Location: Campus Drive and Riparian View in Irvine
Hours: Everyday, dawn to dusk
Fees: Parking and entrance free
Comments: Over 300 acres of coastal freshwater wetlands, nearly two-thirds the size of New York City's Central Park. Visitors can walk along 10 miles of well maintained level trails, rest on the benches, bird watch or simply relax under a native willow and listen to the sounds of nature. The sanctuary includes more than 200 bird species, including Grebes, Pelicans, Cormorants, Bitterns, Herons, Ibises, Geese, Ducks, Quail, Osprey, Hawks, Falcons, Coots and many more. Besides birds, you will find a good assortment of other critters like rabbits, frogs, lizards, squirrels, butterflies, etc. This is a photographer's wonderland. The bird count vary greatly month to month, so I suggest checking the Audubon web site for their past census information. For example, over 350 White Pelicans can be found in October, but less than five of these beautiful birds during the months of May and June.
Kelly and I visit the sanctuary about once a month, and we have yet to leave without some great photo opportunities. Tripod or monopod is highly recommended, as well as sun screen, a hat, and some water. Most of the wildlife is at a distance requiring at least a 200mm lens. Kelly and I use the following lenses 70-200mm, 300mm, 100-400mm. We find the 1.4x teleconverter a good addition for that extra reach. There is some good macro work too, especially early morning during the Winter months when the vegetation is covered in dew. There is excellent cellular telephone coverage throughout the sanctuary.
Directions: From the southbound Costa Mesa Freeway (55) take the southbound exit to San Diego Freeway (405); exit Jamboree and head south (toward Newport Beach); turn left at Michelson (1st signal); turn right at Harvard (5th signal); turn right at University (1st signal); turn right at Campus (1st signal); turn right again immediately after crossing bridge and enter the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary on Riparian View. At the end of the road make a sharp left. Park and enter the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.