Spring is a common time for animals and birds to have their babies, meaning humans aren’t the only ones celebrating Mother’s Day in the coming week. Many species in the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks such as mule deer time their mating behavior to produce young in the spring, when conditions are more favorable for newly born animals. Longer days mean more time to find food, and the traditionally warmer, wetter temperatures of spring mean more abundant resources for young species.
Bobcat kittens are likely in the City of Newport Beach’s Buck Gully Reserve, and mule deer are common in OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve. A wildlife monitoring camera, which is used to document the health and populations of animals in the Landmarks, captured one of this spring’s first fawn sightings in early April. (Read more about the Wildlife Monitoring Project here.) Younger reptiles and amphibians are also commonly seen in spring. Tadpoles spotted in Santiago Creek weeks ago have now grown into baby Western toads, and babies from smaller lizards such as Western fence lizards and coast horned lizards could make more of an appearance as the season continues.
From high up in trees to nests on the ground, springtime is all about the babies for many bird species. Visitors to areas in the Landmarks where raptors are nesting – such as the City of Irvine’s Orchard Hills – may come across signs advising silence to not disturb the nesting birds. In OC Parks’ Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park, a killdeer has been seen diligently guarding her four recently laid eggs, as well. Quail – a bird known for running rather than flying – is another common species to see with its young out in the wild. Keep an eye out for the mom and dad leading their chicks in a run across many trails throughout the Landmarks, notably in the City of Irvine’s Quail Hill and along paved Hicks Haul Road in Limestone Canyon.
Those looking to celebrate Mother’s Day outdoors can enjoy the warmer spring weather – and maybe even catch sight of some of the baby animals mentioned above – during a variety of programs on the Landmarks. Consider gathering a group of friends and loved ones, and checking out some of these family-friendly activities the weekend of Mother’s Day:
- Wild Tales, Friday, 5/6: Parents and children can enjoy story time, and arts and crafts, followed by a short nature walk tailored for kids as young as 2 years old.
- Wilderness Access Day: Black Star Canyon, Saturday, 5/7: Spend the first part of your day exploring designated hiking, biking and equestrian trails on your own.
- It’s Harvest Time! Collect Wildflower Seeds at the Native Seed Farm, Saturday, 5/7: Help harvest seeds from wildflowers such as California poppies and arroyo lupine at the Native Seed Farm.
- Caminata Familiar/Family Hike to the Canyon, Saturday, 5/7: Take an easy stroll along a paved trail during this hike, which is led in English and Spanish. Families can learn about native plants they’ll see along the trail such as sticky monkeyflower and bush sunflower.
- Orchard Hills Evening Hike, Sunday, 5/8: Those who want a more strenuous outing can hike a 3-mile loop up several steep climbs, which rewards visitors with stunning views of Irvine and the Pacific coastline.
Exploring the Landmarks is a unique, adventurous way to celebrate your mom and the many new animal moms this spring! Click the titles above for more information or to register, or search for all upcoming programs to take the family to at LetsGoOutside.org/activities. These programs are free with required pre-registration, which closes 4 p.m. the day prior to each activity. Minors must be accompanied by an adult guardian or parent.
Quail and killdeer photos above courtesy of National History of Orange County: nathistoc.bio.uci.edu