This Earth Day, I joined a Golden Gate Audubon Society birdathon group. The aim? To spot as many species in a four-hour window as possible. The experienced birders chose Huckleberry Regional preserve as our first stop, and we logged three hummingbird species, two different kinds of towhees, some Oregon juncos and a flight of cedar waxwings before we even left the parking lot.
Besides birds, Huckleberry is full of flowers right now: The manzanitas, madrones and huckleberries are all covered with pearly, bell-shaped flowers. Forget-me-nots cascade down the hillsides. Cow parsnips lift their saucer-sized clusters of lacy white flowers along the trail, along with modest miner’s lettuce and fuzzy pennyroyal.
The upper trail is mostly shaded, with occasional open vistas down the canyon towards Moraga or across to the hills of Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. In a damp hollow, we saw fox sparrows digging for grubs with short, sharp hops that kicked up the dead leaves around them. We heard a pygmy owl and a pileated woodpecker, saw the yellow flash of a Wilson’s warbler, and surprised a brown creeper scurrying up its branch.
Stopping so often to look and listen, we didn’t make it very far along the trail. Those more interested in walking and less interested in fauna can make a mile-and-a-half loop through the preserve.
Getting there: The entrance is on Skyline Boulevard, between Snake Road and Elverton Drive.
Cool stuff in the neighborhood: Really, the coolest thing is Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, right next door and within hiking distance along the Bay Area Ridge Trail. But Montclair Village is just down Snake Road if you need something more civilized.
More information: Numbered signposts along the path correspond to plant information found in this brochure (page 2 is here). The East Bay Parks District has a beautiful online wildflower guide . And you can learn more about the Golden Gate Audubon Society birdathon here.