Stop and smell the roses

City's program naturalist tells where the best places in town are to spot wildflowers, wildlife

Take a glance at any hillside in Pleasanton and it will likely be a sea of tall green grasses, purple lupins and California poppies. It's springtime, one of the most visually appealing times of the year to be out exploring nature.

The city of Pleasanton's naturalist Eric Nicholas said some of the best places to see the wildflowers in bloom and wildlife are all located within miles of your home--Augustin-Bernal, Kottinger Creek, Shadow Cliffs, the Arroyo Mocho and Laurel Creek Park.

Augustin-Bernal Park, located off of Foothill Road and Golden Eagle Way, is a great place for those looking for a "nice, shady walk where there are beautiful oak trees," Nicholas said. Laurel Creek Park, located off of Foothill and Laurel Creek Road near The Preserve neighborhood, is another great hiking and biking locale with sweeping views. A parking lot for roughly 15 cars is located just off Laurel Creek.

A wealth of wildlife, particularly the avian variety, can be seen just about anywhere, Nicholas said.

"When you're going outdoors, you really want to think about your presence," he said. "How quiet you are will determine what you see. Use all your senses."

Creeks are another great place to see birds in action, Nicholas said.

"Creeks are creating corridors, transition zones in the city," he said. "They interconnect so wildlife is able to go from one place to another."

One newly-added corridor is a pond the city created on the Bernal property, where baseball fields are currently under construction. There, Nicholas said, you will be able to see blackneck stilts, cliff swallows, frogs, California newts and western toads.

At Shadow Cliffs, visitors may spot turtles, night herons, great blue herons, snowy egrets and the grey egret.

Last, but certainly not least, is the newly-opened Alviso Adobe Community Park, which is also becoming a bird habitat in its own right. That's impressive, Nicholas said, considering it was a construction site for more than a year prior.

Nicholas said a Lewis woodpecker has a nest inside the roof of the historic adobe.

"It's a quiet and peaceful park," he said. "I think birds feel safe here."

Aside from the woodpecker, turkeys, falcons, deer, lizards and gray foxes have also made the park their home.

A site with a lot of history--home to dairies and the Ohlone Indians to be exact--the Alviso Adobe opened to the public in October. Nicholas, whose office is now located at the park, said he's been giving tours to mostly third and fourth-grade Pleasanton classes, but he hopes more people will come out to see what the park has to offer.

Located at 3465 Foothill Road, the park, which is a registered California Historical Landmark, includes a restored adobe, a replica milking barn and interpretive pathways. Nicholas has begun furnishing the adobe with period furniture. Some of the pieces include a trunk and desk donated by Bruce Takens, owner of the Meadowlark Dairy, who used to live in the adobe many years ago. Inside the kitchen of the home, you can see his name written in ink on some wood siding. Other antiques have been lent by a national archives group. Nicholas said he's looking for more pieces that will help illustrate the historic setting.

"The children love it," Nicholas said. "The teachers are really excited about it, too. We have a full spectrum of stuff we can do here."

Nicholas said he tries to tailor his presentations to children based on what they're learning in school at the time. But with this being the first year of the park's opening, he's experimenting with programs to see what visitors enjoy.

"We really need to hook people into finding out about this park," he said. "A lot of people drive by on Foothill and they think it's someone's really cool horse ranch. A lot of people don't know where it is."

For those who have yet to visit, the Alviso Adobe buildings are open Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the rest of the park daily from dawn to dusk. Check out the city's Spring Recreation Guide for a list of nature programs (pages 34-39) for children and adults, click here Online registration is available.

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