Peter, alongside Scott Thomas of Kidd Biological, now work together to survey Orange County’s open space and train volunteers to assist with nest monitoring efforts. According to Peter, raptor populations have seen significant declines in Orange County since he started surveying them in the 1970s. Since IRC’s raptor monitoring program began, the location and quantity of raptor nests within the landmarks have fluctuated over time, but overall have remained relatively stable. Experts continue to work to understand how variables such as wildfires or heavy rains are affecting fluctuations in nest numbers. Some of the raptors observed nesting within the Landmarks throughout IRC’s monitoring efforts include the Cooper’s Hawk, Golden Eagle, Barn Owl, White-tailed Kite, Great Horned Owl, Long-eared Owl, Northern Harrier, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, and the Red-shouldered Hawk, with the Red-tailed Hawk proving to be the most abundant nesting raptor.
Irvine Ranch Conservancy relies on volunteers to help with raptor nest monitoring once the nesting sites have been located, providing the community’s bird enthusiasts with a way to contribute to real-world science and the well-being of the Landmarks. The volunteers in this program receive training from experts in the field to learn professional monitoring techniques that will help avoid any disturbances to the birds or their nests. These “Citizen Scientists” are assigned a nest and work closely with IRC staff to report updates to the program coordinator while keeping a safe distance from the nests.
IRC is working closely with Bloom to develop nest specific protocols to ensure monitoring efforts do not negatively impact nesting behaviors. As raptor nests are incredibly sensitive and can be subject to nest failure from public interactions, meaning adult raptors may abandon their nest if disturbed, it is recommended that the public keep a distance if they are not properly trained. The IRC team will place signage near known raptor nest sites to alert users and encourage them to keep noise levels to a minimum or use an alternate route. Guided activities can be re-routed or canceled in order to avoid sensitive areas during critical phases of the nesting process. These efforts can appear inconvenient at times, but they are done to ensure Orange County’s raptor population continues to thrive for generations to come.
Additionally, the team is working to implement new mapping technologies to better communicate active nests to partner organizations which can help minimize impacts on nesting behavior. To learn more about IRC’s research and monitoring programs and volunteer training opportunities, visit IRConservancy.org, LetsGoOutside.org or follow the Landmarks on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.