Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Walk at Bolsa Chica

Looking out from the bridge at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

Note that this post was added out of order, but since I started it before the Central Park walk, it appears here. So, no you are not crazy if you didn't think this was here the other day.

Took a short walk before church. The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve was somewhat quiet, but there were some birds close to the walkways and easy to view. I like to stand on the bridge and see what's in the water. On the bridge, there is usually the morning cadre of men and their humongous telephoto lenses. I usually feel so incredibly amateurish--which of course, I am. The professionals have camera equipment that probably cost as much as my car. I ignore the camera club, try not to be overly intimidated, and look in the water. Usually I see fish, often small. My friend Ron, a serious fisherman, identified some as smelt. And then there are some of those invertebrates that the birds like herons and egrets, godwits and you name it eat out in the shallows. See the little worms and other icky, squiggly invertebrates below. What is that stuff?

Life below the surface at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Fine dining for some.

The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a natural fishery. Technically, according to the Amigos de Bolsa Chica, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a tidal salt marsh. Here salt and fresh water meet and form an environment that is full of nutrients and the fish that feed on them and the birds that feed on the fish and the invertebrates that feed on the nutrients. For far more detailed and accurate information than I can give, see the Amigos de Bolsa Chica page on Birds and Science. To print out a checklist to use when going to the marsh, click on check list. There is also an interesting check list of animals at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve--something I don't always think about, but they are there. Shrimp, sea hares, snails, clams, mussels, crabs, fish like topsmelt and mullet, and sharks and stingrays. Some of the birds--like the Great Blue Heron and the hawks eat small mammals. The list mentions two mammals: cottontail, ground squirrels, and two kinds of lizards. It doesn't mention mice or rats, but I wonder about that.

Eared Grebe on the surface before a sudden dive. Can you see his foot?

For a long time the only pictures I got of Eared Grebe looked like this:

Where an Eared Grebe had been a mere second before.

Some of my shots still look like this. This is because the grebe family in general and the Eared Grebe in particular makes very sudden dives under the water. The secret to getting a good look at an Eared Grebe is that this bird is often a very shallow diver and can easily be seen below the surface of the water. So follow him as he swims after the fish and then take your picture or train your binoculars on him as he surfaces. An Eared Grebe's feet are placed far back on its body. In the picture of the Eared Grebe two pictures up, you can see his feet far back on his body under the water where you might imagine a tail might be. Obviously, walking is very difficult for grebes.

A pair of Eared Grebe.

There is a lot of Eared Grebe activity at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and other similar environments now. Lots of popping up and down under the water. I saw a lot of Eared Grebe activity last year at this time of year at Golden Shore Marine Biological Reserve Park and its environs, and at Lake Balboa in the San Fernando Valley. In fall and winter, the Eared Grebe looks drab, but come April and breeding season, they become quite flashy. You wouldn't recognize them. Below is a picture from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. I believe that is a chick on the parent's back:

Eared Grebe all Gussied Up in Breeding Plumage. Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

They do get into breeding plumage before they leave for their nesting grounds. I think I saw an Eared Grebe with chicks this spring at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. I am not sure about the ID though.

Willets, Marbled Godwits, and Dowitchers huddling in the wind.

For several days this group seemed to like this place to hunker down when the cold winds blew.
Like many Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve photo ops, this group has been snapped hundreds and hundreds of times I am sure.

Mirror, Mirror in the water. A Great Egret Fishes in the waters that reflect his every move like an elegant ballet for two.

This beautiful Great Egret fishes with gracefully slow movements and strikes quickly like a snake when it locates its prey. The light was just right, and this Great Egret danced a beautiful duet with its own reflection as it hunted for food.

Snowy Egret Takes a Break and Surveys the water scape.

The usually active Snowy Egret takes a break from its frenetic fishing style to study its surroundings. This little guy took it easy and perched here for quite a while. You can barely see his yellow feet.

Great Egret takes wing and flies to a quieter area as a group jogs across the bridge.

For some reason, people jog noisily across the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve Bridge. It doesn't matter if wildlife is close and can be startled or if people are lined up taking photos or studying wildlife, the jog must go on. It cannot be slowed for birds or people with purposes other than their own. And so they thunder across the bridge, annoyed no doubt that about a dozen birders and photographers are in the way of their jog. It's one of my pet peeves which I usually keep to myself, knowing that we all share this wonderful place and that I can put up with a few joggers to keep the peace as I walk and watch the wonders of this place.

I remember years ago two groups who came to a different, but similarly beautiful place. One came to walk--very quickly-- and one to slowly meander through and bird watch. The walkers scared the birds and ruined the bird walk over and over again. I was in one group and one of my dear friends was in another. Well, things got ugly. We were both stunned. Loud, harsh words were exchanged between the leaders. Righteous indignation expressed. Trust me, it was not pretty. My friend and I witnessed this fiasco on two different days. And that was not the only time it happened from what I heard. Way too much stress for either birding or walking. I can't imagine it was good for the birds either. Understanding another's viewpoint rarely--if ever--comes through disrespectful exchanges. tente is far more likely to be built through respectful exchanges and relationships. So when I am tempted to say something, I remember the brouhaha. Then I smile and greet the joggers who in actual fact may be no more narcissistic than I.

A Motley Crew of Double-Crested Cormorants, Brown Pelicans, and assorted gulls and terns.

When the tide is such that little sand bars or islands are left, crowds of birds come to light and rest on their little isle in the midst of the shining waters. It is fun to check out the groups and see what is there. Often there are Black Skimmers, too, but not this time.

It was a beautiful, but short morning. I hurried over to the service and praised God for the beauty of the wildlife, water, and landscape of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

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