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A Backcountry Birding Adventure: By Foot, Kayak and Pontoon Boat

Program Number: 20378RJ
Start and End Dates:
9/20/2015 - 9/25/2015;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Upper Lake, California
Price starting at: $1,099.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Birding; Water Sports
Meals: 13; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 4 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Nestled in the scenic wine country north of the Napa Valley lies Clear Lake, one of the oldest natural lakes in North America. Boasting more than 100 miles of shoreline, its diverse habitat makes it an ideal home to more than 300 species of birds throughout the year. Explore the shore, hills, valleys and coves of this designated Important Bird Area with expert birders as you search for herons, egrets, cormorants, flycatchers, grebes, woodpeckers, swallows, nuthatches and more. Program is co-sponsored by the Redbud Audubon Society.


• Set out on birding field trips on foot, by kayak and by pontoon boat to hidden marshes and the lake’s many shoreline and cove nesting sites.
• Meet experts from the Audubon Society, the Christmas bird count and the Land Trust to learn of their special expertise.
• Visit a local winery for a talk with a winemaker and a tasting overlooking beautiful Clear Lake.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to three miles on gravel paths, hiking trails, some rocky paths, sloped terrain.

So you can get the most out of your experience, all of our Birding programs have a maximum participant-to-instructor ratio of 14:1.

Date Specific Information


Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

Coordinated by Road Scholar.

Upper Lake

Born as Upper Clear Lake in 1856, Upper Lake is a town of 1,000 or so residents within Lake County, a longtime farming community that had grown into a wine-producing region of some renown when Prohibition arrived and most of the vineyards were uprooted. The industry has since reemerged, with some 8,800 acres of vineyards across the county today.

Beautifully restored 1890s hotel on California Register of Historic Places. All rooms with one king-size bed. No roommate matching.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Bernard Butcher

With wife Lynne, Bernie Butcher owns the Tallman Hotel and Blue Wing Saloon & Café. The Tallman, built in the 1890's, has been completely restored and is listed on the California Register of Historic Resources as a Point of Historical Interest. Bernie is an exhibited black and white photographer and former history and economics and photography instructor. He co-founded and managed the Amsterdam Pacific Corporation, a private investment banking firm sold in 1995.
Brad Barnwell

A native of Southern California, Brad Barnwell graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in parks and recreation. He has served with the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Park Service, and is currently on the board of directors for the Lake County Land Trust and Clear Lake State Park Interpretive Association. As a member of the local Redbud Audubon group, Brad is an active hike leader, presenter bird monitor. Since retiring in 2005, he has authored the book, “Birding in Lake County.”
Harry Lyons

Harry Lyons is a professor at the Clear Lake Campus of Yuba College, where he teaches biology, ecology, physiology, microbiology, and on occasion, statistics. He is also the scientific advisor to the Upper Putah Creek Stewardship and secretary for the Lower Lake Watershed Council. Harry studied at Stanford University and the University of California, and as a National Science Fellow, was awarded his Ph.D. in Oceanography from the Scripps Institution.
Lyle Madeson

Lyle and Deanna Madeson moved to Lake County in 1976, and enjoy its beauty year-round. Together, they spend many hours photographing the birds, wildlife, vineyards, and natural beauty of Lake County, California. They have attended photo workshops with George Lepp and Arthur Morris, and their interest in photography has taken them to Alaska, the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, the Amazon Jungle, the southwestern and southeastern United States, with plans to visit Africa in the near future.
Catherine Koehler

A native of Canada, Cathy Koehler earned her B.S. in zoology and M.S. in behavioral ecology at the University of Calgary before moving on to work at a variety of wildlife management jobs in the U.S. She brings her skills and interests in plant ecology and conservation to the position of director of the University of California’s Donald and Sylvia McLaughlin Natural Reserve, and as executive director of the Lake County Land Trust.
Roberta Lyons

Growing up on the shores of Clear Lake, Roberta Lyons developed a deep appreciation for the natural beauty of the lake and surrounding terrain of Lake County. In her work at the Clear Lake Observer-American, she reported on such issues as diminishing wetlands around Clear Lake, the impact of geothermal development on Cobb Mountain watersheds, and various city and county issues. Roberta is presently a board member of the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association (AMIA), the cooperating association for the Anderson Marsh State Historic Park. She is also active with the Redbud Audubon Society, and has served as a past president, as well as current conservation chair and newsletter editor. Also interested in historic preservation, Roberta was a founding member of the Lower Lake Historical School Preservation Committee. Roberta and her family enjoy water activities on Clear Lake, including sailing, waterskiing, kayaking and swimming.
Floyd Hayes

