A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

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


Santa Rosa Creek at Willowside Rd.

(and Delta Pond)

Location aliases: Local bird watchers often refer to this area simply as Willowside Rd. The pathways on either side of the creek are properly called the Santa Rosa Creek Trail. Note that Santa Rosa Creek is sometimes referred to in official publications as the Santa Rosa Flood Control Channel. "Delta Pond" refers to the pond skirted by the trail about three quarters of a mile to the west of Willowside Rd. Note that EBird refers to Delta Pond as “Santa Rosa Reservoir”--not to be confused with the official name of Spring Lake, which is “Santa Rosa Creek Reservoir.”

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Location: Santa Rosa Creek, east and west of Willowside Rd. Santa Rosa, CA 95401

GPS address:  642 Willowside Rd. Santa Rosa, CA 95401 should be near Willowside Rd. at Santa Rosa Creek

GPS Coordinates: 38 26 42N, 122 48 24W

Access: West of the Guerneville Rd./Steele Ln. Exit from Hwy. 101. Midway between Guerneville Rd. to the north and Hall Rd. to the south. The creek area can be approached from either side. Note that Hall Rd. is the western extension of West Third St. in Santa Rosa.

There is a small informal parking area just south of the creek on the east side of Willowside Rd., but there is roadside parking elsewhere in the vicinity of the bridge over the creek on Willowside Rd. as well. There are paths on both banks of the creek channel and on both the east and west sides of Willowside Rd.

Habitats: Creekside trail with mature oaks and other trees, native and blackberry undergrowth, cultivated fields, vineyards, farm ponds, water storage ponds. Note that the creek has been channelized for much of its length (the creek is used as a flood control channel).

Typical Species: Various ducks on the ponds (see notes below for information about the ponds). Elsewhere, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, White-tailed Kite, Cooper's Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Harrier, Northern Flicker, Acorn Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Nuttall's Woodpecker, California Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Mourning Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove, Hermit Thrush, Swainson's Thrush, Hooded Oriole, Bullock's Oriole, Black-headed Grosbeak, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Barn Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Black Phoebe, Willow Flycatcher, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Western Wood Pewee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Warbling Vireo, Oak Titmouse, Bushtit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Western Tanager,Western Bluebird, American Pipit, Song Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow

Unusual birds, sightings: Indigo Bunting ()7/11-7/13/17, Dea Freid; Palm Warbler (4/14/17, Don Kirker); Chestnut-sided Warbler (9/22/-9/23/16, Don Kirker); Evening Grosbeaks (2/7-2/8/16, Gabe Tarantino and Scott Sorby); Lawrence’s Goldfinch (11/7/15, Bill Doyle); Sandhill Crane (9/24-11/8/15, Don Kirker): Rose-breasted Grosbeak (4/7-4/12/14, Don Kirker); Snow Goose (on Delta Pond, 10/17/13, Brian Webb); MacGillivray's Warbler (5/16/12, Ruth Rudesill); White-throated Sparrow (1/28/12, Dea Freid). Merlin (11/19/11); Peregrine Falcon (11/19/11); Evening Grosbeak (3/9/11); Rose-breasted Grosbeak (6/19/10). Swamp Sparrow has been sighted here. Known especially as a good place to find Common Yellowthroat and Yellow-breasted Chat, particularly in the areas west of Willowside Rd.

Restroom facilities: None in the immediate vicinity.

Restaurants Nearby: None especially close. Pho Vietnam for excellent Vietnamese noodles may be the closest, at 711 Stony Point Rd., Santa Rosa, CA (571-7687). Oliver's Market at 461 Stony point Rd., Santa Rosa, CA (284-3530) has a deli for sandwiches. See other Santa Rosa location pages for suggestions if you're heading to the east. If you're heading west (toward Sebastopol or Bodega Bay), try the Willow Wood Market Café, at 9020 Graton Rd. in Graton, CA (823-0233), or see any of the Sebastopol location pages or the Bodega Bay Overview page for restaurant recommendations in those areas.

Nearby attractions: To be determined.

Related bird watching spots: A Place to Play Park is not far to the east on Hall Rd., which becomes West Third St. (the Santa Rosa Creek channel, and the pathways along it, extends all the way to A Place to Play Park and beyond). The Ninth St. Rookery is further east of A Place to Play Park (turn north, or left, onto Stony Point Rd. from W. Third St. and then look for West Ninth St. on your right)--worth visiting if it's nesting season for the herons and egrets (March to May is the peak). Further afield, Santa Rosa birding spots to the east include Lake Ralphine and Spring Lake. Sebastopol (and Bodega Bay) birding spots are to the west of Willowside Rd. See individual location pages for details. 

Notes: 1. I've never heard reports of trouble, but this area feels somewhat remote while being close enough to the city that some experienced birders don't recommend walking alone here. These fears may be entirely unfounded (birders and dog walkers come here often), but I pass the warning on, for what it's worth. I work on the assumption that many bird watching spots are remote, that there could be questionable people anywhere, and that everyone must make their own decisions about what feels comfortable and what doesn't. Signs near the bridge point out the rising incidence of thefts from cars left here. The usual cautions apply.

2. The trail along the creek channel extends on both sides of Willowside Rd. To the east, it extends all the way to Fulton Rd., about two miles away, and beyond. However, local birders tend to stay fairly close to Willowside Rd., except to check out "Delta Pond," the triangular water storage pond to the west (there is no access directly to the fenced-off pond here, but it may be viewed with a scope if you can find places to see over the high berms, and there is a dirt trail that leads all along the pond's northern edge, outside the fence). Madrone Audubon Society hosts at least one annual field trip each year that gets permission to go into the pond area. These trips are well worth joining (Delta Pond is pictured here with Mt. St. Helena in the distance). Keep an eye on the Madrone Audubon Society event calendar. There is also a large farm pond about a mile to the east of Willowside Rd. (off the map here) that may have ducks in the winter.

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

4. The pathway to the west of Willowside Rd. can be very soggy after heavy rain.

All photos by the author, unless otherwise indicated

Maps by Google Maps



© Colin Talcroft, 2009-2017

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.