Important Birding Locations in Santa Clara County

This is a list of the most important and interesting birding locations in Santa Clara County. By visiting these locations you’ll be able to explore the variety of habitats and discover most of the species we have here as well as many of the species of interest to out of area birders. Interested in finding a specific species? We’ve identified a few key species in the county and discuss the best places to locate them.

If you want a more complete list of birding locations in the county, consider getting a copy of Birding at the Bottom of the Bay, published by Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society and available in the store at their headquarters in McLellan Ranch in Cupertino.

Byxbee Park

Byxbee Park is a small park situations to the north of Palo Alto Baylands and South of the Shoreline Park and Lake area. It has a number of hiking trails through brushy areas which lead to the top of a hill, which gives good views of the bay areas around it.

Common Species

Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Great blue Heron, Black-necked Stilt, White-Crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Northern Harrier, Tree Swallow

Notable Species

Canvasback, Long-Billed Curlew, Common Raven, Merlin, Say’s Phobe, White-Throated Swift.

Facilities

  • Hours: 8AM-Sunset
  • Parking: Limited
  • Fees: Free

Restrooms, hiking trails

Directions

Take HWY 101 to Oregon Expressway/Embarcadero exit. Take Embarcadero east past the airport. Where the road ends in a “T”, turn right to the entrance of Byxbee Park.

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Calero Reservoir

Calero County Park is a 4,400 acre park with Calero Reservoir in it. Primarily set up for recreational boating, it has picnic facilities and hiking trails. Habitat includes the freshwater lake, brush lands and Oak forests across the lake.

Common Species

Gadwall, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, California Gull, Western Grebe, Eared Grebe, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, White-crowned Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, California Quail, Wild Turkey.

Notable Species

Bald Eagle, White-Throated Swift, Tree Swallow, Common Merganser, Say’s Phoebe, Common Goldeneye, Clark’s Grebe.

Facilities

  • Hours: 8AM-Sunset
  • Parking: Yes
  • Fees: $6/car

Portable toilets, Picnic Facilities. Dogs allowed on some trails on leash.

Directions

Take HWY 101 to Bailey Avenue. Take Bailey West into the hills to McKean Road. Turn right on McKean and follow to the park entrance on the left.

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Coyote Lake County Park

Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch County Park consists of two properties. Coyote Lake is a park surrounding a water system reservoir covering 449 acres. The park has picnic and camping facilities and a boat ramp and 33 miles of trails. Dogs welcome on most trails.

Common Species

American Wigeon, Mallard, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, California Quail, Wild Turkey, Herring Gull, Acorn Woodpecker, California Scrub-Jay.

Notable Species

Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Cackling Goose, Clark’s Grebe, Ring-Necked Duck, American Pipit, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Rufous-Crowned Sparrow, Rock Wren.

Facilities

  • Hours: 8AM to Sunset
  • Parking: Yes
  • Fees: $6/Car

Restrooms and Picnic facilities, camping and boating.

Directions

Take 101 S to Masten Road. Take Masten East to Center Ave and turn right, then turn left on Rucker and right on New Avenue. Turn Left and travel East on Roop Road to the park entrance.

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Coyote Valley

Coyote Valley encompasses an area of the county to the south of the City of San Jose and north of Morgan Hill, generally along the route of HWY 101. Much of this area is undeveloped or agricultural. It is a key wildlife corridor and one of the best places in the county for raptor habitat and viewing, especially in winter. This area continues to be at risk of development, but in the last few years we’ve seen the creation of the Coyote Open Space Preserve and some key land purchases by POST. You can learn more about Coyote Valley and what’s going on at Protect Coyote Valley.

Coyote Valley can be considered to start roughly around the intersection of HWY 101 and HWY 85 and run south roughly to the HWY 101 and Cochrane intersection. This roughly runs along the path of Coyote Creek.