A professor at Pacific Union College, Dr. Floyd Hayes is a zoologist specializing in the ecology, behavior and biogeography of birds. As an undergraduate student, he spent a year teaching on the island of Korsae in Micronesia, and later worked for three years as a biologist for the U.S. Peace Corps. Dr. Hayes has also taught at universities in the Caribbean, worked for a year as a biologist in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and serves as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Caribbean Ornithology.
Peter Windrem

Peter Windrem attended law school at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., where he received his law LL.B. in 1968. Following law school, Peter served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala before returning to his home town to open his private law practice. A vineyard owner for over 30 years, Peter recently completed eight years of service on the Lake County Winegrape Commission. He is currently president of the Chi Council for the Clear Lake Hitch.
Marilyn Waits

Marilyn Waits has been president of the Redbud Audubon chapter in Lake County, California, for six years. In 2011, she received the Stars of Lake County Environmental Award for her local achievements in nature education and conservation. In 2009, Audubon California honored her with a Chapter Volunteer Award for Outstanding Service. Marilyn has worked as a vice president at Bank of America and as a small business consultant for the Yuba Community College Small Business Development Center.
Darlene Hecomovich

Darlene Hecomovich is a self-taught naturalist with an interest in all flora and fauna, but with a special passion for birds. She is a third-generation resident of the Boggs Mountain area and has had a long-time interest in that lush natural world. She has not only birded her “home patch,” but her delight in birds has led her to many of the prime birding destinations in California, throughout the United States, and around the world.
Tom Nixon

For more than 25 years, Tom Nixon served as a California State Park Ranger at Clear Lake State Park and Anderson Marsh State Historic Park. Today, he volunteers for the Lake County Land Trust and Redbud Audubon Society, and sits on the Lake County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Tom considers himself an intermediate birder who enjoys leading hikes throughout Lake County. He is also the lead singer and guitarist with a popular local musical group called “Blind Spot.”
Jerry White

Jerry White has been one of the premier birders in Lake and Mendocino counties for the past 30 years. His main focus is on the identification, status, and distribution of birds in these counties. He is the author of "The Birds of Lake County" seasonal checklist, and is a long time sub-regional editor for Lake County for the North American Birds journal published by the American Birding Association. Jerry served for 10 years as compiler of the Lake County Audubon Christmas Bird Count, and was field trip leader for Redbud Audubon Society for six years.
Meals and Lodgings
   Tallman Hotel
  Upper Lake, CA 5 nights
 Tallman Hotel
Type: Boutique Hotel
  Description: The Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, California is a return to a simpler time. This handsome country hotel, built in the 1890's, was completely restored and expanded to a 17-room luxury facility between 2004 and 2006. The historic hotel received one of seven statewide historic preservation awards in 2007 from the California Heritage Council and, in July 2008, it was officially listed on the California Register of Historic Resources as a Point of Historical Interest. The interiors of the hotel are inspired by the natural setting of Lake County. Antique and custom crafted furniture, hand painted murals and artwork depicting flora and fauna create simple yet sophisticated surroundings. Eastlake style furniture decorates the guestrooms. The authentic look and feel of the hotel transports patrons back in time -- but geo-exchange heating and cooling systems, solar panels on the roof and modern facilities all produce a comfortable, state-of-the-art, eco-friendly environment. The hotel is the first location in its county to feature an electric vehicle charging station.
  Contact info: 9550 Main Street
Upper Lake, CA 95485 USA
phone: 707-275-2245
  Room amenities: Program accommodations in this restored historic country hotel feature one bed per room. If you register double occupancy, you will be sharing one bed with your traveling companion. For this reason we will not be able to pair unacquainted roommates. Each room has a refrigerator.
  Facility amenities: Guests are invited to relax in the parlor or dining room of the historic hotel, to wander about the gardens, and to enjoy the pool and spa facilities. Complimentary hi-speed wireless internet is available throughout the property and wired internet connections are included in all guestrooms. Features include: Spacious guestrooms, high speed Internet, swimming pool & hot tub, and Blue Wing Saloon & Café. The central feature of the property is the historic hotel. Downstairs is the parlor and reception area along with a beautifully decorated dining room. Upstairs are four guest rooms featuring fully restored period bathroom fixtures and private verandas. Facing a shady garden is the Blue Wing Saloon Restaurant and a complex of eight Garden Rooms, all with verandas facing the garden. The four lower Garden rooms each feature a private back deck with outdoor shower and a teak Japanese "Ofuro" soaking tub. The complex also features the Caretakers unit consisting of three spacious suites and the Farmhouse building with an ADA accessible suite topped by a unique single garret room with private balcony. The Tallman Hotel does not have an elevator. A limited number of downstairs rooms are available. PLEASE REQUEST A DOWNSTAIRS ROOM ON YOUR PARTICIPANT INFORMATION FORM IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE WITH STAIRS.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Additional nights prior: Call hotel directly for rates Additional nights must be booked directly with the hotel. Be sure to mention you are an Road Scholar participant.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Call hotel directly for rates Additional nights must be booked directly with the hotel. Be sure to mention you are an Road Scholar participant.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Hotel check-in begins at 3:00 PM. Program registration begins at 4:00 PM followed by the program orientation at 4:30 PM. You will be staying at Tallman Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends at 9:00 AM after breakfast. Hotel check-out by 11:00 AM. You will be staying at Tallman Hotel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Please bring your drivers license as the kayaking outfitter will need to make a copy of it before checking out equipment to you. We’ve included a copy of the "Hold harmless agreement / waiver of liability" for you to review in advance of the program. You will be required to sign this agreement onsite before participating in the kayaking activity.
  Parking availability:
Parking is complimentary at the Tallman Hotel.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Upper Lake, CA
  Nearest highway: 20 and 29
  Nearest airport:  Sacramento, San Francisco or Oakland
  From End of Program
  Location: Upper Lake, CA
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Tallman Hotel (Upper Lake, CA) from San Francisco


