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A red tail hawk. Stock image
Community CommentaryOpinion

Experience Hawk Watch

The Wildlife Research Institute invites you to “Experience Hawk Watch” on any Saturday morning in January and February.

Just get in your car and enjoy a refreshing, scenic drive to Ramona — destination Hawk Watch.

What is Hawk Watch? The setting is against the backdrop of the 5,000-acre Ramona Grasslands Nature Preserve.

Nineteen different species of raptor have been recorded in this natural wonderland. 

Hawk Watch  is the opportunity to mingle in nature and start the new year by being enraptured by raptors like the ferruginous hawk, red tail hawk, various owl family members — great horned, barn, screech — and more.

The birds you will meet were once injured and cannot be returned to the wild. They have been rescued and now serve as ambassadors for their species and have something to teach all of us.

When you reach Ramona, take the turn onto Highland Valley Road, and go about a mile until you see the Hawk Watch sign on your right.

Drive slowly onto the beautiful Begent Ranch property at 18528 Highland Valley Road for plenty of parking.

Then, take a short walk to the big barn with wide open doors. Leigh Bittner, managing director of the Wildlife Research Institute, and several volunteers will greet you with coffee and donuts!

Katie Quint, biologist and research director of WRI, will tell you all about these incredible birds of prey, touching on topics of conservation, natural history, and wildlife research with Q&A opportunities. Hawk Watch also features animal ambassadors representing native San Diego wildlife species, presented by Andrea Burgan of Critter Encounters and master falconer Dr. Bob Gordon.

The presentation is about two hours, from 10:00 a.m. to noon. You’ll want to arrive early and have a chance to see the various displays and find a good seat outside. I suggest you bring your own folding chairs to set up, in case other seats are taken.

This marvelous, two-hour presentation is free, and it will give you insightful demonstrations of these avian kings of flight!

And the time will “fly” by.

Afterward, you can journey a mile further up the road, where you’ll be met by volunteers with sophisticated cameras so that you can easily view a nesting pair of Bald Eagles.

You may even see Golden Eagles nearby and burrowing owls in the open meadow, who are also participants in the Hawk Watch program — except no one has told these Grassland occupiers about that!

One of my forever memories was the delight of watching a golden eagle teaching his offspring how to fish in the nearby pond … another wonderful gift of nature due to the Hawk Watch experience.

So please join me on a Saturday morning between now and the end of February — mark your calendar! Experience Hawk Watch is waiting for you.

Directions: From the South & West: Highway 67 to Ramona and turn North (left) on Highland Valley Road. From the North & West: Highway 78 to Ramona Main Street (Hwy 67), turn Right, proceed 3 miles to Highland Valley Road and turn Right.

Sheila S. Cameron is a raptor enthusiast and former mayor of Encinitas.