Holy Stalactites, Batman!

Sometimes I can't help but think that the only wild animals that live and thrive in Orange County are limited to the seemingly countless seagull population, the occasional unidentifiable roadkill, the ducks that hangs out in any of the various fountains that adorn UC Irvine's campus and the sparrows that have chosen to roost outside my bedroom window.

So maybe, if you are anything like me, you'd be pleasantly surprised to discover that there are actually bats that call our county home. And even more pleasantly surprising, that there is even a land conservancy located in Rancho Mission Viejo.

The Donna O'Neill Land Conservancy is a 1,200-acre wilderness reserve that is predominantly made up of oak woodlands, coastal sage scrub and grasslands. Many endangered and rare species of wild animals and plants can also be found within Conservancy grounds, including the mountain lion, bobcat, Southwest Arroyo Toad and much, much more. Life beyond those rows upon rows of earthen-toned, Spanish-tiled houses and condos does exist!

Thankfully, Orange County isn't all suburban sprawl. The Conservancy offers a night walk hosted by bat biologist Stephanie Remington, who has surveyed the county in detail for its bat population and—surprise again—they're everywhere from your neighborhood to wildlife habitats. Bring a flashlight and learn about bat life, habitat and natural history from an expert! You'll also experience the bat detector, which converts out-of-frequency bat noises so that we humans can hear them!

Bring the kids and show them Orange County animals beyond that obese Chihuahua in a tiara and tutu they saw last week at Fashion Island.

The Donna O'Neill Land Conservancy, 28672 Ortega Hwy., San Juan Capistrano, (949) 489-9778; www.theconservancy.org . Sat., 7 p.m. $8-$10. Call for reservations. Adults and children 12 years and older only, please.


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