Quail Hollow Ranch County Park
This 300-acre park provides a variety of bird habitats: oak woodland, mixed evergreen forest, meadows, chaparral, small groves of redwood and Douglas-fir, a creek and small pond, as well as locally unique ponderosa pine sand parkland, a plant association found only in Santa Cruz County. The very porous Santa Margarita sandstone that underlies most of this park has exceedingly good drainage. Even as high rainfall allows redwood forests to thrive on other nearby geological formations, plants that normally grow in arid climates can grow on this sandstone formation. This has produced a chaparral-like habitat, with dispersed knobcone and ponderosa pine. Some of the ponderosas have been appropriated by Acorn Woodpeckers for their granaries. There are four miles of trails. The park is open daily 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and a small visitor center is open on weekends. For information, call (831) 335-9348.
Directions. From Hwy 9 in Felton, take Graham Hill Rd for 0.5 mile to East Zayante Rd. Turn left on East Zayante Rd and continue 1.9 miles to Quail Hollow Rd. Turn left on Quail Hollow Rd and continue 0.7 mile to the park entrance.
Birds. Resident species include Acorn, Nuttall’s and Hairy woodpeckers, Oak Titmouse, Wrentit, California Thrasher, Hutton’s Vireo, Pygmy Nuthatch, Purple Finch, Brown Creeper, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed hawks, and California Quail. Migrant breeders include Ash-throated, Olive-sided, and Pacific-slope flycatchers, Western Wood-Pewee, Warbling Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler, Violet-green Swallow, Allen’s Hummingbird, and Black-headed Grosbeak. Winter visitors include Red-breasted Sapsucker, Yellow-rumped and Townsend’s warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Varied and Hermit thrushes, Golden-crowned and Fox sparrows.
The pond (visible from Quail Hollow Rd and the park entrance road) is a magnet for swallows and Black Phoebes, and in winter it draws ducks, including Wood Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, and Bufflehead. It also attracts Green Heron, American Bittern (rare), Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and Wilson’s Snipe, and from April through September it also hosts a nice variety of dragonflies and damselflies.
Most of the birds listed above can be seen from the Discovery Loop, which is only 0.9 mile long and goes past the pond and along the creek, as well as the margins of oak woodland, scrub, and ponderosa pine sand parkland. The Italian Trail (1.25 mile) and the Chaparral Loop (1.0 mile) wind through chaparral, mixed evergreen forest, and oak woodland. Sunset trail (2.7 mile up and back) goes through chaparral habitat with small groves of second growth redwood and mixed evergreen forest, climbing up to a vista point amid a stunted (“pygmy”) redwood forest that overlooks the park and the surrounding area.