This delightful preserve includes historic 19th-century Stow House, beautiful exotic trees, and a freshwater lake, Lake Los Carneros. The combination of a lush garden around the house and the semi-wild 136-acre preserve around the lake makes for excellent birding.
In late summer, I watch the flowering trees around the house for migrant hummingbirds. In fall, I look for warblers, grosbeaks, and tanagers attracted to the fruits of the shrubs planted along the pathways and around the lake. The lake itself is interesting any time of year. I like to stand on the boardwalk that crosses its inlet, looking for Soras and Virginia Rails. Least Bitterns breed here, but they’re more often heard than seen.
When I walk the trail around the lake, I scan for raptors, especially the White-tailed Kite pair that has bred here over the years. The birds can be spotted south of the dam as they hover-hunt above grasslands. Keep an eye to the sky for circling Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks. — Joan Easton Lentz
Suburban garden, eucalyptus grove, grassland, freshwater marsh, coastal sage scrub.
Mostly level 1.5-mile trail around lake. Walkways around Stow House wheelchair-accessible, as is part of the path around lake. Raised boardwalk over northern section of lake.
Breeding: Cassin’s and Western Kingbird, Western Bluebird, Black Phoebe, American Kestrel, Hooded and Bullock’s Orioles, California and Spotted Towhees, Hutton’s Vireo, Oak Titmouse, and Barn Owl. Late summer: Black-chinned, Allen’s, Rufous, and Anna’s Hummingbirds, Great Horned Owl. Phainopeplas sometimes seen in trees at northwest corner of the lake. Fall migrants: Flycatchers, vireos, warblers, and tanagers. Winter: Northern Harrier, Merlin, Ring-necked Duck, scaup, Blue-winged, Green-winged, and Cinnamon Teal, Sora, Virginia Rail, Common Moorhen (rare), American (rare) and Least Bitterns, Red-breasted and Red-naped (rare) Sapsuckers, Western and Summer (rare) Tanagers, a variety of sparrows, mostly White- and Golden-crowned, California Thrasher and Wrentit. Year-round: White-tailed Kite, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks.
When to go
August through April produces most species, but anytime is fun.