Look up — that circling hawk symbolizes a delicate balance in Irvine’s open spaces

Conservancy Executive Director Michael O’Connell

With springtime fast approaching, Irvine Ranch Conservancy resource managers are preparing for an annual trek into the thick live-oak woodlands of Limestone Canyon.

They have majestic birds — and maintaining the critical balance between nature and humans — on their minds.

Limestone Canyon, OC Parks’ 5,500-acre nature preserve known for striking geological formations and pristine habitat, is the primary breeding and nesting ground for raptors such as hawks and owls that live in Irvine and elsewhere.

The red-tailed hawks you see soaring and calling overhead or perched atop light standards in the city, and the owls you hear hooting in the night, very likely were hatched in Limestone Canyon.

Out for the count

Each year, Conservancy managers working in partnership with OC Parks conduct a census of raptor nests in Limestone in an effort to prevent the birds from being spooked by human activity on nearby trails while they are incubating eggs or caring for young. When nests are located close  to trails, the trails may be temporarily closed or rerouted to ensure the birds are not disturbed.

Conservancy Executive Director Michael O’Connell says the organization’s efforts on behalf of nesting raptors is just one of many ways the Conservancy works with the land’s various public owners — including the City of Irvine, OC Parks and California State Parks — to ensure the health and viability of natural resources by balancing human activities with long-term stewardship and protection.

Preserving the land for future generations

“It’s all about actively maintaining balance,” says O’Connell, a graduate of the Yale University School of Forestry and  Environmental  Studies who has worked in conservation science and land management for more than 30 years. “The reason we pursue it so aggressively is to preserve the spectacular natural value of these lands for future generations. Sometimes it involves short-term sacrifices, but in the long run, we are all better off.”

Sheer magnitude of the land

Few urban areas on earth have as much pristine open space full of rare and unique species of plants and animals, O’Connell says. In addition, the sheer magnitude of the preserved land on The Irvine Ranch adds to its uniqueness, he says. That magnitude makes it possible for people to continually discover and enjoy new areas — even when a trail is temporary off-limits while raptors tend to their young.

Irvine Ranch Conservancy, with offices in north Irvine, was founded in 2005 to help make sure the vast, preserved natural open space lands on the historic Irvine Ranch are cared for and enjoyed to the highest possible standards.

Learn more at irconservancy.org. For upcoming activities on the land and volunteer opportunities, including the chance to participate in raptor conservation, visit letsgooutside.org

 

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