From Airport




None - Car Required


Tallman Hotel (Upper Lake, CA) from Sacramento Airport


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Enterprise Shuttle - by Tallman Hotel
phone: 707-245-0041
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$75.00 per person
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


2 hrs 10 min 




111 miles


A shuttle can be arranged to pick up/drop you off at Sacramento Airport. We are limited to one pickup window (Sunday, program start date from 11:00am to 2:00pm) and one drop off window (Friday, program end date from 11:00am to 2:00pm). Please arrange your flights accordingly if you would like to use this service. Reservations MUST be made at least one week in advance. For reservations please contact Tallman owner Bernie Butcher at or by phone at 707-245-0041.

Driving Directions
  Tallman Hotel (Upper Lake, CA) from Oakland Take Highway 80 to Highway 580 and across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to Highway 101 north. Just past Ukiah, turn right on Highway 20 to Upper Lake. Just past the Highway 29 turnoff for Lakeport, turn left onto Main St. Upper Lake. The hotel is on the right. Time: approximately 2 1/2 hours Note: the Hwy. 175 cut-off from Hopland on Hwy 101 to Hwy. 29 at Lakeport and on to Upper Lake often recommended by online services is a pretty but very curvy road not preferable to the route described above. As an alternative, head north on Highway 80, over the Carquinez Bridge and through Vallejo. Go left on the Marine World Parkway (Highway 37). Then turn right on Highway 29 through Napa, St. Helena and Calistoga in the Napa Valley. Turn right through Calistoga (still on Highway 29), over Mt. St. Helena, through Middletown to the Junction at Lower Lake. Continue straight at this junction (the road becomes Highway 53) until it intersects with Highway 20 to Ukiah. Turn left on Highway 20 along the east side of Clear Lake until you turn right onto Main St. Upper Lake. The hotel is on the right. Time: about 2 3/4 hours.
  Tallman Hotel (Upper Lake, CA) from Sacramento Proceed north on Interstate 5 to Williams Turn left on Highway 20 to Lakeport and Ukiah Proceed along the east side of Clear Lake to Upper Lake (just before Highway 20 intersects with Highway 29 to Lakeport) Turn right on Main St. in Upper Lake Proceed through town The hotel is on your right Time: approximately 2 1/2 hours
  Tallman Hotel (Upper Lake, CA) from San Francisco Go north over the Golden Gate Bridge on Highway 101 Just past Ukiah, turn right on Highway 20 to Upper Lake Just past the Highway 29 turnoff for Lakeport, turn left onto Main St. Upper Lake The hotel is on the right Time: approximately 2 1/2 hours Note: the Hwy. 175 cut-off from Hopland on Hwy 101 to Hwy. 29 at Lakeport and on to Upper Lake often recommended by online services is a pretty but very curvy road not preferable to the route described above.
Equipment Requirements: No specific equipment required but recommend binoculars and/or scopes and any other birding equipment you prefer. Also bring light weight waterproof rain gear and water shoes or flip flops. Kayaks are the sit-on-top type and some water can be expected on the legs and feet. The water temperature will be fine though in May.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Welcome/Orientation/Short Presentations by Lead Instructors
(Sunday, September 20)
 Afternoon: Hotel check-in begins at 3:00 PM. Program registration begins at 4:00 PM, followed by an orientation at 4:30 PM and a wine reception at 5:30 PM.

