The Laws Pocket Guide: On grassy hills and in fields

Things you'll see on grassy hills and in fields

The Bay Area is known for its beautiful golden hills, which are covered with the combination of grasses, tangled shrubs, and other low-growing vegetation known as chaparral. Resident mammals are magnificent—look for the tracks and droppings of coyotes and other large mammals, and for signs of smaller rabbits and rodents too. On the hills you’ll find springtime welcomed by blankets of orange poppies growing abundantly alongside other colorful wildflowers. Later in the season, the hills turn brown and go to seed, attracting birds and rodents to feast. Listen for the Wrentit, whose distinct accelerating trill is known as “the voice of the chaparral.” Wintertime is ideal for spotting the state bird, the California Quail, which often travels in large flocks of fifty or more. It can be seen skittering along at the San Francisco Presidio fields while large raptors, like the Red-tailed Hawk, soar above.

About the Author

John Muir LawsJohn Muir Laws is a naturalist, educator, and artist, with degrees in conservation and resource studies from the University of California, Berkeley; in wildlife biology from the University of Montana, Missoula; and in scientific illustration from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is a 2010 Audubon TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Fellow and has received the Terwilliger Environmental Award for outstanding service in environmental education. Visit his website at