Great horned owl

Autumn sunsets are a magical time for watching wildlife

by jenny rigby

With sunset occurring ever earlier in November, Irvinites on their way home from work or school can watch for local wildlife that is active at dusk. Best spotted as the sun sets, these include deer, rabbits, bats and some owls, which time their outings to avoid animals that are active by day (diurnal animals) and those active at night (nocturnal animals). In some cases, they do so to avoid predators. In other cases, like with barn owls and great horned owls, it’s to avoid competition later at night.


Irvine’s open space preserves offer premium places to watch for animals active during the sunset switch, beginning in late afternoon. Be mindful of posted hours. Sit quietly, watching and listening for these sights and sounds:

Great horned owl

The great horned owl has long ear tufts, a circular face and large yellow eyes. Considerably larger than a barn owl, it belts out a series of hoots.

Barn owl

The barn owl, with its telltale heart-shaped face, relies on its binocular vision and keen hearing to navigate dark skies and snatch its prey. Listen for its raspy karrr-r-r-ick screech.

Mule deer

Named for its large ears, the mule deer grazes on grasses, berries, twigs and acorns, according to the season. It snorts loudly when alarmed, escaping danger by “stotting” – springing into the air with all four feet leaving the ground at the same time.

Tree crickets

Several species of tree cricket live in Southern California. The most common is Riley’s tree cricket, whose call is a pulsing string of “treet-treet-treets.” Only the males chirp, rubbing the edges of their front wings together.

Jenny Rigby is an environmental planner, teacher, writer and director of Acorn Group

Connect With Us

"*" indicates required fields

By registering you are agreeing to the Irvine Company Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.