Park it by Ned MacKay: Monarch butterfly research

The time is fast approaching when monarch butterflies will make their appearance in the Bay Area, where the insects overwinter as part of their multi-generational migratory life cycle.

One of their favorite winter homes is a eucalyptus grove at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont. And you can help with research on the monarchs by learning at Ardenwood how to become a citizen scientist.

There’s a training session from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, led by naturalists Susan Ramos, Christina Garcia and the Xerces Society, an organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the butterflies.

Participants will learn how to count and record monarch observations, four times in ten weeks, at one or more overwintering sites in the East Bay. There will be field practice in the morning, then in-depth classroom training.

Ardenwood is located at 34600 Ardenwood Boulevard, just north of Highway 84. The training is free, but registration is required. To sign up, email or call 510-544-3282.

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Nearby at Coyote Hills Regional Park, hands-on nature exploration and crafts are the themes of Discovery Days, a program every Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Come at 10:30 for an introduction to the topic of the week, or drop by any other time to join the fun.

Or you can search for the Cart of Curiosities between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4 and again on Saturday, Nov. 24. Hidden somewhere in the park, and attended by a naturalist, the cart is filled with cultural and natural history artifacts.

Coyote Hills is located at the end of Patterson Ranch Road off Paseo Padre Parkway in Fremont. There’s a parking fee of $5 per vehicle; the two programs are free of charge. For information, call 510-544-3220.

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Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda offers Storytime and Nature Fun from 11:30 a.m. to noon every Sunday, featuring characters including the Lorax, hermit crabs and Swimmy the Fish. After the stories, the kids can meet live animals, make nature crafts, or go on a scavenger hunt.

From 2 to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, there’s Family Nature Fun Hour, with various family-friendly activities. After that, from 3 to 3:30 p.m., you can see the visitor center staff feed the fish in the center’s large aquarium.

Crab Cove is at 1252 McKay Ave. off Alameda’s Central Avenue. For information, call 510-544-3187.

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There are also recurring programs every weekend at the Environmental Education Center in Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley.

Farm Chores for Littles is from 10:30 to 11 a.m. every Saturday at the Little Farm next door to the center. Meet at the rabbit hutch for a variety of age-appropriate activities.

Fireside stories are from 11 to 11:30 a.m. every Sunday at the center’s fireplace, with different stories each week.

And there’s a nature exploration walk from 2 to 3:30 p.m. every Sunday in November, an easy stroll in search of birds, trees and animal signs.

“Fun with Felt” is the theme of a program from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3 with naturalist “Trail Gail” Broesder. The group will use wool and soap to create a unique felt item.

Or join naturalist Anthony Fisher from 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Nov. 4, for a session on animal tracks and scat.

All these programs are free of charge. The center is located at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive, which you can reach via Canon Drive from Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Berkeley. For information, call 510-544-2233.

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A couple of strenuous hikes are in the works at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch.

Naturalist Kevin Dixon will lead a five-miler, steep in places, from 3 to 6:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3 to see black oaks, white oaks and even oracle oaks. Learn about their origin, life cycles and uses. Ages 10 and older, please.

And naturalist Eddie Willis will lead an autumn ramble from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4 to see Rose Hill Cemetery, mysterious Jim’s Place, and the most northerly stand of Coulter pines in the world. The route is a rugged six miles, for ages 12 and older.

Both hikes start at the parking lot at the upper end of Somersville Road, 3½ miles south of Highway 4. The hikes are free of charge; there’s a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is staffed. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

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Delta Discoveries is in session from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. Each week is a different topic, explored through hands-on arts and crafts activities.

You can help test the Delta water from 9 to 10 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday, using state of the art instruments. Results go into a database used by scientists and water managers.

And there’s a fall foliage walk at Big Break from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, a chance to learn about the trees in the park.

Big Break is at 69 Big Break Road off Oakley’s Main Street. For information call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.

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There are lots of other programs ongoing in the regional parks. Check out the website,

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