There are a number of areas of special interest to birders in Coyote Valley. The highlights are:

  • The Coyote Ranch area between HWY101 and Monterey north of Bailey road with access to Coyote Creek in the Coyote Ranch area.
  • The area known as “West Laguna”. This includes Laguna Avenue to the east and west of Santa Teresa and nearby streets including Richmond Avenue, Scheller Avenue and Palm Avenue. West Laguna is surrounded by pastures and fields and ends right up against the coastal foothills and can offer a wide variety of species. Some parts of these streets have residential buildings so please be careful about pointing binoculars, scopes and cameras at the residences.
  • Coyote Open Space Preserve is a new open space area with a small parking lot for cars and equestrian trailers and trails into the coastal foothills. It’s at the West end of Palm Avenue
  • Ogier Ponds is a series of ponds along Coyote Creek on Ogier Road, accessed from Monterey Street. It gives access to the ponds and has trail access to explore up and down Coyote Creek in brush and wooded areas. Please note: due to storm damage in 2017, access to Ogier Ponds is limited to hiking or biking and access by car will not be possible until this area is repaired (currently scheduled for sometime in 2018).

Note that there are many other areas of interest to birders in and around Coyote Valley:

  • Santa Teresa County Park sits at the northern edge of Coyote Valley.
  • Coyote Creek Golf Club is accessible off of HWY 101 and the parking lots can be worth exploring for blackbirds, great-tailed grackle and other birds. Also a good place to find mule deer.
  • Calero Reservoir is in the hills if you continue along Bailey Ave.
  • Anderson Reservoir and park is to the east off Cochrane.
  • Chesbro Reservoir is to the west if you travel up Llagas Rd.
  • Uvas Reservoir is to the west on HWY G8 if you travel up Watsonville Rd
  • Coyote Lake and Park, and Harvey Bear Ranch Park are available by exiting HWY 101 on San Martin and heading east.

Common Species

Mallard, California Gull, Herring Gull, Eurasian Collared-Dove, California Scrub-Jay, California Quail, Northern Flicker, Song Sparrow, Northern Mockingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, American Kestrel, Red-Winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark.

Notable Species

Common Gallinule, Glaucous-winged Gull, Common Raven, Mew Gull, Virginia Rail, Belted Kingfisher, Peregrine Falcon, Downy Woodpecker, White-Tailed Kite, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Prarie Falcon, Tricolored Blackbird.

Facilities

  • Hours: Always
  • Parking: Along the road
  • Fees: Free

Directions

To access this area take HWY 101 to Bailey road and turn left. You can go north on Monterey to get to the Coyote Ranch area. You can continue to Santa Teresa and turn left (S) which takes you to Laguna Avenue. Turn right to explore “Laguna West”, and you can explore the other roads here.

Continue south on Santa Teresa, which turns into Hale. Turn Right (W) on Palm, which takes you to Coyote OSP.

To get to Ogier Pond from Coyote OSP, continue S on Hale to Llagas Rd and turn L, then take Old Monterey Road to Monterey St. Head N on Monterey to the ponds. Find street parking near Coyote Creek to explore the area.

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Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, Alviso

Common Species

Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Green-Winged Teal, Black-Necked Stilt, American Avocet, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Common Yellowthroat, Black Phoebe, Marsh Wren, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow.

Notable Species

Peregrine Falcon, Redhead, Burrowing Owl, White-Tailed Kite, Semipalmated Plover, Glaucous-Winged Gull.

Facilities

  • Hours: Varies
  • Parking: Parking on site. When gate is locked, limited parking next to the gate.
  • Fees: Free

Portable Toilets in the parking lot.

Directions

Take HWY 237 to Zanker Road. Take Zanker north. Zanker curls around and becomes Los Esteros Road. Turn right into the entrance to Don Edwards and the Edwards Educational Center (Grand Blvd). Good views of Gulls and Shorebirds also exists along Spreckles (near State) in the wetlands. There are areas along Disk Drive and Nortec that are protected habitats for Burrowing Owls.

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Ed Levin County Park

Ed Levin is a 1,500 acre park in the foothills east of Milpitas, combining constructed parklands with natural brush, woodlands and hillsides.

Common Species

Great Blue Heron, Acorn Woodpecker, Mallard, Western Bluebird, Turkey Vulture, Red-Tailed Hawk, White-tailed Kite, Northern Flicker, Oak Titmouse, Wild Turkey, California Quail.

