Did you know that hundreds of bird species are migrating to and through Orange County throughout the year, and that the winter migration period is an especially good time to see a variety of birds in the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks as they make their way south along the Pacific Flyway Migration that spans the west coast of the Americas?
These regular seasonal movements of bird populations, known as migrations, are in response to changing weather as well as availability of food and nesting locations. Most bird species travel south in the winter in search of more temperate climates.
Some bird species that can be seen here year-round -- like the Yellow-Rumped Warbler with its distinct yellow back-end -- enjoy much more robust numbers in the winter. Other species passing through on their Pacific Flyway Migration can only be seen here in winter, like the Cedar Waxwing with wing tips that look like they’ve been dipped in bright red candle wax.
As much of the country collects snow this time of year, driving species to hibernate or migrate south to warmer climates, Orange County comes to life in winter. The arrival of much-needed rainfall during relatively warm temperatures makes the land more attractive to bird species looking for food or nesting locations.
During the winter nesting season, land managers may adjust the level of activities in certain locations to improve the nesting environment. From about February until May, trail sections known to have nesting birds nearby may be closed in order to give various bird species a chance to hatch and rear chicks without interference from people, but there are plenty of places to get outside and see all kinds of birds in action. In OC Park’s Limestone Canyon, for example, the Raptor Trail is used seasonally to bypass parts of the Limestone Canyon Trail. There are usually many hawk nests very close to trails, so use of this bypass trail allows visitors to hike to The Sinks without disturbing nesting bird populations.
The City of Irvine’s Bommer Canyon or OC Parks’ Agua Chinon and Round Canyons are also particularly excellent locations for bird enthusiasts of all levels to explore the beautiful abundance of our winged friends.
Birding is a great activity for nature-lovers of all ages and abilities, and while bird watching can be done in any number of parks and beaches, or even in your own backyard, there are plenty of upcoming birding events.
Visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/Activities to register for upcoming programs—binoculars are provided if you need them. These programs are free and require pre-registration for all participants (children and their parent or guardian).