The Monarch butterfly season is winding down at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont, and the naturalist staff there has scheduled a grand finale of programs before the insects depart to resume their migratory lifestyle.

From 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, Feb. 2 and 9, naturalist Jenna Scimeca will lead walks from the Ardenwood greenhouse to the butterfly grove to see what the monarchs are doing.

And since the monarch butterfly is the California state insect, naturalist Chris Garcia will honor it with a program from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 3. She'll talk about the monarch life cycle using slide and puppet shows for all ages, help participants to make butterfly wands, then lead a parade out to the grove.

The final farewell program is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10. Chris will talk about where the butterflies are headed, and what we can do to help keep them returning to Ardenwood and the Bay Area.

Ardenwood is located at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84. The winter entry fee is $3 for adults and seniors, $2 for youngsters 4-17, and free for ages 3 and under. Parking is free, and the butterfly programs are free as well.

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    Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park will be the venue for a Wednesday Walk on Feb. 6, led by naturalist Kristina Parkison. It's a 4.7-miler, with some hilly sections, but panoramic views for the payoff.


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    Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the Oak Tree Staging Area off Foothill Road north of the town of Sunol. For information, call 510-544-3282.

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    Coal miners who lived and worked at what is now Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch planted trees from all over the world for shade and beautification.

    Naturalist Bob Kanagaki will point out the imports during a walk from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at the site of the old Somersville mining town.

    Meet Bob at the uppermost parking lot at the end of Somersville Road, four miles south of Highway 4. Rain cancels.

    The hike is free. Black Diamond Mines has a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is attended. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

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    Search for newts and other salamanders during a nature walk from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, at Sunol Regional Wilderness in southern Alameda County, led by interpretive student aide Melissa Tarnowski. Damp weather attracts the newts to streams and ponds for reproductive purposes.

    And there's another program about love in the Sunol wilderness from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16. Naturalist Cat Taylor will lead the group to Sunol's High Valley in search of both newts and birds of prey. The program is for ages 7 and older. It's a three-mile hike with a long uphill section and some possible wet stream crossings.

    Both programs are free, but registration is required. For registration and information, call 888-327-2757 and select option 2. For Terri's walk, refer to program 1178. For Cat's, refer to program 1182.

    Sunol has a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is attended.

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    If you've always wondered what's making those strange tracks on muddy winter trails, there's a program for you from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, Feb. 3, at Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley.

    Naturalist Anthony Fisher will lead a search for tracks and help make plaster casts of any that are found. The program repeats on Feb. 17.

    And from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 3, Anthony will show how to twist cordage from the dogbane plant to create a necklace, bracelet or hand-held game.

    Both programs are free, and both meet at the Environmental Education Center, which is located at the north end of Tilden's Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.

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    Hikes for Tykes is a series of free walks for parents with young children, led by naturalist Sara Fetterly. The kids explore the plants and animals of the regional parks, on walks averaging about a mile. Strollers are generally not recommended.

    Sara will lead a tyke hike from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5, at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, starting at the Canyon Meadow staging area off Redwood Road. For information, call 510-544-3187.

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    Sara will also lead a Saturday Stroll from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 2, at Leona Canyon Regional Open Space in Oakland. This one is a moderate hike up to the Merritt College campus and back, with a talk about how Native Americans used local plants.

    Meet Sara at the Canyon Oaks trailhead on Campus Drive off Keller Avenue just east of Interstate 580. For information, call 510-544-3187.

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