Notable Species

Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeon, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Red-Breasted Sapsucker, Yellow-Billed Magpie, Great Horned Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Lark Sparrow, Rufous-Crowned Sparrow.

Facilities

  • Hours: 8AM-Sunset
  • Parking: Yes
  • Fees: $6/car

Picnic facilities and restrooms. Dogs allowed on leash (off leash in the dog park).

Directions

Take HWY 680 to Calaveras Road. Take Calaveras East to Downing Road and turn left. Follow Downing to the park Entrance and turn right into the park.

For the Spring Valley unit of the park, continue on Calaveras past Downing and turn right into the entrance.

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Joseph D. Grant County Park

The largest regional park in the county at 10,882 acres, it resides in the foothills on the eastern edge of Santa Clara County. Habitat is grasslands with many oak trees and includes 51 miles of trails for hiking and exploring.

Common Species

American Wigeon, Mallard, Ring-Necked Duck, bufflehead, Ruddy duck, California Quail, Northern Harrier, Great Horned Owl, Acorn Woodpecker, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Oak Titmouse, Hermit Thrush

Notable Species

Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Yellow-Billed Magpie, Common Raven, Violet-Green Swallow.

Facilities

  • Hours: 8AM-Sunset
  • Parking: Yes
  • Fees: $6/Car

Mountain Bikes and Equestrian allowed on many trails. Dogs on a leash on most trails.

Directions

Take HWY 101 or 680 to Alum Rock Road. Drive East to Mt. Hamilton Road and turn right. The entrance is 8 miles down Mt. Hamilton Road.

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Henry Coe State Park

The largest state park in Northern California, with a variety of landscape including brush lands and wooded areas.

Common Species

Bald Eagle, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Western Bluebird, Spotted Towhee, Wild Turkey.

Notable Species

Bell’s Sparrow, Greater Roadrunner, California Scrub-Jay, California quail.

Facilities

  • Hours: Always Open
  • Parking: Yes
  • Fees: $8/car

Directions

Take HWY 101 to East Dunne Ave. Take Dunne east past Anderson Lake to Park Headquarters.

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Lake Cunningham County Park

Lake Cunningham Park is a constructed park oriented towards general recreation and group outings. It has a 50 acre lake.

Common Species

Mallard, Ruddy Duck, Pied-Billed Grebe, Snowy Egret, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Great-Tailed Grackle, Belted Kingfisher

Notable Species

Hooded Merganser, Eared Grebe, Green Heron, American White Pelican, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Say’s Phoebe.

Facilities

  • Hours: 8:30AM to Sunset
  • Parking: Yes
  • Fees: $6/car

Restrooms, Picnic and the usual facilities.

Directions

Take HWY 680 to Capitol Expressway. Take Capitol east to White Drive. Take White South to the park entrance.

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Los Gatos Creek County Park (aka Oka Ponds)

Los Gatos Creek County Park is a constructed park that gives you access to the trails along Los Gatos Creek and the percolation ponds along Oka Lane.

Common Species

Mallard, Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Pied-Billed Grebe, Black-crowned Night Heron

Notable Species

Greater White-fronted Goose, Cackling Goose, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Glauscous-Winged Gull, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Osprey, Common Loon.

Facilities

  • Hours: 8AM-Sunset
  • Parking: Yes
  • Fees: $6/car

Restrooms and Picnic Facilities.

Directions

To visit Los Gatos Creek County Park: Take San Tomas Expressway to Winchester Blvd. Take Winchester S to Hacienda. Turn left on Hacienda and take it to the end, then turn left on Dell. Turn right into the park entrance.

To visit Oka Ponds: HWY 17 to Lark. Go west and turn right on Oka road, then left on Mozart Avenue and a quick right onto Oka lane. Park and there’s a gate access point.

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Mines Road/San Antonio Valley Road

The Mines road/San Antonio Valley road area is a rural part of eastern Santa Clara County. It follows Highway 130 from Joseph D. Grant Park over Mt. Hamilton where it becomes San Antonio Valley Road and travels east to the border with Stanislaus County. Connecting to it is Mines road, which heads north from San Antonio County Road to the Alameda County border.

