Birders, grab your binoculars. Avian enthusiast Tom Rusert has put together what amounts to a travel guide for bird watchers in the Sonoma Valley and beyond.

Rusert has painstakingly assembled a list of the best places to go to observe the roughly 225 species of birds who inhabit or visit southern Sonoma County. His top picks were based on public access, parking and richness in bird life.

“Our goal is to let people know you don’t have to drive a couple of hours to see great birds,” says Rusert, who lives in Sonoma.

Serious and wanna-be birders can find his tips at, the website he co-founded with Darren Peterie. The site includes links to maps and basic information about trails and what kind of birds you can expect to see there.

The chosen spots range from The San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge to the overlook at Viansa Winery to the Ledson Marsh-Lawndale Trail off Lawndale Road between Kenwood and Oakmont.

“People come from all over the country to bird here. You see them online all the time, wondering where to go,” says Rusert. The North Bay is prized destination for bird lovers, with places like the Bouverie Preserve in Glen Ellen and the Audubon Canyon Ranch in Marin County. But Rusert has scoped out places that are open to the public without the need for a special invitation or reservation.

You don’t need to travel any further than the Sonoma Plaza to look up and see winged wildlife. Peterie and Rusert have put together a free map available at the Sonoma Valley Visitor’s Bureau on the Plaza, that points out some 60 species of trees and dozens of birds who frequent the square, a vertiable “8 acre aboretum” hosting everything from green herons to plack phoebes to western blue birds.