Explore East Bay Parks with the whole family over winter break

SAN FRANCISCO EAST BAY, CA (Dec. 19, 2021) — The end of December is a quiet time in the East Bay Regional Parks, but there are still nature-themed programs you can enjoy during the holidays.

Winter shorebirds are the focus of a bird-watching walk from 8 to 10 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 23 at Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary in Alameda. Beginning birders are welcome; bring your own binoculars.

This is a free, drop-in program; registration is not necessary. Meet naturalist Susan Ramos at the sanctuary, which is at the intersection of Broadway and Shoreline Drive. For information, call Crab Cove Visitor Center at 510-544-3187.

Although it is closed on Dec. 24 and 25, Christmas Day, Crab Cove Visitor Center will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 26. The center has a large aquarium, photos and artifacts from Alameda’s history, and a California Coast and Ocean Amateur Photography exhibit. Entry is free and registration is not required. Watch the staff feed the aquarium fish between 3 and 3:30 p.m.

Feeding the animals

It may be the holiday season, but the animals at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont still need to eat. You can help check for eggs and bring hay to the livestock during a program at Ardenwood from 3 to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 23.

The program is disabled-accessible, drop-in, and no registration is required. The Ardenwood admission fee applies. Meet at the granary.

The program repeats at the same time and place on Friday, Dec. 31.

Besides feeding the livestock, there’s lots to see and do at Ardenwood. Check out the tours of the Patterson House, a restored Victorian-era mansion, or the pollinator puppet show from 11 to 11:30 a.m. and the corn husk doll craft session from 12:30 to 2 p.m., both on Sunday, Dec. 26.

Ardenwood is located at 34600 Ardenwood Boulevard, just north of Highway 84. For fee and program information, call 510-544-2797.

Hands-on activies

Nearby at Coyote Hills Regional Park, you can join in “Discovery on Demand,” a range of hands-on, nature-themed activities for all ages. It’s in session between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 26 at the visitor center.

It’s drop-in, registration is not required, and all ages are welcome, though parents must participate. Due to COVID-19 concerns, masks are required and social distancing must be maintained.

You can also explore Coyote Hills’ nectar garden in a program from 11 a.m. to noon the same day. Learn about animals that pollinate, and get information about creating your own home native plant garden.

Both programs are free, though Coyote Hills has a parking fee of $5 per vehicle.

The park is at the end of Patterson Ranch Road off Paseo Padre Parkway in Fremont. For information, call 510-544-3220.

Search for mushrooms and winter birds

The park district’s last naturalist-led hike of 2021 will be from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Friday, Dec. 31 at Castle Rock/Diablo Foothills in Walnut Creek with Virginia Delgado.

This is an easy two-mile out and back walk along Pine Creek in search of mushrooms, winter birds and signs of creek activity. Meet Virginia at the Orchard Staging Area near the end of Castle Rock Road past Northgate High School.

The hike is free of charge, but registration is required. Minimum age is five years; parents must participate. Wear sturdy shoes; bring plenty of water and snacks.

For registration and information, call 888-327-2757, option 2.

Besides the naturalist programs, the regional parks and trails are all open during daylight hours for hikers, bicyclers and equestrians. And however you spend your time, I know the park district staff and board join me in wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season and New Year.

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