A common way to explore this is to start at Joseph D. Grand Park and take HWY 130 over the hill and take it to where it meets I-5 near Patterson and then turn back and travel back to Mines Road and then take it north until it ends in Livermore. You can also take Mines Road to the county border, turn back and then take San Antonio Valley road to Patterson, get on I-5 and return to Santa Clara County via HWY 152.

Plan on this being at least a half day trip; carry lunch, snacks and water as facilities are limited.

Common Species

Yellow-Billed Magpie, Western Bluebird, Wild-Turkey, Northern Flicker, Common Raven, Western Meadowlark, Acorn Woodpecker.

Notable Species

California Quail, Cassin’s Vireo, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, Lewis’ Woodpecker,

Facilities

  • Hours: Always Open
  • Parking: Limited
  • Fees: Free

Directions

See above

Map(s)

 

 

Palo Alto Baylands and Duck Pond

Palo Alto’s Baylands Nature Preserve is 1,940 acres and one of the largest tracts of undisturbed wetlands left on San Francisco Bay. It includes 15 miles of multi-use trails.

Common Species

Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup, ruddy duck Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Mallard

Notable Species

Long-Billed Curlew, Bonaparte’s Gull, Common Raven, Greater Yellowlegs, Peregrine Falcon, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Virginia rail, Sora, Common Yellowthroat, Fox Sparrow.

Facilities

  • Hours: 8AM-Sunset
  • Parking: various locations in park
  • Fees: Free

Picnic Area, portable toilets, wind surfing and boating landing. Dogs allowed on leash. Groups of 25 or greater require a permit.

Directions

Take HWY 101 to Oregon Expressway/Embarcadero exit. Take Embarcadero east past the airport. Where the road ends in a “T”, turn left to the entrance of Palo Alto Baylands.

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Shoreline Park and Lake, Charleston Slough, and Coast Casey Forebay

This large area consists of wetlands, salt ponds and Shoreline Lake, an artificial lake built on a former landfill. There are a large number of trails, some of which allow for cycling, which include interconnections to the Bay Trail system. This is a very good area for shorebirds, ducks and grebes, especially in winter.

Common Species

Mallard, Surf Scoter, Eared Grebe, Western Grebe, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Northern Shoveler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Belted Kingfisher, Great-Tailed Grackle.

Notable Species

Western Grebe, Canvasback, Redhead, Clarke’s Grebe, Horned Grebe, Common Goldeneye, Barrow’s goldeneye.

Facilities

  • Hours: Daylight hours
  • Parking: See directions below
  • Fees: Free

Picnic Area, restrooms. No dogs allowed in park. Cycling allowed on some paths.

Directions

Take HWY 101 and exit on Shoreline Blvd. Take Shoreline East to the park entrance. There are various parking locations along the way or park at the boat house area.

Alternate entrance: Take HWY 101 and exit on San Antonio. Take San Antonio East and turn right on Terminal. There are two entrances along terminal, the northern one gives access Casey Forebay and Charleston Slough, the Northern one to Shoreline Lake and park. The trail that links the Northern and Southern entrances along the slough and forebay is a nice, flat, accessible 1.5 mile walk.

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Sierra Azul

Sierra Azul is an 18,000 acre preserve of wilderness south of Los Gatos that continues a wide variety of habitat, encompassing four major preserve areas: Kennedy Limekiln, Mount Umunhum, Cathedral Oaks and Rancho do Guadalupe.

Common Species

California Scrub-Jay, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Western Meadowlark, Northern Flicker, Steller’s Jay, California Quail

Notable Species

Acorn Woodpecker, California Thrasher, Cassin’s Vireo

Facilities

  • Hours: half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset
  • Parking: Yes
  • Fees: Free

Directions

Depends on which part of the Preserve you wish to visit, see the site below for full instructions. Three of the preserve areas are located on Mt. Umunhum road, accessible by taking HWY 85 to the Camden exit, taking Camden to Hicks and driving about 6 miles to Mt. Umunhum Road. Jacques Ridge Parking is near the intersection, Bald Mountain Parking area is 1.7 miles up Mt. Umunhum, and Mt. Umunhum is about 5 miles on the top of the hill. Kennedy-Limekiln is available of HWY 17 at Bear Creek near Lexington Reservoir.

