With its diverse landscape, Napa County and its surrounding areas are rich with an abundance of wildlife. If you are lucky enough to live here or you’re just visiting, you don’t have to venture far to see a wide variety of mammals and birds.
Napa is located along the Pacific Flyway, a migratory bird path that extends from Mexico to Canada, bringing thousands of birds to the county every year. From the San Francisco Bay Delta estuary to the marshlands and riparian corridors, the mixture of biological regions here in the valley attracts songbirds, shorebirds, and raptors.
Napa’s Lake Berryessa is just a 30-minute drive northeast and is a raptor haven. This massive body of water is surrounded by a mixture of conifers, oaks, open grasslands, and rocky outcrops. The habitats are home to bald eagles, golden eagles, osprey, peregrine falcons, prairie falcons, northern harriers, American kestrels, and burrowing owls.
As you drive around the lake, there are several places available to park and view wildlife. Pack a lunch and don’t forget your binoculars. You may get lucky and spot a mammal or two, perhaps a crafty gray fox or even a stealthy bobcat.
If water birds are your thing, take a 20-minute drive south to the American Canyon Wetlands. Here you will be able to view a plethora of ducks, shorebirds, egrets, and herons. The habitat at the wetlands varies from grasslands to freshwater ponds, saltwater ponds, and pickleweed marsh.
According to an online bird sighting database, eBird.org, more than 200 different species of birds have been sighted at this hotspot already in 2021. You will see mute swans, northern shovelers, green-winged teals, American avocets, black-necked stilts, willets, black-crowned night-herons, least sandpipers, great blue herons and so much more.
There are even playful North American river otters splashing about at dawn and dusk. The American Canyon Wetlands will not disappoint. The walking path is flat and mostly paved and dogs are welcome.
Napa's Skyline Wilderness Park is home to many beautiful songbirds. The trails here are protected, and not dog-friendly so you will have to leave your pooch at home.
Start your day early in the cool morning and you will have the best chance to see the most wildlife. As you enter the park, the trees are practically bursting with talkative acorn woodpeckers. The skies are busy with diving tree swallows and bluebirds swoop down hunting for bugs.
Continue on the paths and you will see California quail, Nuttall’s woodpecker, Anna’s hummingbirds, chestnut-backed chickadees, ruby-crowned kinglets, and spotted towhees. You may even spot the largest woodpecker in North America, the ever-elusive pileated woodpecker.
Make your way up towards Lake Marie and catch a glimpse of a tiny chipmunk, a coy coyote or a herd of black-tailed deer. This is a steady uphill trek and more challenging and rugged, so wear your best trail shoes and bring water.
For a unique and one-of-a-kind wildlife experience, head southwest to Donum Estate in Carneros. Here you can sip wine style while enjoying the 40 large-scale open art sculptures and take in all of the wildlife you can dream of.
The sustainable, organic vineyard and surrounding protected land is home to several natural ponds attracting birds of all kinds. There are red-tailed hawks nesting at the entrance of the estate, and another neighboring pair can be found once inside.
As you meander through the gorgeous landscape, you will hear the lovely songs from savannah sparrows, song sparrows, purple finches, and red-winged blackbirds as jackrabbits frolic in and out of the vines playfully. Great-horned owls roost tightly tucked away in the branches of a tree next to a beautiful pond filled with shorebirds and Canada geese.
Watching songbirds collect and carry beaks full of moss, straw, and cattail fluff is especially intriguing behavior in spring, so this is an added treat you may experience while you are there. The towering hawk perches installed throughout the vineyards attract red-shouldered hawks, kestrels, and loggerhead shrikes. At the Donum Estate you will enjoy exceptional birding, tasty wine and fabulous art, all in an amazingly beautiful setting.
Whether you are new to exploring wildlife or you are a seasoned enthusiast, the Napa Valley is overflowing with opportunities to view raptors, songbirds, shorebirds and mammals. Wine country is one of the most diverse wildlife areas in California and for that, we are truly lucky to reside here amongst our wild friends.
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