Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda is planning a "Crabby New Year's Eve-Eve" in celebration of the arrival of 2013, the Year of the Water Snake in Chinese astrology.

It's from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 30, with family-friendly activities throughout the day.

From 11 a.m. to noon there will be a nature walk by the bay in search of shore birds and beach life. From noon to 1 p.m. there will be popcorn, cider and nature videos in the center's Old Wharf Classroom. There's a nature-themed scavenger hunt from 1 to 2 p.m., bird bingo from 2 to 3 p.m., and aquarium fish feeding time from 3 to 3:30 p.m.

The center is located at 1252 McKay Ave. off Central Avenue in Alameda. Admission is free. For information, call 510-544-3187.

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    If you're looking for other year-end outdoor activities, bird watching is the theme of a hike that naturalist Anthony Fisher will lead from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, at Crockett Hills Regional Open Space in Crockett. If you come, bring lunch and liquids.

    And that's not all. From 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28, Anthony will lead a hike to listen and look for owls at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland. Meet Anthony at the Canyon Meadows parking lot. It's the innermost lot at the park entrance on Redwood Road, about two miles east of Skyline Boulevard.

    Anthony's hikes are free. For information on either one, call 510-544-2233.

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    Fungus will be the focus of a program at Tilden Nature Area's Environmental Education Center in Berkeley from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 30, presented by naturalist aide Morgan Rani Evans. Morgan will show slides illustrating how to identify the major mushroom families, and point out the varieties that grow at Tilden.

    The center is at the north end of Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.

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    There's also a naturalist-led Saturday Stroll from 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 29, at Leona Canyon. It's a three-mile hike along the Leona Trail to Merritt College and back, with a talk about Native American uses of local plants.

    Meet at the Canyon Oaks Drive staging area off Keller Avenue east of Interstate 580 in Oakland. For information, call 510-544-3187.

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    Those beautiful monarch butterflies are still hanging out for the winter at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont, and the park's naturalists have scheduled butterfly programs throughout January and early February.

    For starters, you can meet a naturalist at the Ardenwood granary at 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1, for a talk and then a walk to the grove where the insects cluster in the trees. Learn about the butterflies' complex life cycle and amazing migration journeys.

    Naturalists will be on hand with spotting scopes at the butterfly grove from 2 to 3 p.m. every Wednesday through Friday in January, and walks to the grove from the granary will take place at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday in January.

    Believe me, it's a natural spectacle well worth the trip.

    Ardenwood is located at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd. just north of Highway 84 in Fremont. Entrance costs $3 for adults and seniors, $2 for ages 4-17, and it's free for ages 3 and under. Parking is free. For more information, call 510-544-2797.

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    Another winter spectacle is provided by manzanita bushes, which are starting to bloom with pink and yellow flowers in many of the regional parks.

    Both manzanita flowers and the red berries of toyon bushes are on display now on the Chaparral Loop Trail at Black Diamond Mines in Antioch. Some bushes bloom later than others, so the show is continuous for a month or more.

    Then the Indian warrior flowers will pop up beneath the manzanitas. Eventually, early spring will bring shooting stars and the tiny flowers of miner's lettuce.

    But that's in the future. For now, enjoy the last days of 2012 in the regional parks, and however you celebrate it, have a happy New Year.

    Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.