Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Birding Hot Spots in Orange County, California

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Are you looking for great places to bird watch in Orange County? You have come to the right place. Birding in Orange County, California is a great adventure because Orange County has many habitats from wetlands to mountains to forest. It abounds in Ecological Reserves, Nature Centers, State Beaches, Regional Parks and natural areas--all filled with great birding opportunities. Orange County is also right in the middle of the Pacific Flyway where birds migrate in Spring and Fall. The chance of seeing a great variety of birds and seeing rare birds is very high. Orange County, California is a birder's delight. So, if you are wondering where to go birding in Orange County, check out the links below.

Storm Clouds Coming in above Upper Newport Bay
Orange County is blessed to have multiple wetlands and wildlife areas. Three major area are Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Upper Newport Bay, and the restricted Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge. Others include smaller wetlands like San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary which is part of the San Joaquin Marsh and Talbert Nature Preserve. Wetlands and wildlife areas are the perfect place for birds to rest or to winter over. If you want to see shore birds, herons, egrets, loons, grebes, terns, and lots of wintering ducks, stop by one of wetland areas in winter and you will be amazed at how great birding can be in Orange County. No hunting allowed at these locations.

Wetlands, Wildlife Reserves, and Sanctuaries

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve early morning reflections.

North of Bolsa Chica.  This is actually the same as Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge.

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

The absolute crown jewel of Huntington Beach. An awesomely restored wetlands with an interpretive center and cool, picturesque foot bridge. There are thousands of birds here every year with lots of breeding and wintering birds. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a major stop on the migration route of many species. An amazing place to go birding. Bird watching is easy and varied here. From Osprey to herons and hummingbirds, this is a great place to bird. A great place to add to your life list. Stand on the foot bridge or hike back onto the mesa or by the Winterberg Channel. Birding is awesome at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

Former duck gun club turned wildlife sanctuary is a stone's throw from the Newport Back Bay. It consists of a series of ponds and wetland areas that area stocked with fish. Wildlife has an easy walk or flight from one to the other. It is part of the larger San Joaquin Marsh. The other half is managed by UCI. This is a great place to bird. The headquarters of Sea and Sage Audubon and another location showing up frequently on the Orange County Rare Bird Alert. Great place to go birding in Orange County. Headquarters of Sea and Sage Audubon is located here in the Audubon House. Lots of birding books, DVDs, videos, and birding clothing. Displays. Sea and Sage hosts a bird walk once a month and other birding events. This is the heart of birding in Orange County.

National Refuge on the property of Seal Beach Naval Weapons Center. Restricted access. A wetlands area. Lots of breeding and migrating birds. Bird walks held periodically.  Anaheim Bay is part of the refuge.

The Talbert Nature Preserve in Costa Mesa is bisected by Victoria Street. It contains 180 acres of varying habitat including Native Grasslands, Riparian, and wetlands. One boundary of this Preserve is the Santa Ana River.

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary

Twelve-acre wildlife preserve run by Cal State Fullerton in Modjeska Canyon. Out far into the boonies of Orange County. Adjacent to Cleveland National Forest. Watching birds near their feeding station is fun.

Mature groves of Western Sycamores and Coastal Live Oaks. Seasonally flowing creeks.

With Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Upper Newport Bay is home and rest spot to thousands of birds every year. A bird watcher's paradise. Also has a wonderful interpretive center--The Muth Interpretive Center . You can drive through one side, but there are also many places to walk and bird watch. You can see Red-tailed Hawks and Osprey, shore birds, herons, egrets, loons, grebes, wintering ducks. From October to March the Upper Newport Bay aka Newport Back Bay is alive with wintering birds. Periodic bird walks. See my blog on the Upper Newport Bay by clicking here.

Located along the ridge line of Anaheim Hills. Wilderness area. Great place to see hawks.

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Wilderness Parks and Natural Areas

"4,000 acres of wilderness and natural open space land" is how their website describes it. A designated wildlife sanctuary. Meandering streams, mature trees.

Irvine Regional Park is full of mature oak trees that attract Acorn Woodpeckers.

