Word recently spread among birders in Orange County of a rare sighting: a long-eared owl was roosting in the San Joaquin Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary.
A quarter-century ago, this was degraded marshland overrun by black mustard, cocklebur and artichoke thistle.
Now, thanks to Irvine Company and the Irvine Ranch Water District, this 300-acre marsh stands out as one of the most successful wetland-restoration projects in the nation.
It is home to about 38,000 native trees, 24,000 native shrubs and more than 280 species of birds, including the threatened peregrine falcon and the endangered willow flycatcher and least Bell’s vireo.
The marsh also acts as a natural water filter, cleaning more than 6 million gallons of water each day that drains into Upper Newport Bay.
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View video on the San Joaquin Marsh