Birdwatching in Bodega Bay

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My better half and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary by taking a leisurely road trip through the Sonoma backwoods and along the California Coast. On our return, we decided to make a stop in Bodega Bay where Alfred Hitchcock shot THE BIRDS (1963). I’ve spent time in Bodega before and it is one of the loveliest little coastal towns in Sonoma. It’s also extremely proud of its association with one of Hitchcock’s best and most celebrated films. While I was there I wandered along the wharf, visited some filming locations and spent time at the Hitchcock museum located inside the Bodega Country Store. The trip was a lot of fun and I snapped many pictures while I was there so I thought I would share my adventure in Bodega Bay with TCM’s blog readers.

The drive from Sonoma State Park into Bodega is particularly stunning. The coast offers some amazing views of the Pacific Ocean lined with enormous rocks, including the impressive Mammoth Rocks that were once used by prehistoric mammoths as backscratchers while they were making their annual migration down the coast. Once you reach Bodega, you soon realize that the sleepy little town is much smaller then Hitchcock envisioned in THE BIRDS. In fact, much of the film was shot in a studio and many of the outdoor locations were shot outside of Bodega in other Sonoma towns such as Bloomfield and Petaluma. But Bodega Bay and the surrounding area of Bodega have embraced their association with Hitchcock’s film to such an extent that you get a real sense of what it must have been like for the cast and crew to make the movie here.

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Top: The drive into Bodega Bay
Middle: Bodega Bay as it looked in THE BIRDS
Bottom: Recent postcard from Bodega Bay

Our first stop was the town of Bodega itself, which is located about 6 miles inland. While there, we visited the James E Potter Elementary School otherwise known as “Potter Schoolhouse” where one of the film’s most climactic scenes takes place. We also saw the charming St. Teresa of Avila church, which was also featured in the film and was regularly attended by Hitchcock while he was filming here. Located nearby is the Casino Bar where the cast and crew of THE BIRDS often ate meals or grabbed a drink after shooting.

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Top: A scene from THE BIRDS featuring Potter’s Schoolhouse.
Middle: Potter’s Schoolhouse today.
Bottom: St. Teresa of Avila church and the Casino bar.

While in Bodega we also made time to visit the Bodega Country Store that houses the small but fascinating and very friendly Hitchcock Museum. Inside we found lots of film memorabilia from THE BIRDS including autographed photos from the cast and various items associated with Hitchcock. There’s also lots of kitschy goodness to be found including an Alfred Hitchcock mannequin outside that greets visitors and a Tippi Hedren mannequin inside covered in bats (?) that are supposed to resemble birds (I think?). You can also purchase BIRDS related tourist goods there including postcards, t-shirts and mugs.

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The Bodega County Store & Hitchcock Museum

On our way out of town we explored the wharf where the Tides Restaurant is located. The Tides played an important part in THE BIRDS but today the location is very different and the restaurant is much larger. Inside you can find a gift shop as well as a thriving fish market. This is also where Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) hired a boat and set off across Bodega Bay to reconnect with Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) and deliver lovebirds to his daughter Cathy (Veronica Cartwright).

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Top: The Tides restaurant in the film & today.
Middle: A scene from THE BIRDS inside the Tides & the current gift shop.
Bottom: Melanie Daniels crossing Bodega Bay by boat & the bay today.

Strangely enough, I didn’t see many birds while I was is in Bodega Bay but while I was strolling on the wharf I did come across this curious gull. I must confess that when he looked at me a little oddly, I knew it was time to head home!

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If you’d like to visit Bodega Bay yourself you might want to consider making a trip there during the Labor Day holiday weekend in September when Tippi Hedren regularly visits the town for the annual BIRDS event and signs autographs for locals as well as visitors.

Recommended links:
- The Bodega Country Store & Hitchcock Museum
- St. Teresa of Avila church
- The Tides Wharf

7 Responses Birdwatching in Bodega Bay
Posted By Autist : July 30, 2015 9:49 pm

Fascinating piece! I always assumed that Bodega Bay was a fictional place. It’s interesting how little it seems to have changed in fifty years.

Posted By Autist : July 30, 2015 11:13 pm

Looking at the pictures, I also just realized that Veronica Cartwright, who played the little sister in The Birds, is the same actress who played the other woman in Alien–that is, not Sigourney Weaver. I’m learning a lot from this article!

Posted By Paul Dionne : July 30, 2015 11:17 pm

After I moved to California back in 2008, my wife and I went to the town of Bodega and to the harbor a couple of years later, than for whatever reason? – of course, for Hitchcock! Just like having gone to Santa Rosa for Hitchcock, as many Vertigo sites in San Francisco for Hitchcock, and to Mission San Juan Batista for Hitchcock – (some day a goal is to figure out where Hitch and Alma’s house was situated in Santa Cruz, even it it’s not there anymore) – we think we may have figured out from the way a certain cedar grove and driveway was situated along Westshore Road where the setting was for the Brenner house. Of course, we could be totally wrong, but there was something about the cedar grove that looked like the right place. Of course, the house in the film was supposedly a studio set, but it’s location was based on a farmhouse that existed at the time it was made – The Gafney ranch, which is no longer there.

Posted By LD : July 31, 2015 9:35 am

Thanks for sharing and Happy Anniversary!

Posted By Ben Martin : July 31, 2015 2:10 pm

Oh I have wanted to go to Bodega Bay – ever since writing a paper on The Birds in college – and this post is the next best thing to being there. some comments: 1. I like most move fans am a Hitchcock fanatic – but OH how i wish he would not default to studios for so much of his work – his obsession for control making him choose to leave the actual locations and use studio mock-ups. It bugs me. 2. If i were on the Bodega Bay city council, i would get a phone booth placed forever as a historic marker outside The Tides – where Melanie Daniels found HERSELF “back in her gilded cage” with the birds on the outside looking in this time. 3. You’re married??? Bummer.

Posted By Lamar : July 31, 2015 4:18 pm

Great piece, I’ve always wanted to visit Bodega Bay. I still get nervous if too many birds start appearing. I was once chased by a red winged blackbird, very territorial if you walk near their nest, and it dive bombed me from behind. The sun was behind me and I saw the bird shadow looming until it almost hit my head. I just about died.
You can see just how much of the town was a matte painting here:
http://markwestwriter.blogspot.com/2013/01/movie-artistry-matte-paintings.html
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/233835405622968775/

Posted By Mary Gonzaelz : August 4, 2015 8:10 pm

I’ve visited this little town many times, staying in Bodega Bay. I love everything there is about this small community and knowing that part of the movie was filmed on location. The school house was my favorite. I have a photo of two of the gals in our group, running down the street batting their heads as though the birds were attacking them…. very funny. Wish I could attach it here so you can see for yourself.

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