Staff member Nikhil Rau
By ,
Former Marketing Assistant

The Bay Area’s birds must be some of the happiest on the planet. The San Francisco Bay is the largest freshwater estuary on the Pacific coasts of both North and South America and offers a suite of protected habitats: fresh-water lakes, fresh- and salt-water wetlands, grasslands, mixed oak woodlands, chaparral, riparian strips, coastal headlands and beaches, and even ranches and farms. It truly is an avian paradise, the ideal resting place for any migratory bird moving along the Pacific Flyway.

With all of that in mind, where does someone interested in watching Bay Area birds even start? As my eldest daughter becomes more and more inquisitive, I’ve realized how little I know about which species of birds live where, and knowing where to start can feel pretty daunting.


The more I learn, the more my curiosity grows for our local feathered friends. Photos by Peter and Diane Hart

To find some answers, I decided to consult two POST supporters who used the pandemic as an excuse to start a new bird photography project. Classifying the birds they see by species and location, Peter and Diane Hart have photographed birds at more than 50 POST-protected locations, home to a rich assortment of avian species. This project resulted in the Birds of Protected Lands photo gallery, which currently holds some 2,000 photos representing around 200 species from 49 avian families. This gallery has become a reference for me and other birding enthusiasts across the Bay — a way of seeing which birds I can find where.

For this blog post, I’m focusing on birds you can find in our area’s many freshwater lakes and ponds. In these freshwater bodies, various species of waterbirds touch down to find food, rest from their travels or even find a soulmate. Some waterbird species you might find there include shorebirds (waders), waterfowls (ducks, geese, swans), loons, grebes (swimming and diving birds related to loons), some members of the order Gruiformes (including rails, crakes and coots) and kingfishers (mainly the water kingfishers). You can also spot species other than waterfowl like songbirds and sparrows hanging nearby these freshwater bodies.

Below are some photos of birds by Peter and Diane Hart that were taken right in our own backyard! Whether you’re a birding fanatic or just a casual bird enthusiast, dive in and get to know Bay Area birds!


Calero Reservoir


La Honda Creek — Driscoll Pond


North Coyote Valley — Laguna Seca


Windy Hill — Sausal Pond



About the Photographers

Photo of Peter and Diane Hart.“Diane and Peter Hart are adult-onset birders who slouched into birding and bird photography as they were winding down their professional careers: Diane, as an educator and author of 20 textbooks, Peter as an AI and robotics pioneer who founded or led half a dozen companies and international research centers. They’ve complimented their field time with volunteer service to the world of birds, Diane as past president of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, and Peter as a board member of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.”

To see their bird photography project Birds of POST-protected Lands, visit


About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more

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