The more things change, the more they stay the same. My goal while visiting California is to avoid making big (boneheaded) birding mistakes. So, of course, that is exactly what I did as soon as I arrived at the San Jacinto Wildlife refuge on the morning of March 4th. According to my first edition, Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, the bird pictured below is a Common Moorhen.
I then went online to find out how many observations of Common Moorhen have been reported in the area. To my surprise and delight, eBird lists only two occurrences of the species in California during the past ten years. I couldn't believe my good fortune - my first trip to the San Jacinto Wildlife Area produced a near mega-rarity. Thankfully, someone steered me straight before I shared my mistake with everyone else on the planet. As it turns out, three Common Gallinule are reported during an average week in Riverside County California. No wonder the parking lot near the point of our observation was empty the next morning when Jill and I went back for additional images. Click here to read more about the "split" that gave rise to my confusion.
San Jacinto Wildlife Area is approximately 19,000 acres, with 9,000 acres of restored wetlands. It is the first state wildlife area to utilize reclaimed water to enhance its wetlands.
The property was designated as a wildlife area by the Fish and Game Commission in 1982. In the following years, areas within the wildlife area have been altered to enhance and enlarge wetland habitats for conservation and for native animal species.
Activities: wildlife viewing and hunting
Hours: The main gate is currently open 7 days a week from 7 am until sunset for your enjoyment. The Headquarters Office is open Monday through Friday from 7 am - 3 pm. The office is closed on all State and Federal holidays.
Passes: A CDFW Lands Pass (Day Use or Annual) is required for non-hunting/non-fishing recreational purposes, but not required for those who possess a valid California sport fishing, hunting, or trapping license.
The best birds found during our two-day visit include, a bright VERMILION FLYCATCHER, two BARN OWLS roosting in the same tree as a LONG-EARED OWL, and both male and female NUTTALL'S WOODPECKER.
One misstep flushed three owls whose presence I probably would not have otherwise detected - a startling experience!
Below are images of landscapes and a few of the other birds we enjoyed during this visit.
The only bird I've seen that seems to keep its tail feathers folded vertically when at rest.
One of dozens of hunting (and for me photography) blinds scattered throughout the area:
Male and female AMERICAN AVOCET: BLACK-NECKED STILT:
Area B4 - The pond, I am told, the Common Gallinule appears from time-to-time: GREAT-HORNED OWL:
Upland Game Hunting Area:
"The Olive Grove" (top left) - approximately 1 mile out: RED-TAILED HAWK NEST:
I am thinking this nest will be home to owls someday soon.