A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

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


Pinnacle Gulch, Bodega Bay CA 94923

Location aliases: None. Known as Pinnacle Gulch. Note that there is another accessible gulch just to the east of Pinnacle Gulch known as Shorttail Gulch (see Access and the detail map below).

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

Location: The Pinnacle Gulch Parking Lot is on Mockingbird Dr., Bodega Bay, CA 94923, inside the housing development accessed from South Harbour Way.

GPS address: Any address on South Harbour Way, Bodega Bay should be close to the entrance to the Pinnacle Gulch area, but see Access below for details.

GPS Coordinates: The intersection of Hwy 1 and South Harbour Way is at 38.3177N, 123.0278W, or  38 19 4N, 123 01 40W. The Pinnacle Gulch Parking Lot is at 38.3130N, 123.0140W, or 18 18 47N, 123 00 50W. The Shorttail Gulch access point on Osprey Dr. is at 38.3087N, 123.0115W or 38 18 31N, 123 00 41W.

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

Access: Pinnacle Gulch is in a housing development accessed through the entrance to a golf course--The Links at Bodega Harbour (look for the sign at left). Heading toward Bodega Bay from the direction of the town of Bodega (heading north), the entrance will be on your left. If you head for Pinnacle Gulch after leaving Bodega Bay and you're heading south on Hwy 1 (toward the town of Bodega), the entrance will be on your right. Take a left at the T-junction immediately inside the golf course entrance and follow the wooden Pinnacle Gulch signs on Heron Dr. Turn into Mockingbird Dr. and look for the small Pinnacle Gulch parking lot on your left. A $6 parking fee is required. Pinnacle Gulch is part of the Sonoma County Regional Parks system. Regional Park annual pass holders park free. You can park on the street free if you don't mind a little extra walking, but be sure you are outside of the no-parking-any-time zone around the parking lot.

Shorttail Gulch is accessed from Osprey Dr. at the end of Mockingbird Dr. (see detail map). Note that only the main trails at Pinnacle Gulch and Shorttail Gulch that lead to the ocean are public access. All side trails enter private property. Also see notes below.

Habitats: Riparian corridor with willows, brush, and native vegetation; open coastal scrub, ocean beaches, open ocean.

Typical Species: Along the gulch and overhead, look for Common Raven, Turkey Vulture, Western Scrub-jay, Coopers Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Wrentit, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Orange-crowned Warbler, Towsend's Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco. At the beach and on and over the ocean, look for typical shorebirds such as Sanderlings, Whimbrels, and Willets, Surf Scoters, Loons, Brown Pelican, White Pelican, and gulls.  

Unusual birds, sightings: Tropical Kingbird (10/20/14, Dea Fried); Golden Eagle (Shorttail Gulch, 11/10/12, Dea Freid); Great Horned Owl (2/2/11, Colin Talcroft); Wandering Tatler (9/27/11, Gene Hunn); Harlequin Duck (9/4/11, Mike Heffernon); Golden-crowned Kinglet (11/6/06, Dea Freid) 

Restroom facilities: Restrooms at the Pinnacle Gulch parking lot.

Restaurants Nearby:  If you’re headed out to the Bodega area, it usually makes sense to eat in Bodega Bay. There is a restaurant open to the public at the golf course by Pinnacele Gulch (Bluewater Bistro), but I have not tried it. See the Bodega Bay Overview page for restaurant suggestions in Bodega Bay. See the Duncan's Landing page for restaurant ideas north of Bodega Bay.

If coming from the east and eating in Sebastopol is more convenient, 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. 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 pinnacle Gulch area itself is beautiful just to walk or drive around in. In the spring, the houses in the development here are full of blooming rock roses, tea trees, and echiums. The nearby town of Bodega (zip code 95465 will take you there using a GPS unit), as opposed to the town of Bodega Bay (94923), has small shops offering local art, antiques, local crafts, and the like. Also in the town of Bodega you can see St. Teresa of Avila Church, noted for its age (built by local shipbuilders in 1859) and famously photographed by Ansel Adams (1953). It also appears in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Hitchcock is said to have attended services there during the filming. Next door to the church is the schoolhouse that appears in the film. Driving into Bodega Bay from the east (from Sebastopol) will give you the view over the countryside that opens the film. Most other locations in The Birds have been obscured by time and development, but the Tides Wharf Restaurant is approximately the location of scenes filmed in town. Note that in the film, the two towns of Bodega and Bodega Bay have been compressed into one. Tippi Hedren, star of the film, makes occasional appearances at the Tides to this day. The nearby towns of Freestone and Occidental have shops good for browsing. See the Bodega Bay Overview page for details.

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), among others. Incredible Records & CDs (112 N. Main St., 824-8099) is something of an institution in its own right (recommended for vintage rock & roll fans). 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 Sebastopol's apple orchards are beautiful when in bloom, although many orchards have been replaced by grapes in recent years. Sebastopol is the home of the Gravenstein apple.

Related bird watching spots: Pinnacle Gulch is a good place to stop on the way into Bodega Bay from Sebastopol, or on the way out of the Bodega Bay area, heading toward Sebastopol. The Bodega Farm Pond and Ragle Ranch Park are the closest birding locations to the east. See the Bodega Bay Overview page for information on Bodega Bay birding spots. See the Duncan's Landing and Jenner/Mouth of the Russian River pages for points north of Bodega Bay. Willow Creek Rd., in Jenner, is also to the north. The Carmody Rd. Pond is not far, at the extreme south of the county. It may be worth a stop if you're heading south to Marin County birding areas, such as Point Reyes.

Notes: 1. Pinnacle Gulch is very popular with non-birders as a beach access point and is comparatively unused by birders. It is quietest on weekdays. Shorttail Gulch is not widely known among birders.

2. When the tide is out, it's possible to walk along the beach from the outlet of Pinnacle Gulch to the outlet of Shorttail Gulch, to make a longer circuit. From the outlet of Shorttail Gulch, it's sometimes possible to walk south along the beach to the Estero Americano area, just off the bottom of the two maps here. Be careful to watch the tides, however, to avoid getting stranded. Tide information: See the NOAA Tides & Currents page for tides at Bodega Harbor

The bird in the photo: Northern Mockingbird, Pinnacle Gulch, December 13, 2011.

All photos by the author, unless otherwise indicated

Maps by Google Maps



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

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.