Favorite Photo Places: Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

The view across the wildlife refuge at the Dumbarton Bridge.

The view across the wildlife refuge looking west at the Dumbarton Bridge.

Located on the east side of San Francisco Bay near Fremont, California, the Don Edwards San Fransisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge is one of my favorite places to go when I am in the Bay Area.

The view from Marshland Road near the parking lot. Click for a larger view.

It is only 8 miles from where I stay when I visit family in Fremont so I will often head out early in the morning for an hour or two of shooting. The refuge opens at dawn and closes at dusk.

It is located just south of California 84 and just west of Thornton Avenue. To get there take CA-84 to the Thornton Avenue exit. Go south on Thornton Avenue one mile to the large sign at the refuge entrance. The address to put in your GPS is 1 Marshland Road, Fremont, CA 94555.

Bird Reflections

I have been creating images there for over 25 years. This bird reflection image was created in 1990.

Snowy Egret Feeding

Snowy Egret Feeding

The best time off the year to photograph shorebirds is October through April but some good photos can be had most any time of year. Things vary from day to day. Some days are amazing.

And some days you won’t see much of anything photographic.

Of course if it starts pouring down rain you can always take pictures of rain drops and make use of the electrical towers along the west side of the refuge.


Great Egrets and Great Blue Heron

“I bet you’ve been wondering why I called this meeting.”

There are hiking trails around the main hill at the refuge headquarters and trails out into the marshlands. Leave your car at the parking lot and head out.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

You can also drive along Marshland Road all the way out to the Dumbarton Bridge. Some of my best photos have been taken from my car along Marshland Road. You can’t park your car and leave it along the road but you can pull over momentarily to the side of the road and shoot out your car window.

You never know what you might encounter so if you have two camera bodies, have them both ready to go with lenses on them. One on body use a wide angle to short telephoto lens (something like 24-105mm) and on the other a longer lens (like 70-300 or 100-400mm). If you have only one camera body, use a longer telephoto lens since you are more likely to miss a telephoto shot than a wide angle shot.

When driving Marshland Road I usually shoot hand held with the lens resting on the window ledge but I do set up a tripod inside the car for some images. This works best with an animal that is relatively stationary.

Cliff Swallows

Cliff Swallows

Different times throughout the year are better for different kinds of birds. In early June Cliff Swallows hatch in nests under the Dumbarton Bridge

California Ground Squirrel

California Ground Squirrel

California Ground squirrels hang out around the large parking lot by the refuge headquarters.

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

This Western Scrub-Jay was in a bush right next to the main parking lot in the month of January.

California Poppies

California Poppies

I don’t usually head to the refuge for flowers but various flowers bloom throughout the year and poppies bloom in late March or early April.

The refuge isn’t totally about wildlife and nature. You can do urban landscapes.

Great Egrets fighting.

Great Egrets fighting.

If you are lucky you will be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. This territorial dispute lasted less than 2 minutes and I happened to be exactly where I needed to be to capture the action.

Great Egret

Great Egret in flight.

It helps to know what you are doing if your goal is to come home with beautiful wildlife and nature images. The articles and books at the links below will help.

Originally posted July 8, 2016. Updated July 15, 2016.


Don Edwards San Fransisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

How to Be A Better Wildlife (and Nature) Photographer

Nature Photography Books

Nature Photography Books

The Best “How To” Nature Photography Books

Nature Photography Books: The Three Essentials. If you only read three nature photography books, put these on your “must read” list.

Wildlife Guidebooks

Guidebooks to Finding Wildlife

How To Find Wildlife, The Best Books

How To Photograph Wildlife, The Best Books

Wildlife Guide Books

A few of the excellent wildlife and nature photography books from Stackpole.

The excellent “How To” series by Stackpole Books has separate books in the series on how to photograph different kinds of wildlife.