February 23, 2013: Local wildflower expert Bob Allen led a 3-hour exploration of the Richard and Donna O’Neill Conservancy with a group of wildflower enthusiasts looking for early spring wildflowers. One very special flower was already bursting to life along the Sycamore Loop Trail. The Conservancy has the largest remaining fields of Padre Shooting Stars in all of Orange County and these spectacular flowers covered the hills with their beauty. Other highlights of the morning, some already in bloom were – Blue-eyed grass, School Bells, Pacific Sanicle, Coast Paintbrush, Western Lady’s Mantle, CA Buttercups, Popcorn flowers, Hillside Hedge Nettle, Checker bloom, Fiesta Flower, Carolina Geranium – just to name a few. More highlights, were observing insects and learning their special characteristics – like the bumble bee’s “buzz pollination” and the coyote dung beetle’s diets, comparing Coast Live Oak and Engelmann Oak leaf characteristics (look for the hairy armpits!), and listening to birds like the Wrentit – “the voice of the chaparral”. It was another great day in the wildlands of Orange County.