Night Heron, Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Kite, American Kestrel, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Acorn Woodpecker, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Black Phoebe, Warbling Vireo, Hutton’s Vireo, Scrub Jay, Crow, Raven, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bewick’s Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Violet-green Swallow, Tree Swallow, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Mockingbird, Spotted Towhee, California Towhee, Song Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, House Finch, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch

Unusual birds, sightings: Blue Grosbeak (7/31/16, Lisa Hug); Solitary Sandpiper (8/24-8/29/15, Lisa Hug), Yellow-breasted Chat (5/5-5/21, 2014, Don Kirker); Yellow-breasted Chat (5/20-5/30, 2013, Lisa Hug)

Restroom facilities: To be confirmed.

Restaurants Nearby: Close to the trail at the south end is the Barlow complex, which will be on your right as you enter Sebastopol from the direction of the Highway 12 trailhead. If you’re headed out to Bodega, it may make sense to eat in Bodega Bay rather than in Sebastopol. See the Bodega Bay Overview page for restaurant suggestions. If eating in Sebastopol is more convenient try the Barlow, or in town, try East-West Café at 128 N. Main St., Sebastopol, CA 95472, 829-2822) for good Mediterranean-influenced fare, including many vegetarian dishes. Close to Ragle Ranch Park is The French Garden at 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol CA 95472 (824-2030), which has a good reputation, but is more for a slow, sit-down lunch. For quick take-out sandwiches, Sebastopol has a Safeway (406 N. Main St., Sebastopol CA 95472, 823-1101) and a Whole Foods Market (6910 McKinley St., Sebastopol, CA 95472, 829-9801). In neighboring Graton, try Willow Wood Market Café (9020 Graton Rd., Graton, CA 95444, 823-0233). Always delicious.

Nearby attractions: The Barlow complex on the Santa Rosa side of Sebastopol offers shops, wine tasting rooms, restaurants, and even a distillery. Coffee Catz (6761 Sebastopol Ave., 829-6600) is a good little café just opposite the Barlow. The eclectic Sebastopol downtown area has interesting shops to browse, including art galleries, music stores, and the excellent Copperfield’s Used & Rare Books (176 N. Main St., 829-0429), and others. Incredible Records & CDs (112 N. Main St., 824-8099) something of an institution in its own right was a mecca for vintage rock & roll fans, but the shop has closed. The West County Museum (261 S. Main St., 829-6711) has high-quality exhibitions of items of local interest. The museum, housed in a former railway station on the electric rail line that once connected Petaluma and Santa Rosa is of some interest in itself. Florence Ave. is worth a visit. Home to sculptor Patrick Amiot, whose whimsical sculptures decorate the front yards of most of his neighbors, the street has become an outdoor sculpture garden. Park and walk to view the artwork (driving slooooowly down the street annoys the locals. For antique hounds, The Antique Society (2661 Gravenstein Hwy, Sebastopol, CA 95472, 829-1733), the last large antiques mall in Sebastopol to survive the recession remains a good place to look for the unusual. The neighboring town of Graton has galleries and antiques as well. If you happen to be in the area in late April, the Apple Blossom Festival can be entertaining, and the apple orchards are beautiful when in bloom, although many orchards have been replaced by grapes in recent years.

Related bird watching spots: Santa Rosa birding spots lie to the east (see appropriate pages for details--links on front page). To the west is Bodega Bay. On the way to Bodega Bay are Ragle Ranch Park and the Bodega Farm Pond.

Notes: Watch out for poison oak in wooded areas here (and throughout the county).

All photos by the author, unless otherwise indicated

Maps by Google Maps



© Colin Talcroft, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

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.


Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail, Sebastopol CA 95472