It’s time again for closure of the Castle Rock Formations that overlook Diablo Foothills Regional Park in Walnut Creek, to protect the resident peregrine falcons during their mating season.
The rocks will be off limits to human visitors from Feb. 1 to July 31, so the birds can nest, lay eggs, fledge the young and produce another generation of peregrines.
The Castle Rock formation is actually in Mt. Diablo State Park, but protecting the birds is in partnership with the East Bay Regional Park District.
Visitors are excluded from the entire area across Pine Creek from the Old Stage Road Trail. Signs are posted at all trailheads; volunteer birdwatchers alert authorities to intruders. Trespassing can lead to a citation and expensive fine.
Peregrine falcons are amazing birds. About the size of crows, they prey mostly on smaller birds, but also mammals and reptiles. A peregrine can dive at up to 200 miles per hour, making it the fastest animal in the world.
Castle Rock is one of only three active peregrine territories in the Mt. Diablo area, and a nesting pair of falcons lives there. Peregrines are no longer on the federal endangered species list. However the birds are still protected under the state’s migratory bird act.
So please abide by the closure and don’t climb up into the Castle Rocks during the peregrines’ nesting period. Give these beautiful birds a chance to reproduce.
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Speaking of birds, especially raptors, naturalist Mike Moran leads a program on the last Thursday of each month to count the population of hawks, falcons and eagles at regional parks in east Contra Costa. No experience is necessary; Mike teaches how to identify the various birds.
The next session is from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 31 at Big Break Regional Shoreline on Big Break Road in Oakley. It’s free of charge, but registration is required. To register, call 888-327-2757, select option 2, and refer to program number 23912.
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Mining and geology are the themes of a program from 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Jan. 27 at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch. Naturalist Eddie Willis will lead a hike for ages eight and older along two steep, mud-free miles of the park’s Chaparral Loop Trail to discover the ancient and modern history of the park.
Meet Eddie in the parking lot at the end of Somersville Road, 3½ miles south of Highway 4. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.
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Another mud-free pathway is the George Miller Trail at Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline between Martinez and Port Costa.
It’s a paved trail open to hikers, cyclists and equestrians, but closed to motor vehicles except for park rangers and emergency traffic. There are beautiful panoramic views of Carquinez Strait and the town of Benicia across the way.
Naturalist Virginia Delgado will lead an easy walk there from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Jan. 26 for ages five and up. The trail is wheelchair accessible. Meet at the parking lot on the Port Costa side.
To get there, take the McEwen Road exit from Highway 4. Follow McEwen Road to the bottom of the hill, turn right on Carquinez Scenic Drive, and proceed to the lot and the gate barring farther vehicle traffic. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.
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At Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley, there’s a nature ramble from 2 to 3 p.m. every Sunday in January with naturalist “Trail Gail” Broesder. Meet Gail at the Environmental Education Center for an easy walk to Jewel Lake in search of wildlife.
The center is at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive. Call 510-544-2233.
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Family Nature Fun is in session from 2 to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday at Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda. The theme on Jan. 26 and 27 is “Move It!” – how animals hop, crawl, fly and run to survive.
Crab Cove is at 1252 McKay Ave. off Alameda’s Central Avenue. Call 510-544-3187.
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“Sleep in and take a hike” is the plan for a program from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 27 with naturalist Francis Mendoza at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont.
It’s an easy, 2½ -mile hike around the hills for ages 15 and older. Meet Francis at the visitor center, wear layers and bring water. Heavy rain cancels.
Coyote Hills is at the end of Patterson Ranch Road off Paseo Padre Parkway. The program is free; there’s a parking fee of $5 per vehicle. Call 510-544-3220.