Friday, January 25, 2008

Irvine Regional Park in Orange, California

James Irvine II for whom the park is named hunting with his dogs.

Irvine Regional Park is one of the oldest parks in Orange County. Even before it became an actual park, German setters from Anaheim used it as a picnic area. It was the German settlers from Anaheim that named it the "The Picnic Grounds" back in the late 1850s or early 1860s. After it was purchased by the Irvine family, it served as their picnic area as well. The park was donated to the county by James Irvine II. (statue above) in 1897. The statue honoring him shows him hunting with his two dogs. The Park is named Irvine Regional Park because James Irvine II gave the park to Orange County. The park is actually in the City of Orange. (See the map at the end of this post to get directions.)

Acorn Woodpecker in one of the many Coast Live Oaks in the park.

The park is filled with old Coast Live Oaks, grassy lawns, and sycamores. Some of the oldest Coast Live Oaks in Orange County grow here. The mature trees give the park a very woodsy, established feeling. The park has many trees and phone poles peppered with holes many of which are stuffed with an acorn.

Granary Tree with holes made and stuffed with acorns by the Acorn Woodpecker

The bark of many of the older trees is scarred by the many thousands of holes up and down the tree thick trunks. The sound of Acorn Woodpecker rings out throughout the park as they drill holes, tend their acorns in the trees, and eat them. Poles and trees filled with acorns by the Acorn Woodpeckers are called granary trees.

Smokey Barbecues fill the park on weekends.

The park has many amenities. Amenities include picnic tables, barbecues, benches, and bathrooms, throughout the 400 plus acre park . It is a great place for a family picnic as the families and smoking barbecues at this park testify every weekend. There is a snack stand where you can go up to the window and order snacks, hamburgers, hotdogs, drinks, and ice cream. There is even an ATM. The concession stand opened in 1897.

The Recreational section of the lake. The lake was first dug in 1913.
The lake is broken into two separate, but connected sections. One is a more recreational part with large paddle boats for rent. You can still see ducks and other water birds there.

The more natural end of the lake

It also has a quieter protected part of the lake. Because the lake is stocked, it is inhabited by ducks, herons, egrets, Double-crested Cormorants , and American Coots. No paddle boats allowed. Around the lake Peacocks and throughout the park, Peacocks roam, calling loudly.
Peacock walking early in the morning near the lake.
You are more likely to see the Peacocks walking around earlier in the morning. Later they find perches in the trees and on the cages at the zoo. One interesting picture was a Peacock perched on top of the Turkey Vulture Cage.

The little train the winds through the park near the lake.
There are also many things to do at Irvine Regional Park. They have a snack bar, bike rentals, paddle boat rentals, and what looks like a recumbent bike for two. They also have a small train that runs through the park in the area by the lake, plus pony rides, and horse rentals. My little niece loved the horses.

The Orange County Zoo near the Nature Center and the train
And there is a zoo that has animals that would run wild in California like Turkey Vultures, owls, Coyotes, a Bobcat, Porcupine, and Mountain Lions. Most of the animals are also wild in Orange County and in Irvine Regional Park.

A Mountain Lion relaxing in the shade at the zoo.

At least some of the animals in the zoo appear to be animals that cannot make it in the wild. It is a small zoo, but fun.

The Nature Center
The Nature Center is in one of the fine old park buildings built of wood and stone. Inside are displays with animals like bobcats, coyotes, deer, acorn woodpeckers, and more. There are historical and natural history displays. There are interactive displays and docents to help you understand the displays.

Inside the Nature Center
I enjoyed the nature center and so did my five-year-old niece. It is child-friendly, yet interesting for adults as well.

A pathway through a few of the many mature oaks and other trees in the park.

The park has lots of benches to sit and enjoy the park, and lots grass of to lay down a blanket or set up chairs for picnics. The dappled sunlight filtering through the trees as they blow in the breeze will easily lull you into an afternoon nap.

Lots of grass and trees.
Plenty of area for games and running around. It has a family kind of feel.

Places to rest or just watch nature.
Lots of benches make it a nice place to stroll and rest, or sit and talk. This is a great date park, or family park. Great park for kids. Ideal for photographers. This park has something for everyone.

One of the many mature oaks in the park.

The mature oaks attract birds and squirrels. There is a lot of activity due to the oaks. In the park, you may also see deer, mountain lions, bobcats, opossums, raccoons, and lots more wildlife.

Immature Double-crested Cormorant drying its wings after a dip in the lake.

In addition, it is a great birding place in which you are guaranteed to see Acorn Woodpeckers, Wood Ducks , Mallards, and lots of park ducks. You may see Nuttall's Woodpeckers, Audubon Yellow-Rumped Warblers , hummingbirds, Ravens, Western Bluebirds , Ring-necked Ducks, Great Horned Owls, Western Screech Owls, feral parrots, starlings, and more.

A male Wood Duck swimming in the lake.

In addition to the developed part of the park, there are trails to the wilderness area around it. The Villa Park flood basin--which is a popular place for birders--adjoins the park, and other trails wander off into the hills. There are many options for birding since birds are all over the park. You can stand in line at the zoo and watch an Acorn Woodpecker stuff an acorn in one of the many holes in the phone pole by the entrance. Or you can head for one of the less busy sections of the park and see other kinds of birds. It is a great place to bird. Next time you are looking for an interesting place to bird watch, check out Irvine Regional Park.

View Larger Map

OC Birder Girl Links
Bird Walks and Nature Programs in Orange County
Birding Hot Spots in Orange County, California
Acorn Woodpecker--Melanerpes formicivorus
Wood Duck--Aix sponsa

External Links

Irvine Regional Park
The official park site.

Irvine Regional Park Trail Map
Print out a trail map of the park.

Annual Regional/Wilderness and County Beach Passes

Information about purchasing annual passes.

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