Enjoy the appetizers and the unique Clear Lake Pear Champagne as you get acquainted with your fellow birders and the hotel staff as well as Bernie Butcher, your host for the week and owner of the Tallman Hotel, and your lead faculty member, Jerry White.

 Dinner: Lovely dinner in the Tallman Hotel dining room.
 Evening: Welcome to Lake County, located along the Pacific Flyway, and host to more than 300 species of birds, varying according to the season. With diverse landscapes sprawled around Clear Lake - the largest natural freshwater lake in California and possibly the oldest in North America - birds and other wildlife make Lake County their home throughout the seasons.

In the hotel Meeting House after dinner, a wonderful introductory presentation of local birding is in store for you tonight presented by our resident birding expert. In addition, Bernie Butcher will present a short slide presentation on the history of the town and of the Tallman hotel.

Tallman Hotel website:

Accommodations: Tallman Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Rodman Slough Preserve Field Trip/Expert-led Walking Excursion/Picnic/Kayak Explorations of Clear Lake/Nature.
(Monday, September 21)
 Breakfast: Buffet-style breakfast in the lovely Tallman Hotel Parlor.
 Morning: Head out on a morning field trip to the Lake County Land Trust Interpretive Center at the Rodman Slough Preserve. Get a feel for this marvelous birding terrain as our lead birder and faculty member, guides you on a walking exploration of the Preserve.

Lake County Land Trust website:

 Lunch: Enjoy a picnic lunch at the Preserve Ranch House. Then the Executive Director of the Land Trust will introduce you to the area with a short presentation.
 Afternoon: Proceed to the base of the Rodman Slough where the main feeder streams enter the Lake. In this secluded area, set out by kayak to explore the upper reaches of the Slough, home to nesting colonies of Western and Clark’s Grebes, Great Blue Herons, Double-crested Cormorants and Great Egrets, a variety of waterfowl, hawks and an occasional eagle.

No skills needed in advance to join in the kayaking. The kayak outfitter and will provide the basic instruction needed. Those not wishing to kayak can explore the county park at the base of the slough and return early to the hotel.

 Dinner: Enjoy a BBQ buffet style dinner on the veranda of the Blue Wing, the Tallman Hotel's saloon style restaurant.
 Evening: In the hotel meeting house after dinner join together with resident birder Brad Barnwell and local nature photographers Lyle and Deanna Madeson for a fascinating presentation of nature and bird photography.

Blue Wing Saloon website:

Madeson Photography website:

Accommodations: Tallman Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Early morning Pontoon Boat Shoreline Exploration/Park Trail Hike/Grebe Project and Hitch Presentation/ Picnic/ Free Afternoon/ Presentation: Geology and Biology of Clear Lake/Music Combo
(Tuesday, September 22)
 Breakfast: Continental breakfast in the lovely Parlor of the Tallman Hotel.
 Morning: An early morning (6:45 departure) birding field trip starts you off at Clear Lake State Park with guide Jerry White. Clark's and Western Grebes are prevalent here, plus Green Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, and along the bed of Cole Creek, Killdeer. Land birds include Red-shouldered Hawks, California Quail, California Towhees, Spotted Towhees, Scrub Jays, Oak Titmice, Northern Flickers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Acorn, Downy, Hairy Woodpeckers and sometimes the Pileated Woodpecker.

