Osprey, Mono Lake © Robert Sommers 2023

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

San Jacinto

vermillion vermilion flycatcher

Yesterday was one of those amazing days. I needed a timeout for myself and I headed up early to the San Jacinto Wildlife Area to catch some birds on the wing and hike and breathe and be alone on the more than nine thousand acres of restored wetlands.


I saw more raptors yesterday than I have ever seen in one day in my entire life. I took well over 1400 pictures and will be sifting and processing for a while. Still struggling with the new Sigma 150-600mm contemporary telephoto lens, missed a lot of shots due to a balky autofocus. But got plenty.

One of the first birds I saw, from afar, was this juvenile bald golden eagle that I had heard had been hanging around, perched high in the rocks, stage left. Nice...

laughing mallard northern shoveler making silly faces
I saw all manner of birds, red tailed and red shouldered hawks, more harriers than I have ever seen in my life, what I think was a golden eagle, merlins, kestrels, all manner of ducks, coots and waterfowl, a single blue heron, a great egret, many birds that I can not name. It was an epic day. No peregrines or kites but caught the latter one of the other times.

male bufflehead

hooded merganser female bufflehead? and black necked stilt 

A rookie birder, I learn something new every time I go out into the field.

flycatcher in flight

I loved watching the graceful harriers gently glide over the marshes and earth.


A bad day out with my avian friends beats the hell out of sitting at my desk and nothing is better than a good day out.

red tailed hawk

I hope I'm not boring you with all of these birds. Have so many shots. I walked all over the place, keeping in mind the signs alerting me to the presence of mountain lions, cautioning me to fight the puma if need be. Okay, yeah, that is going to work.

lbb (little brown bird) Say's phoebe

black phoebe?

My rookie assumption is that this is a female kingfisher but I am probably wrong. Or is it an ashthroated flycatcher? Flythroated asscatcher? Another Say's Phoebe? Now, I'm really confused...

If I ever win the lottery and you want to know where to find me...


I believe that this guy is a ferruginous hawk. Judith Sparhawk says it's actually a northern flicker.I saw one near the blind close to this tree last time I was up there.

This is one of a pair of kestrels merlins that I unfortunately scared off the limb. Didn't quite nail it, will have to go back.

As the day got longer I saw a pair of photographers with these enormous lenses zeroing in on this merlin sitting on a post and decided to tag along, hopefully out of their space. I hope they got their shot.

The bird bolted and I had a chance to get a little closer but not much.

It was nearly time to go. I decided to take one more spin through the preserve. I saw a huge bird in a tree and scared it away before I could get a good read.

Not sure about the tail feathers. Could this be the golden, perhaps immature or an awfully large hawk?

All things must come to an end and it was time to go. Snapped a few more pics of kestrels, they are so damn cute and I was on my way.

As I left the gravel road, this beautiful guy posed on the sign and bid me adieu!

Until next time...


Anonymous said...

great photos Robert... Ken

Sanoguy said...

Great, BH! I would like to tag along with you sometime!

Judith Sparhawk said...

Robert--Enjoyed your pics. The one you marked LLB is a Say's Phoebe. The Black Phoebe ? was correct. The one you thought was a kingfisher was not--a very scruffy flycatcher. There weren't may field marks to go on. The one I believe you were referring to as a Feruginous Hawk (or posted near that comment) was a Northern Flicker. I think the one you said was really big, and flew away, looked to me like an immature Red Tail, although it would be good to get better views to be sure. The one you called a mallard making faces (BTW, what was he doing with his bill???) was a Northern Shoveler, based on the rusty side/flanks. Both have the green head. Usually the shoveler is noted by its very large "shovel" shaped bill, but this one you couldn't really see the bill. Your Merlin close-ups were great. It was clearly a good day to be out and about!

Blue Heron said...

I am with you on everything pretty much but the red tailed. I have lived in red tailed country for over 35 ears and this one was much bigger than anything I am used to. Would be surprised about the flicker too based on the size of the bird, thing was huge! But I am wrong on a daily basis. Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Robert,
Thanks for sharing your photos, you take amazing pictures! I hope I'm not being too forward by correcting some of your ID's, if you want the best field guide the Sibley's is IMO the best. But scrolling down from top to bottom, I can tell you that the bird you identified as Bald Eagle is actually a Golden. The duck below it is not a Mallard but a Northern Shoveler. Then below this one the bird you ID'd as a Hooded Merganser is a female Bufflehead. Then scrolling down farther the LBB, as well as the female kingfisher, are a Say's Phoebe. The Ferruginous Hawk is actually a Northern Flicker, and one of your kestrels is actually a Merlin, the same bird you got wonderful photos of eating something. A good field guide always helps, once you start seeing these birds on a regular basis you will get to know them in no time. I've been birding for 26 years and I'm still learning the birds too!
Charity Hagen

Anonymous said...

Those photo's are amazing. I want to go out there. Cool you saw the vermillion flycatcher. I did see a say's phoebe in one of the photo's I want to look at them again. beth

Anonymous said...

Great day indeed.

Anonymous said...

Some nice shots. Vermilion has only one "L". Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Great shots Robert ! I agree... Northern Flicker, id'd by black "bib", red head area and orange under the wings. Believe you may have seen one while you were here. It's still here, as of past couple of days. Has a very unique call...sounds like something you'd hear in the jungle.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful shots. The two birds you labeled as Kestrel and then changed to Merlin are in fact Kestrels. Merlin never has that distinct face pattern. The Cornell lab of Ornithology has a good bird id page, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/search. You can compare similar birds side by side which is very helpful.