Whether you are a longtime bird watcher or a beginner who would like to find out more about this fascinating hobby, the East Bay Regional Park District schedules lots of naturalist-guided birding walks.
There's a free program almost every week somewhere within the two East Bay counties, and all levels of experience are welcome. Bring binoculars or scopes if you have them.
For example, the Monday Birding group will step out from 9 a.m. to noon Monday at Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline in Richmond under the guidance of naturalist Anthony Fisher. It's a flat, easy hike to see shorebirds and learn some history, too, along San Francisco Bay.
At the same time on Oct. 29, Anthony will lead a more strenuous bird walk on Rifle Range Road at Wildcat Canyon Regional Park in Richmond. That one goes to 1 p.m., so bring food. For more information on either program, call 510-544-2233.
"Tuesdays 4 the Birds" visits various regional parks with naturalist guides, always starting at 7:30 a.m. The walks are for ages 12 and older. This Tuesday, the venues are Garin and Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks in Hayward. Meet at Garin's Red Barn, which is at the end of Garin Avenue off Mission Boulevard. For information, call 510-544-2797.
On Oct. 30 the Tuesday bird walk is along the Alameda Creek Trail in Fremont. For information on that one, call 510-544-3220.
In East Contra Costa County, naturalist Mike Moran has been gathering data for years on birds of prey, and you can help. It's a rewarding pastime, because the east side of Mt. Diablo has one of the highest populations of hawks, falcons and eagles almost anywhere.
Mike will venture out on the Marsh Creek Regional Trail in Brentwood from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday. No experience is necessary; Mike will show you how to identify the birds. It's a free program, but registration is required. Call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 30292.
TILDEN: Harbingers of Halloween, those globular orange fruits known as pumpkins are beginning to appear in supermarket bins. They also will be the featured attraction in a free program from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Environmental Education Center in Berkeley's Tilden Nature Area. The host is naturalist James Wilson.
The center is located at the north end of Central Park Drive, accessible via Canon Drive from Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Berkeley. For information, call 510-544-2233.
By the way, when you scour out your pumpkin to make a Jack-o'-lantern, don't throw away the seeds. It's messy, but you can separate them from the pulp and toast them in the oven for a chewy, tasty snack. There are lots of recipes online. Just Google "pumpkin seed recipes" and pick one. There are lots of ways to cook the pumpkin meat itself, too. After all, it's edible like many other squashes.
METEORS: Astronomy buffs will enjoy watching the Orionid meteor shower with naturalist Cat Taylor from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday from a vantage point at the intersection of Del Valle Road and Mendenhall Road south of Livermore. The program is for ages six and older.
According to a site on the Internet, the Orionid shower results from the Earth passing through dust released by Halley's comet. The meteors appear to emanate from a point near the constellation Orion.
Meet at the top of the hill on the way to Lake Del Valle. It's a good place for stargazing, farther from city lights. Bring a flashlight, blanket, hot beverage and a jacket. For information, call 510-544-3242.
Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.