Park It by Ned Mackay: Monarch butterflies

The season is approaching when monarch butterflies congregate at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont and several other Bay Area locations, where they overwinter as part of their multi-generational migratory life cycle.

Ardenwood schedules a series of programs from late November through February during which visitors can search for the clusters of butterflies in the park’s eucalyptus groves. Last year monarch numbers dipped precipitously low.

You can become a citizen scientist volunteer, helping to count the numbers of butterflies returning to sites around the Bay Area, adding to the insects’ population database. The project requires an in-field commitment from November through January.

A training session for volunteers is planned from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Mulford-Marina Branch of the San Leandro Public Library. Leaders are Park District naturalist Susan Ramos and Mia Monroe of the Xerces Society, a non-profit environmental organization that promotes invertebrate conservation.

Registration is required for the training session. To make reservations, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program number 27455. For more information on the program, call Susan Ramos at 510-544-3182.

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From butterflies to birds: there’s a bird walk planned from 8 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont, led by naturalist Kristina Parkison. It’s for ages eight and older, but all levels of bird-watching experience are welcome.

Or you can learn how Native Americans used (and many continue to use) plants for food, medicine, shelter and tools during a program from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3 and again on Dec. 22 with naturalist Francis Mendoza.

The program is for ages 15 and older. It includes a short walk to the park’s native plant gardens and out to the freshwater marsh.

Both programs meet at the Coyote Hills visitor center, which is at the end of Patterson Ranch Road off Paseo Padre Parkway. There’s a parking fee of $5 per vehicle; the programs are free. Call 510-544-3220.

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Sunol Regional Wilderness in southern Alameda County offers several programs that highlight the park’s natural history, every weekend in November and December.

“Nature Crafts” is from 10 a.m. to noon every Saturday and Sunday. There’s a different craft each week.

“Wild Wonders” is from 2 to 3 p.m. on those days. It’s an exploration of nature through games and activities, designed for families of all ages.

And visitors can watch the staff feed the animals at the park’s visitor center from 10:30 to 11 a.m. every Sunday.

Sunol is at the end of Geary Road off Calaveras Road about five miles south of I-680 and the town of Sunol. Call 510-544-3249.

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Crab Cove Visitor Center and Aquarium in Alameda has a series of recurring programs, too.

“Storytime and Nature Fun is from 11:30 a.m. to noon every Sunday in November and December. Meet characters including the Lorax, hermit crabs and Swimmy the Fish. Afterwards visitors can make nature crafts, go on a scavenger hunt, or watch nature videos.

Family Nature Fun Hour is from 2 to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, with lots of nature-themed activities. After that, watch the staff feed the fish from 3 to 3:30 p.m.

And the whole family will enjoy “Songs and Stories by the Shore,” from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2 and again on Nov. 16 with naturalist Morgan Guenther. It’s all about worms, fungus, leaves, flowers, predators, prey and more.

Crab Cove is located at 1252 McKay Ave. off Alameda’s Central Avenue. Call 510-544-3187.

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At Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley, the Little Farm offers “Farm Chores for Littles” from 10:30 to 11 a.m. every Saturday in November and December. Small children will enjoy caring for little animals. Meet at the rabbit hutch.

And there’s a nature ramble with naturalist Trent Pearce, starting at the Environmental Education Center, from 3 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Nov. 2, 9 and 16. Trent will highlight features of the changing season.

It’s fireside story time at the center from 11 to 11:30 a.m. every Sunday in November and December.

The center and Little Farm are both at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive, accessible via Canon Drive from Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Berkeley. Call 510-544-2233.

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Historic Somersville is the theme of a program from 1 to 2 p.m. every Sunday in November and December at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch. Local history, miners’ tools and mining town life are among the topics, which change weekly.

Meet the naturalist in the parking lot at the end of Somersville Road, 3 ½ miles south of Highway 4. Call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

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Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley plans Dunes Restoration Day from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2 and again on Dec. 14. Volunteers can help to restore some historic dunes by removing invasive weeds and reintroducing native plants.

Bring water, gloves, a hat, closed-toed shoes, dress for the weather and expect to get dirty. Good physical condition is required for pulling vegetation.

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

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This isn’t the full story. For a complete list of activities, visit And remember, Fridays are free in the regional parks through the end of the year, in celebration of the District’s 85th anniversary.

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