SoCal Families | Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

By: Jamie Solis


Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont is proud to be the biggest botanic garden that is dedicated to California’s beautiful plants and wildlife. It is a living museum with a plethora of native plants and various wildlife including the 147 different types of birds identified at the garden. Additionally, there are countless ways to learn more and participate in fun at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Among the many events and activities happening weekly, monthly and throughout the year, we were lucky enough to enjoy one of their Free Family-Friendly Bird Walks.

Although this wasn’t the first time visiting the zen-like garden in Claremont with my fiance, it was the first time we had been there as a family with our young daughter. Only 11-months-old, we knew our baby would enjoy the beautiful scenery, although she might not be the best at bird watching. However, we confidently secured her in the front pack, grabbed our binoculars and headed towards the growing crowd of friendly faces crowding around the garden’s entrance.


Our first bird watching opportunity happened immediately . . . before we even entered the garden! Birds were gathering around the feeder next to the Admissions booth, and our passionate instructor and tour guide was quick to point out the various species of finches and towhees, as well as their identifiable characteristics and traits. The large group of excited bird watchers was split in two groups, and each team set off into the park, ready to learn more. Our group consisted of about 15 people of all ages, from a retired school teacher from my high school to a young boy scout in uniform.


We made our way through the peaceful green trails, stopping periodically to absorb more information about the native birds from our knowledgable guide. The first bird we saw upon entering the garden was only steps into the first trail, It was a Mourning Dove. This light brown bird was relaxing in the shady leaves under a tree, and we discovered first-hand that when the Mourning Dove takes off, its wings make a soft, whistling sound. We continued on to see a flock of Band-tailed Pigeons flying overhead. Our tour guide stopped us to explain how this California-native bird is currently facing hardship, because there is a virus attacking its species. The guide was very friendly, inviting the younger participants to come up front to see the many birds hiding in tree branches or peaking out from behind some brush.


We spent some time stalking the Western Bluebird, as every time we caught a glimpse, it would seem to move on. I finally caught a picture of it, only to get it flying away. The highlight of the bird walk was when we got to see the giant hawk! Across an open field, someone in our group discovered a large Red-tailed Hawk perched atop a towering tree. It might sound silly, but at a distance it looked like there was a penguin sitting up in a tree. This bird was huge! Everyone in our diverse group, from young kids to seniors scrambled for their binoculars hoping to catch a glimpse of this magnificent creature. Luckily, the hawk didn’t move a muscle, and everyone got a chance to adore this powerful creature for some time.


The tour continued for well over an hour, and we absolutely loved the opportunity to learn more about the creatures and plants that make California unique. If you’d like to immerse yourself in the peaceful sounds of Claremont’s extensive bird population, then attend a free bird walk. Walks are held from September thru June on the first Sunday of each month, as sponsored by Pomona Valley Audubon Society. RSVP is requested. Walks also happen on the third Saturday of each month, as hosted by Wild Birds Unlimited, Claremont. RSVP is required, and space is limited to 15 participants.


The free bird walks are only one way to enjoy the tranquil garden with your family. There are countless ways to enjoy this natural scenery with your family. Check out their website to learn more about activities, classes, upcoming events and more at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. We’ll definitely be stopping by on Sun, Feb. 15 for the Family Bird Fest! This educational celebration will bring enough information and excitement for bird lovers of all levels. The festival goes from 10a.m. to 3p.m. with a special presentation at 12:30p.m. by Sean C. Wilcox entitled Flight performance and sound production during courtship displays of male Black-chinned Hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri).

The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont. Visiting hours are daily between 8a.m. and 5p.m. Closed Jan. 1, July 4, Thanksgiving and Dec. 25. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for students or seniors with ID, $4 for children ages 3 to 12, and RSABG members and children under three are admitted free.