Monday, January 13, 2014

Birding Site Guide: Ramona Grasslands Preserve


Desolate short grass prairie and boulders make up this unique area. Birders visit mostly for raptors. Ferruginous Hawks are common in winter. A pair of Bald Eagles nest, as do Burrowing Owls.

Getting there: Ramona Grasslands Preserve is about 35 miles north of downtown San Diego, east of I-15 about 10 miles on scenic and winding Highland Valley Road. From I-15 take the W Bernardo Dr/Pomerado Rd exit, turn east on Pomerado Rd, then take the first left onto Highland Valley Rd. Parking: Free parking in a gravel lot obvious on the north side of Highland Valley Rd. Hours: 8 AM to 5 PM (winter) or 7 PM (summer). Map navigation: Approximate address: 17464 Highland Valley Rd, Ramona, CA 92065.


Where to bird: From the parking lot on Highland Valley Rd (A on the map below). Walk west and slightly uphill to a regrowing brushy area that was burned over a few years back. This trail loops around back to the parking lot about 0.8 miles. You will likely want to walk a bit farther to the start of the 2-mile Wildflower Loop Trail. Turn west into the oak woodland to the small pond there (1 on the map below).

This is a multi-use trail used by equestrians, dog walkers, and families.

Parking lot (staging area) on Highland Valley Rd.
I found winter grassland birds such as Western Meadowlarks, Say's Phoebes, Lark Sparrows, Ferruginous Hawks, Loggerhead Shrikes, and Mountain Bluebirds on my visits thus far to the Ramona Grasslands Preserve.

In spring I will look for Grasshopper, Black-chinned, and Rufous-crowned sparrows.Summer birds include Blue Grosbeaks and Lazuli Buntings. Roadrunner is resident, as is a pair of nesting Bald Eagles east of Rangeland Rd. eBird checklist.


San Diego birding site guide

On your visit you'll want to drive the 1 mile of publicly accessible Rangeland Rd (from 2 to 3 on the map above) and pull over on the broad shoulders to check the boulders for Bald Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, and Burrowing Owls.

Oak woodlands around the small pond at the start of the Wildflower Loop Trail.
The Nature Conservancy has more information.