Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation news

By Jay Wilson

Amateur Photo Contest

The 25th annual Amateur Photo Contest is underway through May 31. You are encouraged to enjoy the park, and pause to take that special picture to be entered into our contest. Take advantage of all the spectacular wildflower blooms and spring growth provided by the winter rains and warming weather.

Children 12 and under are also encouraged to participate. Check our website under “More News” for more information. Hash tag: #mtrphotocontest.

Hawk of the grasslands: Northern Harrier

As a landscape and wildlife photographer, my favorite subject when hiking Mission Trails is anything that flies. Late January, despite the weather, I made a circuit of the grasslands and spotted what appeared to be a hawk flying low across the very tops of greening purple needle grasses.

I could tell from flight mannerisms, this was not a Cooper’s, Red-Shouldered, or Red-Tailed Hawk. Across the open field it flew, then pulled straight up climbing hundreds of feet aloft to soar, hardly beating its wings as the wind was quite strong.

A Northern Harrier Hawk takes flight at Mission Trails Regional Park. (Photo by David Cooksy)

I sat along the edge of the trail, very near the kiosk where roadrunners are frequently spotted, to watch and photograph this spectacular aerial display. It was not until later examining photographs, and with assistance from Wendy Esterly, that a positive identification was achieved: a young Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus). The Northern Harrier is a medium sized raptor, migratory, and common throughout North America, including Southern California.

While this species may reside in San Diego County, this was my first encounter. As of Feb. 18, 2017, this same hawk was spotted again, this time perched on a tree near the grasslands.

—by David Cooksy

Volunteer at Visitor Center

David Lee, the MTRP Visitor Center director, is looking for individuals interested in volunteering two four-hour shifts a month in the Visitor Center: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and/or 1 to 5 p.m. Contact Lee at 619-668-3278 or email   

Events at Mission Trails
Looking for a great venue for an evening event? The Mission Trails Visitor Center and Terrace is the place for up to 350 people. Contact Maggie Holloway at 619-668-3280 for more information.

—Jay Wilson is president of the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation. Reach him at

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