The egret is one of this region's (or any region's) prettiest birds, with its dignified posture and immaculate white plumage. In flight, the egret's chest juts forward, giving it a sleek art deco look. Even so, these attractive avians hide a secret shame: funny-looking feet. They're not standing ankle-deep in water in order to pose for your camera -- they just don't want anyone to see their droopy, clumsy, bright orange toes.
This type of insight can't be gained through the window of a moving car. At the Audubon Canyon Ranch's Bolinas Lagoon Preserve, trails, guides, and spotting scopes help bird-watchers catch great and snowy egrets and great blue herons in awkward moments. Generally, the ranch and birds are merely awe-inspiringly beautiful, so you may have to make do with eating your sandwich among the stately trees and tolerating gorgeous sea views, too. The preserve is open Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays through July 11 at 4900 Highway 1, Stinson Beach. Admission is free; call 868-9244 or visit www.egret.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
A Growing Concern
Looking for a reprieve from gray city streets, two-hour parking limits, and overcrowded Muni buses? How does someplace like "Contemporary Pompeii" or the "Bedouin Sands" sound? No, they're not distant, exotic vacation destinations: They're two of the envy-provoking gardens exhibited at this year's San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, where floraphiles and bower buffs can stroll through six acres of lavish displays with names like "California Hypnotropic" (meant-to-be-mind-altering) and "Bay Area Back Alleys." After that, attendees can learn to re-create their own (admittedly smaller) pieces of paradise at seminars taught by some local green thumbs, or pick up an exotic plant to enliven their personal slice of urban jungle. Just try to stick to your greenery budget starting at 9 a.m. each day at the Cow Palace, Geneva & Santos, S.F. Admission is free-$20; call 771-6909 or visit www.gardenshow.com.
-- Jack Karp
Spring in Bloom
Take a Flowery Stroll
I come from a town where wild foliage is limited to scrubby roadside daisies and choking kudzu. So you can imagine my first ecstatic Bay Area walk in the woods in springtime, when the paths are bursting with phallic purple lupines, shocking orange poppies, and golden buttercups. The recent warm weather means a bumper crop, so feast your eyes at "Wildflowers of Mori Point,"an easy guided hike along rambling Pacifica trails. Walkers meet at 9 a.m. at the Crissy Field Center (where transportation to Mori Point is provided), 603 Mason (at Halleck), S.F. Admission is $12; call 561-7742 to register or visit www.crissyfield.org.
-- Joyce Slaton