Regional Parks

Regional parks are large parks that offer many amenities such as natural areas and recreation like fishing or sports or family barbecues. They also offer great habitats for resident and migrant birds. Many have trees, grassy areas, and lakes stocked with fish. It has everything a bird could want. That is why when you are birding in Orange County, you should check out some of our regional parks.

Park encompasses 124 acres. It includes 10 acres of redwoods.

This park is 105 acres and has a lake stocked with fish. It is located in Buena Park.

Stream meandering through Craig Regional Park.

Beautiful Park with grassy land, lots of Wood Ducks and streams running through the park. Lots of sports activities. Located in Fullerton.

According to the Orange County website "Featherly Regional Park is a natural riparian wilderness area." Access is restricted.

One of the oldest Orange County regional parks named after the man who donated the land, James Irvine. Is in Orange, not Irvine. This park is a beautiful example of a mature oak woodland. The park is full of wildlife and has a lake. In addition, you will find benches and barbecue areas. There is a zoo, a little train, a nature center with displays, and horse and pony rides as well as areas to play sports. A terrific park. Lots of Acorn Woodpeckers and other birds. Often appears in the Orange County Rare Bird Alert.

Great park with a lake that shows up frequently on the Orange County Rare Bird Alert.

Great park in Irvine with a lake. Shows up often on the Rare Bird Alert. Has a Western Blue Bird nesting box program and hundreds of fledgling fly off from Mason Regional Park every year. All sorts of water birds frequent the lake.

A mile on each side, hence "Mile Square" Park. Has two lakes, a golf course, and a nature center. Lots of picnic tables and benches. Beyond crowded with families barbecuing on holidays.

Very nice drive to the park down a tree-lined street. Nice park with oak trees, but very dry during a drought.

Park with a more natural look. It is 354 acres of nature. The park has a reservoir where many waterfowl can be found.

Park has burned twice--arson both times. Nice bird feeding station that you can watch from inside the ranger building. Lots of birds here. Sea and Sage leads a walk monthly in the park. This is a very popular place with birders. Lots of other wildlife as well.

Harriett M. Wieder Regional Park

Is currently a four-acre park with plans to develop to 106 acres.   It stands strategically between Huntington Central Park and Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and appears on birding sites with some interesting sitings including raptors, warblers, and sparrows.  Eventually trails will run from Huntington Central Park to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve through Harriet Wieder Regional Park.

This park covers 175 acres and is adjacent to the Santa Ana River. Great place to bird.   Yorba Regional Park is a long, narrow park that parallels Santa Ana River and the 55 Freeway.   There are trails and lots of trees.  It does have a lot of freeway noise.   However, there is good birding there and several small lakes.

Mason Regional Park

This is a big park. Over 31 miles long, it is very important for birds and other wildlife. Over 60 miles of trails. Mature oaks and sycamores. Grassy hills. Close to the Riverside County line.

Crystal Cove State Park
This park has beach and back country hiking. The beach side is beautiful. The hills of Crystal Cove are something to see and to hike. You will see lots of raptors and Turkey Vultures. Parking is pricey.

Huntington Lake at Huntington Central Park

City Parks

Harriet Wieder Park

In process. Looks like it will be great when it is finished.

One of the jewels of Huntington Beach. This huge park has two sides and boasts two lakes (one very seasonal) small wetlands area, two outdoor-indoor restaurants, a huge library, theatre, outdoor stage, a world-famous nature center (Shipley), equestrian center, Frisbee golf, a dog park, and more. A birder's delight. Frequently on the Rare Bird Alert. Don't miss Shipley Nature Center located in the park's west side. A must for birders. A place for great birding from herons and egrets to hawks and Turkey Vultures to hummingbirds. Don't miss this birding hotspot. Great birding all year long.

Laguna Lake Park in Fullerton

Located in Fullerton, not Laguna. Equestrian Center. The lake is stocked with fish.

A 5-acre park. Adjacent to the Santa Ana River which can be mere trickle in droughts.

