Great Blue Herons Return to Stow Lake for 29th Year


By Nancy H. DeStefanis, Executive Director, San Francisco Nature Education

We are very fortunate to have four Great Blue Heron nests this year at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

Photo by

Three of the four nests have Great Blue Herons incubating eggs. The fourth nest already has two chicks. All the nests should have multiple chicks when we open on Saturday April 16 for six Saturdays through May 21, from 10 a.m. to 1p.m.

Nancy DeStefanis wearing heron chick helmet. Photo by

Our Heron Watch volunteers and interns will show the herons and their chicks through high-powered spotting scopes and answer questions about the herons’ behavior and the heron lifecycle. The volunteers are also skilled at working with children. Donations welcome.

Photo by Helene Sobol.

This year our volunteers will lead family birding walks around Strawberry Island each Saturday of Heron Watch. Walks depart from the Observation Site at 10 a.m. and return at noon. The walks are open to children ages 6 to 12 accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Adults: $10, children always free. We cannot accommodate groups larger than parent/guardians with three children.

Photo by Helene Sobol.

Great Blue Herons have been nesting successfully at Stow Lake since 1993 when I discovered the first nest in San Francisco. Since then, 259 chicks have fledged. 

Although the Monterey Pine tree with the heron’s nests on the small island is dead and has lost many limbs because of wind and storms, the Great Blues returned at the end of December. They are colonial birds which means they like to nest near each other.

Photo by Helene Sobol.

The Observation Site is located at the end of Stow Lake Drive, just before the road goes down to MLK Drive. There will be a large Heron Watch sign near the scopes. Please see our map. San Francisco Nature Education is a 501©3 non-profit org.

Heron Watch: Saturdays April 16, 23, 30, May 7, 14, 21 from 10 a.m. to 1p.m. 

Free. Donations welcome.

Family field trips to learn more about local birds and Stow Lake history leave at 10 a.m. and return at noon on Heron Watch Saturdays –Adults: $10. Children (ages 6-12) free. (Please ­ no groups larger than three children.)

Photo by Helene Sobol.

Map and info. at

Questions by email to

Photo by Helene Sobol.

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