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Stevens Creek Trail

Stevens Creek Trail travels from its connection to the Bay Trail system in Shoreline park in Mountain View along Stevens Creek to McClellan Ranch in Cupertino. Approximately 100 acres along the edges of Stevens Creek are preserved habitat along the trail. The end of the trail at the bay is a good location for ducks and shorebirds. The brush and tree habitat along the creek can be very good for warblers and other migrants during migration.

Common Species

Nothern Shoveler, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Tail, Marbled Godwit, Forster’s Tern, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, California Scrub-Jay, Oak Titmouse

Notable Species

Marsh Wren, Common Raven, Western Meadowlark, Sora, Greater Yellowlegs, Common Yellowthroat, Downy Woodpecker, Orange-Crowned Warbler, Cedar Waxwing.

Facilities

  • Hours: Always
  • Parking: Access is via entry points at streets and points of interest
  • Fees: Free

Directions

Most visitors start their hike near Shoreline Park and access the trail via either Crittenden Lane or La Avenida Street. Some on-street parking available at both locations.

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Sunnyvale Baylands Park

Sunnyvale Baylands consists of 70 Acres of recreational park plus 105 acres of seasonal wetlands in a protected preserve.

Common Species

Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Green-Winged Teal, Snowy Egret, Black-Necked Stilt, American Avocet.

Notable Species

Peregrine Falcon, strong location for warblers, vireos and other migrants during migration, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.

Facilities

  • Hours: 8AM to sunset
  • Parking: Yes
  • Fees: March-October $6 per car. November-February: Free

This is a park set up for groups and general recreation, with bathrooms, picnic areas and the usual facilities. No dogs, even on leash.

Directions

Take HWY 101 or 237 to Lawrence Expressway. Take Lawrence North. It becomes Caribbean. Continue to the park on your right.

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Sunnyvale Water Pollution Control Plant

The Sunnyvale Water Pollution Control Plant gives you access to the Bay Trail network along the south parts of San Francisco Bay as well as brush areas on a former landfill next to the bay. It can be pungent at times but in general it’s fine and the diversity of birds is good.

Common Species

Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Snowy Egret, Great Egrest, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Northern Shoveler, Bufflehead, Eared Grebe, Great Blue Heron, American Wigeon, Pied-Billed Grebe.

Notable Species

Common Merganser, Horned Grebe, Green Heron, Common Gallinule, Yellow Warbler, Common Raven, Peregrine Falcon, Spotted Sandpiper.

Facilities

  • Hours: Daylight Hours
  • Parking: Small Lot next to the facility at the entry points to the trails
  • Fees: Free

No Facilities.

Directions

Take HWY 101 or 237 to Lawrence Expressway. Take Lawrence North. It becomes Caribbean. Continue to Borregas Avenue. Turn right and continue on Borregas to the end, then turn left. Drive past the plant and park in the lot. There is access to the Bay Trail to Salt Pond A3, and across the bridge trails will take you to the settling ponds and dispersal channels or to the former landfill area.

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Ulistac Natural Area

Ulistac is a small undeveloped open space, the last undeveloped patch of land along the Guadalupe river. It contains trails and access to the levee next to the Guadalupe river. Habitat is split between brush lands and Oak forested areas.

Common Species

Red-Tailed Hawk, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Cooper’s hawk, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Tree Swallow, Lesser Goldfinch, Northern Mockingbird.

Notable Species

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Cedar Waxwing, Hermit Thrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, Downy Woodpecker, California Thrasher.

Facilities

  • Hours: Sunrise-Sunset
  • Parking: On Street
  • Fees: Free

No facilities. There is a small park across the street with restrooms.

Directions

Ulistac is at the corner of Tasman Drive and Lick Mill Blvd in Santa Clara. Take Montague Expressway to Lick Mill and turn north. Park on the street next to the area.

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