Watch Hawks, Eagles, and Falcons in the Wild


Location: Ramona (34 Miles / 45 Minutes Northeast of Downtown San Diego)

Events: Saturdays in January from 9AM – 12PM

Cost: None

Features: Guided Hawk Watch Event; 19 Raptor Species, including Golden Eagles and Prairie Falcons, make home in the Ramona Grasslands

Hawk Watch Highlights: The Cleveland National Forest is home to many species of birds. The most famous are the Golden Eagles (about 46 pairs) and the Prairie Falcons (upwards of 30 pairs). These birds of prey are often found in the Ramona Grasslands and San Diego River Gorge areas of the Forest. The best ways to get a glimpse of these rare birds and a variety of hawks is to attend the Hawk Watch Events hosted by the Wildlife Research Institute. The Institute is located next to the Ramona Grasslands.

What to Expect

  • Bring your binoculars and cameras.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Educational demonstrations are provided to visitors.
  • Upwards of 100+ bird watchers show up at each event.

hawk-watchThe event is outdoors. If the weather is a little damp or cold, there will be a smaller crowd, which will give you a better opportunity for a more intimate experience. (Therefore, don’t let a little inclement weather deter you.) You will spend the first 1 – 1.5 hours standing on a hill next to the Wildlife Research Institute overlooking the Ramona Grasslands. (There are a few lawn chairs available but you may want to bring your own if you don’t want to stand.) The founders of the Institute will provide you an overview of their work and then give you an up-close look at a number of hawks, including red tail hawks and falcons. The birds are captured during the morning of the event so visitors can get a once-in-a-lifetime experience as they watch tracking devices get placed on the birds for future studies. Even with larger crowds, the guides will take their time to make sure everyone in the crowd can get a close look at these rare birds and take pictures. Guests are encouraged to ask lots of questions.

After the presentation, there will be time to visit some of the wildlife on the grounds, including owls and buffalo, review a number of displays, buy some books and gifts, and enjoy refreshments.

For the final part of the visit, guests will be asked to drive about a half-mile further north on Highland Valley Road for a better chance to see eagles, falcons, and turkey vultures in the wild. The exact location will vary. (This part of the visit is more informal.) Keep a close eye on where the guides go. Sometimes they will split up to a few different locations on the roadway depending on where they spot the wildlife and then set-up telescopes for visitors. Ideally, you should bring your own binoculars. From this point on, guests start trickling away as they get their fill of wildlife for the day.

Calendar of Events – If you can’t visit San Diego during January or February, there still be be an opportunity to see wildlife with the help of the Wildlife Institute as they occasional host events at other times during the year. Check out the calendar of events for these rare opportunities.

One-on-One Experience – If you help support the Wildlife Research Institute, you can access a number of amazing opportunities. You could even get the opportunity to personally help place a tracking device on an eagle out in the wild and track them as they travel on their journey.

Food – Coffee and light refreshments are available. Just a few miles east of the Wildlife Institute is the town of Ramona where you will find a number of restaurants.

Information on Visiting the Wildlife Research Institute

Admission Information:

  • Entry is Free
  • Hawkwatch 2013 is scheduled for Saturdays at 9AM – Noon from January 5, 2013 through February 23.
  • Become a Member and support the Wildlife Research Institute. You will be kept up-to-date on lectures and events as well as help preserve the natural habitat for eagles. The Nature Conservancy and the County of San Diego have help purchase several properties in the surrounding area, including the property of the late actor James Cagney,  to create the Ramona Grasslands Preserve. Over 4,000 acres of eagle habitat has been protected and the goal is to increase that size to over 7,000 acres.

Directions from Google Maps to 18030 Highland Valley Road in Ramona, CA 92065. (When you turn onto Highland Valley Road, go 2.2 miles to reach the Wildlife Research Institute. You will see a couple other wildlife related signs along the way but they are not related.)

Parking – There is no parking lot. Visitors will park along the shoulder of Highland Valley Road. It is best to park after you pass the Wildlife Research Institute because a part of the tour requires you to drive farther down the road for a better opportunity to see eagles and falcons.

Traffic – Traffic is light on the weekends for visitors heading to the Ramona Grasslands. If you plan to head over to the Ramona Grasslands on a weekday, avoid heading towards Ramona during the afternoon rush hour. (Note, there is currently no Ramona Grasslands visitors area.)

Transit – Sorry, but you will not find appropriate public transportation to Ramona. (Service is only provided from Escondido to Ramona on weekdays.)

Related Attractions – If you enjoy driving and scenic views, drive into Ramona on SR-67. (You may want to stop for lunch.) Near the opposite end of town, make a left on SR-78.  Within four miles, you will find yourself driving around hairpin turns along the side of a mountain with a panoramic view across a river bed to mountains on the opposite side of the valley. It will be the type of drive you see in car commercials. This will last for about five miles before you arrive in the San Pasqual Valley, where you can visit the San Diego Archaeological Center, San Pasqual State Historic Park, San Diego Zoological Society’s Wild Animal Park, and the award-winning Orfila Winery. After passing these attractions, you will only be a few miles away from highway I-15.

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: Mountains & Desert, North County Inland, Wildlife - Places to See |

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