Park It by Ned MacKay: Butterfly programs at Ardenwood

As I’ve described in a previous column, large numbers of monarch butterflies usually spend the winter months in the eucalyptus groves at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont, as part of their multi-generational migratory life cycle.

So far this season only a few butterflies have been spotted, but it’s possible that more are on their way. Please check the park district website at, or Facebook page, or call Ardenwood at 510-544-2797, for up-to-date information.

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Nearby Coyote Hills Regional Park has butterfly programs, too. Naturalist Francis Mendoza will lead a butterfly program there from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2, for ages eight and older.

The group will start in the park’s nectar garden, then take a moderate, 2½-mile walk in search of monarch, cabbage white and common buckeye butterflies, among other kinds. Heavy rain cancels the program.

Francis also plans a program about the Ohlone people and their culture, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Sundays, Dec. 2 and 16, for ages eight and older. He’ll discuss the Ohlones’ intimate relationship with nature, family and ancestors, and their values of generosity and fairness. Meet at the visitor center.

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

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Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley has lots going on in the coming weekend, too.

“Gifts From the Earth” is the theme of a program from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1 with interpretive student aide Brianna Contaxis-Tucker. The group will create aromatic packets for the home using autumn herbs.

Then it’s mud stomping time with naturalist “Trail Gail” Broesder from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2. You can stomp in the mud on a short walk, and make some mud pies as a form of stress release.

After you’ve cleaned off the mud, it’s holly time from 1 to 3 p.m. the same day. Trail Gail will lead a short walk, then help you make a holiday craft to deck your own halls.

All three programs meet at Tilden’s Environmental Education Center, which is at the north end of Central Park Drive.

Gail will also lead a walk with the Over-the-Hills Gang from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4. The gang is an informal group of hikers 55 and older who enjoy nature study, fitness and history. Gail’s Dec. 4 hike is a mostly flat, mostly paved walk on Nimitz Way, starting at Tilden’s Inspiration Point on Wildcat Canyon Road.

For information on any of these programs, call 510-544-2233.

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The area in Antioch that is now Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve was once California’s largest coal-producing region. Some of the fascinating history comes to light in naturalist-led programs from 1 to 2 p.m. every Sunday in December.

Topics change weekly, but include local history, miners’ tools, and life in a 19th century mining town. Meet at the parking lot at the end of Somersville Road, 3½ miles south of Highway 4. Call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

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Capturing the landscape with watercolors is the theme of a program from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1 at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. The visitor center will provide painting supplies.

The park is at 69 Big Break Road off Oakley’s Main Street. Call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.

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There’s always something going on that’s fun for all ages in the regional parks. Check out the website,

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