Many animals might hibernate for the winter, but this season can be prime bird-watching time for those in the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. While birds don’t have to contend with blizzards or snowstorms here, they do employ certain tactics to handle the colder-than-normal temperatures of winter. Avoiding wind and roosting away in small, heat-enclosing spaces are common behaviors exhibited this season, according to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which studies birds and other wildlife. But our feathered friends also battle the cold by hanging out in large flocks for greater protection and eating as much as possible – activities that could keep them out and about (and easier to spot) to the delight of avian enthusiasts.
Amateur bird-watchers or those looking to freshen up their skills can enjoy a leisurely paced walk on Sunday, Feb. 7, at Birding in Round Canyon. This activity, which originates in the City of Irvine and travels into OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve, is led by highly trained Irvine Ranch Conservancy volunteers who will help you develop your birding skills and gain a better understanding of what important role these species play in our world. Better Birding Basics: Raptors and Other Soaring Birds on Thursday, Feb. 18, will pay special attention to the bigger birds seen soaring far above. This is an optimal time to spot raptors feeling romantic – bring binoculars for a chance to check out courting rituals high in the sky. This program is part of the Better Birding Basics series, which will continue throughout the year. Check out LetsGoOutside.org/activities for more programs.
Those looking to experience the newly opened Mesa Loop trail while enjoying the sights and sounds of native canyon birds can search for our feathered friends Wednesday, Feb. 24, at Birding on the Mesa. Oak woodlands and coastal sagebrush line the trail in OC Parks’ Black Star Canyon, and the top of the Mesa provides optimal chances to spot birds in flight, all while taking in the scenic views of the Cleveland National Forest.
If you want to take a more active role in bird conservation, join us on Friday, Feb. 19, at Be a Friend to the Cactus Wren, where participants will help restore habitat necessary for the well-being of wildlife such as the coastal cactus wren. This bird – which the California Department of Fish and Wildlife lists as a “species of special concern” – makes its home in patches of old-growth prickly pear cactus. Past fires and land uses have diminished the number of mature cactus stands in the Landmarks, but simple actions such as seeding native plants can greatly improve habitat for the cactus wren. All training and tools are provided, and this activity is held on the third Friday of each month.
Winter offers memorable bird-watching opportunities for visitors to the Landmarks. All programs are free with required registration, which closes at 4 p.m. the day prior to the event. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. For more details on these activities or to register, click the titles above, or visit LetsGoOutside.org/activities.