These photos were taken from February 2009 to February 2012 during several trips to San Jacinto, a relatively-untouched valley separated from the urban sprawl of Riverside County by Lake Perris. Its 19,000 acres of reclaimed land with dirt autoroutes makes it a fascinating area for wildlife viewing. And the scenery, with the backdrop of the San Bernardino Mountains, is simply stunning. I used the Pentax K10D and 16-45mm lens and (in 2010) the Canon 40D with the 17-55 f2.8 L lens for the landscapes, and the Canon 40D and (in 2010) the Canon 7D with the 500 f4 L lens for the birds.
San Jacinto Wildlife Area with the San Bernardino Mountains in the background, March 10 2012.
The field off Bridge Street (on the left) and the scene in the San Jacinto Valley at sunrise, November 15 2010. On wet years, this area sometimes floods, creating at lake the locals call "Mystic Lake," as it mysteriously appears and disappears. During the storm of December 22 2010, Bridge Street flooded, and this entire area was under water, creating a great habitat for water birds. Folks/birders in the area say the "lake" will last a long time as the San Jacinto River nearby broke a berm, thus flooding a huge area.
This and the following 3 photos show a Ferruginous Hawk flying from its power-pole perch on Bridge Street, January 20 2013. Taken using the Canon 7D and 500 f/4 L IS lens mounted on a BushHawk shoulder mount.
The Ferruginous Hawk with San Jacinto Mountain as a backdrop.
Birders/bird photographers waiting -- in vain, as it turned out -- for the Gyrfalcon, March 10 2012 -- from right to left, Tin Man Lee, David Ellsworth , Tom Starcic, and yours truly.
Sage Thrasher at the entrance to the Wildlife Area, March 10 2012.
Here's the scene taken near the locked gate at the end of Davis Road looking out towards the San Jacinto Wildlife area and its ponds, with green farms off to the right and Mount San Jacinto standing sentinel in the background. This was taken on February 3, 2012.
One of the recent wintering visitors to the San Jacinto Wildlife Area has been a Rough-legged Hawk, seen right off the busy Ramona Expressway just west of the Davis Road entrance. On February 25, 2012 a group of us from Los Angeles' South Bay spent all day at the wildlife area, and the Rough-legged was the first thing we saw at 0647 on a foggy morning. There wasn't much light at the time, but it was a life bird for all of us, and the start of a phenomenal day at SJWA.
The Rough-legged Hawk in flight, right off the Ramona Expressway just west of the Davis Road turnoff to SJWA, February 25 2012.
There's been a minor irruption of Sage Thrashers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties here in So Cal, which is all to the good as they're fairly uncommon. This one can be reliably seen on the fence near the end of Davis Road, the access road to SJWA. Taken February 3, 2012.
A beautiful Sage Sparrow, off Davis Road, February 25 2012.
Mrs. Northern Harrier in the back area, February 3 2012.
Kestrel on a perch off the autoroute, February 3 2012.
White-tailed Kite in the field off Bridge Street, February 25 2012.
Cattle Egret in-flight, February 25 2012.
Now called Common Gallinule, formerly known as Moorhen, February 25 2012.
The view in February 2009 from the back area, with the San Bernardino Mountains in the background. There's a busy freeway out in the foothills beyond the row of trees (Highway 60 connecting Riverside to Beaumont), but you wouldn't know -- or hear -- it. A truely magical place.
April 1, 2009 adds a splash of color to the spartan, rocky setting.
On the early-morning of November 12, 2010, with the San Jacinto Wildlife Area stretched before you, and the snowless San Bernardino Mountains in the distance.
One of the "ponds" near the back area, with the San Bernardino Mountains once again in the background, November 12 2010. You can barely make out Black-necked Stilts on the pond.
A juvenile White-tailed Kite in early-morning sun, November 12 2010.
When I returned to SJWA on Monday, November 15 shortly after 7am the White-tailed Kite had just flown back to its customary perch seen in the previous photo and spent the next half-hour preening, posing and "unloading". All I had to do was rest my Canon 500 f4 lens with 1.4x TC on the truck window and record the show. There were moments like this where the Kite shifted position and lost its balance, trying to maintain its composure by flapping its wings.
A closeup of the White-tailed Kite. Looks like it may have a growth, or a bit of something, on its beak?
A juvenile White-tailed Kite takes off after its early-morning preening, November 15 2010.
A Lark Sparrow in the brushy area opposite the E2 area in the back, November 15 2010.
Another view of the Lark Sparrow, November 15 2010.
