The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are home to diverse habitats that include coastal sage scrub, chaparral, valley grassland, oak woodland and riparian forest communities, and within those communities are many species of rare plants and wildlife. With National Endangered Species Day approaching on May 19, celebrating rare species on the Landmarks is simple with a trip into the great outdoors.
While many of the animals on the Landmarks can be elusive and avoid human contact, sightings have been reported over the years during free activities. Discover what plants and animals are endangered or species of concern, and register for a free program to celebrate all the plants and wildlife found on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.
- The Tecate Cypress (Hesperocyparis forbesii) only lives in Southern California and northern Baja California, and can be found in OC Parks’ Fremont Canyon Nature Preserve. After a fire in 2006 left much of the Tecate Cypress on the Landmarks burned away or severely damaged, stewardship programs have been a vital part of the restoration process. Seedlings are grown on the Landmark’s nurseries then planted on the lands, and hundreds of the little trees have been returned to the landmarks over the last decade. Since the Tecate Cypress takes 30 years to produce seeds, their conservation relies on the volunteer work and care from Irvine Ranch Conservancy stewards.
- The coastal California gnatcatcher is a little bird with big charm. Known by its scientific name, Polioptila californica, this songbird is known for its distinct chirp that sounds like a kitten’s mew. Identifiable by its gray plumage and long black tail, the small bird is native to Southern California’s coastal sage habitats and feeds on small insects and spiders found within their surroundings. The California gnatcatcher was listed as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1993, largely a result of diminishing coastal sage scrub. Now listed as a species of concern, the gnatcatcher has been experiencing an increase in numbers and is a beloved species on the Landmarks. Many birding programs discuss various wildlife and migratory patterns that can been seen on the lands. Various stewardship programs promote the growth of coastal sage scrub, which helps create more habitat for the gnatcatcher to live in.
- The cactus wren is another little creature that’s native to Southern California, and needs a healthy habitat to thrive. The threatened species is known for its speckled brown plumage and scratchy call, and is easy to spot due to an active temperament. They can often be seen jumping and hopping throughout coastal sage scrub, and perch atop cacti and other plant life. Known by their scientific name as Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus, these small birds live in habitats that need support from volunteers. Be a Friend to the Cactus Wren by joining a stewardship program in the City of Irvine’s Open Space Preserve.
- Peregrine Falcons are fierce predators that can dive as fast as 200 miles per hour to hunt for prey, and after years on the endangered species list, are making an incredible comeback. They experienced a dangerous drop in numbers from the 1950’s – 1970’s due to pesticides used by farmers, but are now found throughout the United States and occasionally on the Landmarks. Identifiable by their black head, blue-gray back and white underbelly, they have a wingspan that can reach nearly four feet and have been spotted in OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon and the City of Newport Beach’s Buck Gully.
- Bald Eagles have been the national emblem of the United States since 1782, and after many years on the Endangered Species list, are experiencing great recovery. These powerful fliers can reach a wingspan of up to 8 feet, and have been known to nest on the Landmarks. They primarily nest near large bodies of water and over the last two decades they’ve been spotted near Irvine Lake, Peters Canyon Regional Park, and on rare occasion in Limestone Canyon.
Irvine Ranch Conservancy offers a full calendar of activities and free, guided programs that include hiking, mountain bike rides, horseback riding, habitat restoration and special events for nature enthusiasts of all ages and fitness skill levels. Visit http://LetsGoOutside.org for more information and to register for free today.