Talbert Nature Preserve is located in the City of Costa Mesa and includes almost 200 acres of “planned” natural habitat, developed into “islands”. The Preserve is a bit difficult to find the first time out since it is sandwiched between Fairview Park and the Santa Ana River Channel and is found in two separate sections, divided by Victoria Street.
It is best to explore the Talbert Nature Preserve by first parking at Fairview Park on Placentia Avenue. Get on the trail and head north. This will get you to a steep, but gradually sloped hill which leads down into the Preserve. Or, use the recently constructed staircase at the northwest area of Fairview Park. About 100 steps and you’re near the entrance to the Preserve.
The northern section of Talbert Nature Preserve includes about 100 acres and is the most visited since it is closes to the parking lot of Fairview Park. The southern section is approximately 90 acres and is far less visited. There are several different habitat islands throughout the Preserve, separated by the walking trails, including; sand dunes, native grasslands, coastal sage scrub, or alluvial woodlands.
The dense and diverse plant life makes the Preserve a haven for small animals, and where there are abundant amounts of small animals, you will find the predators. In this case it’s mostly the winged kind. On any given day, you can spot several different birds of prey soaring overhead or perched on a treetop looking for a meal. Red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, white-tailed kites and turkey vultures are often seen at Talbert Nature Preserve. This might be the best place in the county to get a birds-eye photo of a raptor in flight, since they often soar by at the same elevation as the adjacent bluff.
Trees at the Preserve include Freemont cottonwoods, bay laurels, oaks and sycamores. There are also many California native plants here, including beach evening primrose, coyote bush, manzanita, mulefat, sagebrush and our state flower, the California poppy.
The well-maintained, multi-use trails are about the only facilities you can count on, so when you come down to Talbert Nature Preserve (AND YOU SHOULD!) bring comfortable shoes, water and a hat, because it’s quite a walk back to the car.