While walking down the dirt road along the back area I scared-up an American Bittern but just managed to grab this ID shot, November 15 2010.
As I was leaving the Wildlife Area on Monday November 15 2010 I did a quick tour of the "wetlands" area near the entrance and saw this Merlin on a post casting a wary, watchful eye around.
Seconds later, the Merlin spotted something and took off.
A Bonaparte's Gull was mixing it up with other Gulls over the wildlife area on Monday November 15 2010, seemingly "hawking" insects in the air.
A Ring-billed Gull was also in the Gull Mix above the Wildlife Area on Monday November 15, 2010.
The autoroute road leading to the back area ponds, November 15 2010.
One of the ponds in the back area on a still November morning...
Some of the pond water is still and stagnant, creating a nice green goo, at least on the surface. Here's my camera rig, the 7D and 500 f4 lens on the BushHawk, and my LowePro Slingpro All-Weather backpack.
A female Belted Kingfisher watches for breakfast at the water pumps in the back area, November 15 2010.
She's very intent, and looks as if she's enjoying herself...
Then she takes off to a higher perch in nearby trees, and says "enough!" to the nearby photographer.
A coyote peeks over the rise at Pond 4, November 15 2010.
A Western Kingbird shares a spot with the female Belted Kingfisher at the water pumps in the back area at E1 parking lot, November 15 2010.
A Say's Phoebe is also at the water pump along with the Kingfisher and Kingbird, November 15 2010.
Lots of White-faced Ibis at SJWA, and here's one in full iridescence in the early-morning sun near Pond 2, November 15 2010.
American Pipit near Pond 1, November 12 2010.
Kildeer, also near Pond 1, November 12 2010.
Male American Kestrel keeping watch near Pond 1, November 12 2010.
Red-tailed Hawk in the back area, November 12 2010.
Savannah Sparrow near the E1 parking lot in the back area, November 12 2010.
White-faced Ibis, November 12 2010.
An in-the-open Wilson's Snipe in the back pond area, November 15 2010.
Canada Geese flying over the foothills and the snowy San Bernardinos as backdrop, February 2009.
Red-tailed Hawk, March 12 2009.
This and the following 3 shots are of a Ferruginous Hawk taking off on a perch in the back area, April 4 2009.
Keeping a wary eye on the photographer...
and finally the Ferruginous Hawk gives a full-wing spread.
Merlin in the back area, February 20 2009.
A Yellow-headed Blackbird in the back area, April 1 2009.
The Yellow-headed Blackbird giving its all to "call".
One of the many female Harriers at SJWA, February 20 2009.
A female Harrier taking off after a rest, March 12 2009.
Adult Sharp-shinned Hawk near sunset, February 20 2009.
One of the many Red-winged Blackbirds at SJWA, February 21 2009.
A Red-tailed Hawk flies through a winter scene at SJWA, February 20 2009.
A Ruddy Duck flyby in the back area, March 12 2009.
In the "triangle" of grasses, plowed fields and ponds near the back area, a female Northern Harrier takes off from its perch, with wild mustard in the background, May 1 2010.
A Mountain Bluebird, winter resident at SJWA, waits patiently along Davis Road, the dirt entrance road to SJWA, February 21 2009. The Mountain Bluebirds lining the fences on Davis Road in winter are replaced by Western Kingbirds in the spring and summer.
A Western Kingbird in the back area, April 1 2009.
The Western Kingbird takes off from its perch, April 1 2009.
A Snowy Egret patiently watches the goings-on at the wet area near the water pumps in the back area near E1 parking lot, February 20 2009.
The female Northern Harrier fluffs-up in a wild mustard background, May 1 2010.
A female Northern Harrier portrait, May 1 2010.
A pull-back shot of the female Northern Harrier showing the field of wild mustard in the "triangle" near the back area, May 1 2010.
A White-faced Ibis against a pool reflecting wild mustard, May 1 2010.
A Western Meadowlark singing its heart out on a typical SJWA morning, May 1 2010.
Mr Northern Shovelers on parade, San Jacinto Wildlife Area, Feb 21 2009.
The ducks and geese at SJWA are quite skittish as hunting is allowed 2 days at week during the winter months. Sometimes it seems like all you have to do is THINK you're going to go in their direction, and they take off!
Mountain Bluebird, San Jacinto Wildlife Area, near Lake Perris, California, Feb 21 2009.
Mountain Bluebird on a post along Davis Road taking off in pursuit of possible dinner, February 21 2009.