East Bay Parks activities, from birdwatching to mine tours

Hazel Atlas Silica Sand Mine
Hazel Atlas Silica Sand Mine

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA — The East Bay Regional Parks are home to a great variety of birds, and watching the avians in action is lots of fun.

“Birding for Beginners” is a good way to start. Naturalist Ashley Adams will offer the introductory program from 8:30 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21 at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch.

Meet Ashley in the uppermost parking lot at the end of Somersville Road, 3½ miles south of Highway 4.

Reservations are not necessary. Bring your own binoculars, though some loaners will be provided. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, masks are recommended and social distancing must be maintained between participants.

The program is free of charge. Black Diamond Mines has a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is attended. For more information, call 510-544-2750.

Mine tour

While you’re at Black Diamond Mines, you can visit the park’s underground Greathouse Visitor Center, take a Hazel-Atlas Mine tour through old sand mine tunnels, or experience the new coal mine exhibit, which re-creates the sights and sounds of a 19th century working coal mine, with mannequins instead of live miners.

Entry to the visitor center is free of charge and all ages are welcome. There’s a fee for the two mine tours, reservations are required, and tours are restricted to ages seven and older for safety reasons. For more information, call 888-327-2757, option 2, the phone number for all reservations.

Wild Wonders

Sunol Regional Wilderness in southern Alameda County has three interesting programs on the calendar in coming days. All participants are asked to observe park district COVID-related protocols – masks and social distancing. Masks are required indoors, and are recommended when outside and in a crowded group.

All three programs are free, but advance registration is required.

Animal Adaptations is the theme of a program from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21 with naturalist Kristina Parkison. She’ll talk about how animals adopt by physiology or behavior to the environment in which they live.

“Wild Wonders” is scheduled from 2 to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 22. It’s a free, naturalist-led program of family-oriented games, activities and explorations.

The third program is “Outdoor Discoveries: Have to Have a Habitat,” with naturalist Betty Villalta. It’s from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Monday, August 23 at the Sunol Visitor Center.

Outdoor Discoveries is geared for ages four through eight, with parental participation, though younger siblings are welcome. It’s free, but advance registration is required and no drop-ins are allowed. Betty advises participants to dress for fun with clothes that can get mucky, and closed-toes shoes. Bring water and be wilderness ready – the park has neither cell phone service nor running water (except for Alameda Creek).

For information or to register for any of the three programs, call 510-544-3249. Or you can register online at www.ebparks.org. Sunol Regional Wilderness is at the end of Geary Road off Calaveras Road about five miles south of I-680 and the town of Sunol.

Over-The-Hills Gang

The Over-The-Hills Gang is back on the trails. It’s an informal, naturalist-led hiking group for people 55 and older interested in nature study, history, fitness and fun.

Naturalist Trail Gail Broesder will lead the gang on a hike from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 24 at Roberts Regional Recreation Area in Oakland.

Roberts Recreation Area is on Skyline Boulevard about a mile up the hill from the intersection with Joaquin Miller Road.

The hike is free of charge, but registration is required. Roberts has a parking fee of $5 per vehicle. For registration and information, call 510-544-2233.

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.