Pelanconi Park in Anaheim

A 27-acre park. Has a picnic area, nature trails, and streams.

Tri-Cities Park in Placentia

Appears often in the Orange County Rare Bird Alert. Eight-acre stocked lake. Picnic areas. Concerts in the park.

Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Central Park

Nature Centers

Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach

Awesome little nature center built by faculty and staff of the adjacent high school. It is often on the OC Rare Bird Alert and has a Butterfly House in Spring and Summer. The nature center's building with displays is brand new--a major change from the trailer. Great displays and information. The new nature center building was built to very high environmental standards and is about as "green" as a building gets.

Irvine Open Space Preserve Nature Center

Nestled in Turtlerock Park, this little Nature Center is very near the Irvine Open Space Preserve. It has many habitats and many different kinds of birds.

Nix Nature Center

OC Newest Nature Center. Headquarters of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

Oak Canyon Nature Center

This little gem is located in Anaheim Hills among the houses. You get lost in the oaks, paths, and streams. Home to many animals and birds.

Located in Huntington Central Park, this nature center was reclaimed by volunteers and re-opened. This modest nature center is world famous and has been featured on Huell Howser.

Oak Canyon Nature Center


Fullerton Arboretum
Gardens with lake. Run by Cal State Fullerton.

The Sherman Library & Gardens in Corona Del Mar--Orange County

Small garden in Corona Del Mar. Very nice.

National Forest

Orange County/San Diego--Cleveland National Forest

Forest stretches from Orange County south deep into San Diego County.

The Great Park

The Great Park

The former El Toro Marine Base is being developed into an amazing park. The park will encompass 1,347 acres. Hence the name, The Great Park. It will be one of the largest metropolitan parks in the United States. It will link existing wildlife areas into one large area from the Cleveland National Forest to Crystal Cove State Park and the Pacific Ocean. Great for wildlife. There will be wildlife areas, a botanical garden, and lots of sports and cultural events. It is a very political hot potato, but promises to give much to Orange County. We have had few gardens, so a botanical garden of this scale will be a great addition to Orange County as well as the wildlife areas.

Orange County Beaches

The OC is famous for its beaches and surfing. The shorebirds love our beaches, too as do terns, gulls, cormorants, Brown Pelicans, and lots of other birds. Bird watch at these great Orange County Beaches.

Orange County, California is a great place to bird. Don't miss it.

OC Birder Girl Links
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Rules at Bolsa Chica

Wall of Glass

The Birds of Bolsa Chica Versus Brightwater's Wall...

Walking the Wall 12/23/2008

Carr Park in Huntington Beach

Central Park in Huntington Beach

Shipley Nature Center

A Walk in Huntington Central Park East

A Walk in Huntington Central Park West 10/15/2007

A Walk Among the Fall Leaves at Huntington Central...

Central Park after the Rain

Environmental Nature Center

Irvine Open Space Preserve Nature Center

Mason Regional Park

Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve aka Newport Back Bay

Muth Interpretive Center at Upper Newport Bay

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Tewinkle Park -- Costa Mesa


Cindy said...

Nice list! Have you ever tried Gum Grove Park in Seal Beach? Or Los Cerritos Wetlands? (which is partially in OC adajent to Gum Grove Park). I go birding there often and I've seen quite a variety, including a Great Horned Owl family, Loggerhead Shrikes, Belted Kingfishers, White Tailed Kites, Red-tailed Hawks...just to name a few of my favorites. For such a small area it has a great variety.

Joshua J said...

Thanks for the assistance. I have been looking for good places to go birding around Costa Mesa while visiting my brother. I can say from my last trip that Bolsa Chica is fantastic and I hope to try more of these areas listed.

Orange County Birder Girl said...

Thank you for stopping by, Cindy. I have been to Gum Grove Park very briefly, and plan to return and bird there again. Thanks for commenting!

Orange County Birder Girl said...

Glad the list of birding spots was helpful, Joshua. I agree, Bolsa Chica is fantastic! Have an awesome times birding in Orange County. Thanks for stopping by.