Enjoy birding by foot and by pontoon boat this morning! At mid-morning board one of two pontoon boats for an excursion out into the lake and along the shoreline then go on a hiking exploration of some of the many park trails. A large Great Blue Heron rookery should be visible at Corinthian Bay inlet.

Clear Lake State Park website:

 Lunch: Picnic lunch at the pavilion by the marina.
 Afternoon: Pacific Union College Biology Professor Floyd Hayes has done extensive studies of the Clear Lake Grebe population, and he will share his interesting findings with us this afternoon.

Attorney Peter Windrem, head of the association dedicated to the preservation of the Clear Lake Hitch, will also be our speaker this afternoon, talking about the migration of this native fish specie.

Time to explore on your own or relax after an early morning departure.

Peter Windrem on Clear Lake Hitch: see

 Dinner: Dinner on the veranda of the Blue Wing, and time to talk over your day's tales with your new friends.
 Evening: An entertaining presentation awaits you tonight on the geology and biology of Clear Lake by Yuba College Professor Harry Lyons. But more awaits! Tom Nixon and Dr. Harry Lyons cap off the night with a guitar duo!
Accommodations: Tallman Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Boggs Lake Birding Field Trip/ Picnic at Winery/ Free Time
(Wednesday, September 23)
 Breakfast: Continental breakfast in the lovely Parlor of the Tallman Hotel.
 Morning: Travel 45 minutes from the hotel up Cobb Mountain, with lovely views of the scenic wine country. Depending on weather and ground conditions, visit either the Boggs Lake Nature Preserve, administered by the Nature Conservancy, which includes a vernal pool with a one mile walk through oak woodlands, or head to the more forested 1.3 mile Boggs Mountain State Forest Interpretive Trail. Ample time for birding throughout the morning.

Joining us as a guide on the Cobb expedition will be local expert Darlene Hecomovich, who also organizes the annual Lake County Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Residents here include Pileated Woodpeckers, Pygmy, White-breasted, and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and Hutton's Vireos. In spring and summer, Orange-crowned, Nashville, Yellow, and Black-throated Gray Warblers, Cassin's and Warbling Vireos are also present.

Info on Boggs Mountain State Forest: and

 Lunch: Then take a short drive to beautiful Laujor Estate, a boutique winery where we will enjoy a picnic lunch, overlooking miles of vineyards.

Laujor Estate website:

 Afternoon: Afternoon and evening are free for your own exploration of the area.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own to explore local fare.
 Evening: Evening free to explore or relax.
Accommodations: Tallman Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: Anderson Marsh State Historic Park Birding Field Trip/ Hike- Pontoon Boat/ Ranch House Tour/ Tour and Wine Tasting - Ceago Vinegarden
(Thursday, September 24)
 Breakfast: Continental breakfast in the lovely Parlor of the Tallman.
 Morning: Head out to Anderson Marsh State Historic Park at the Lake's outlet into Cache Creek. Depending on the weather, our birding field trip may involve an extensive, though level hike, of up to three miles. Docent Henry Bornstein of Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association will lead a pontoon boat exploration for those who prefer this option. (You will select which option at check in.)

Whether by foot or boat, view grebes, herons, Marsh Wrens, American Coots, Mallards, Great Egrets and other water birds. 151 species have been identified in this area throughout the year.

Anderson Marsh State Historic Park website: and

 Lunch: Picnic Lunch at the Interpretive Center.
 Afternoon: Gae Henry, member of the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association, will discuss the social and natural history of the area and the efforts to keep the parks open during difficult budget times.

On the way back to the Hotel, stop for a tour and tasting at the showcase lakeside Ceago Vinegarden in Nice. Owned and developed by Jim Fetzer, this facility not only practices organic, but fully bio-dynamic farming techniques.

Ceago Vinegarden website:

 Dinner: Enjoy a farewell dinner at the Tallman Hotel and a relaxing evening with your new friends. Share your favorite experiences and your group leader will help you project any photos you may have taken as well!
Accommodations: Tallman Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6:
(Friday, September 25)
 Breakfast: Continental breakfast in the lovely Parlor of the Tallman Hotel.
 Morning: Independent Departures and Safe Travels!

Hotel check-out by 11:00 AM.

Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Birding Northern California

Author: John Kemper

Birds of California Field Guide (Our Nature Field Guides)

Author: Stan Tekiela

Birds of Northern California (Lone Pine Field Guide)

Author: David Fix and Andy Bezener

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