Sunday, July 5, 2009

Taking Wing at Bolsa Chica

Things were jumping at Bolsa Chica. Or perhaps I should say flying.

Every egret, heron, tern, gull, Willet, Brown Pelican, and Black Stilt seemed to be flying somewhere.

Terns and gulls nesting in the distance with a Snowy Egret flying across the pickleweed in the foreground.

Willets winging it over the pickleweed.

Snowy Egret touching down.

Snowy Egret flying off to new adventures.

Snowy Egret coming in for a landing. Looks like he is taking a bow.

Snowy Egrets taking off again.

Black Skimmer flying over the water.

Black Skimmer skimming the water heading for a Snowy Egret.

Black Skimmer skimming closer and closer to the Snowy Egret.

Missed it by that much.

Another Snowy Egret off to check out the rest of Bolsa Chica.

Great Egret splashing as he zeroes in on a fish.


Looking for the best way to swallow it.


Another catch! This one smaller.

Ahhh, nothing like a good fish for breakfast!

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Encore at Bolsa Chica

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a nesting area for Least Terns, Forster's Terns, and several other terns as well.

Noise is the main thing you notice at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in the Spring. There are terns flying everywhere and diving into the water. They fly high and so low that they whiz by the heads and shoulders of people standing or walking on the footbridge.

Pickleweed is a major part of wetland habitat and is useful for many animals and birds.

Pickleweed is prime foraging area for Willets, Belding's Savannah Sparrows, and in the winter rare bird the American Bittern. It provides shelter for those birds plus the Marbled Godwit. It is a wonderful place for the Black-necked Stilt to raise its young. In the spring, it is in the pickleweed you will see nesting Black-necked Stilts and their young.

Snowy Egret fishing in the shallows.

If you are out at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, notice the different feeding techniques the Snowy Egret has. It shakes its leg in the shallow to stir up the fish and other animals, but stands in deeper water with its head close to the surface. Circumstance changes strategy.

Mutt and Jeff. Snowy Egret in the foreground and the much larger Great Egret behind it.

Snowy in the foreground is small in comparison to the much larger Great Egret. I have mentioned before in this blog that when people see the Snowy Egret and the Great Egret together they often erroneously assume that the smaller egret is the the larger egret's baby, but both are adults. Just two different species.

As a Least Tern plunges into the water after a fish, a much larger relative, the Black Skimmer skims the surface of the water for fish to snap up and eat.

A Great Egret in flight.

Black Skimmer flies through. Notice that the lower mandible is much longer than the upper mandible. This makes skimming much easier.

There were lots of flying birds at Bolsa Chica today.

A sting ray in the water.

I love standing on the bridge and looking at the parade of sting rays that goes under the bridge. Also some great underwater life including fish and things that look like coral to me but probably aren't.

One Least Tern gets lucky and then gets chased for its prize.

When a bird gets a fish, it also gets a following. Luckily, this bird only has one tern on its tail. It is like eating with a large family. Eat fast or someone else will eat it.

Time to rest on the bridge. A Forester's Tern.

Great Egret coming in for a landing.

A group of several Snowies and a Great Egret came flying in together. An unusual group.

Another case of a bird with a fish and an entourage. This is a Snowy Egret.

But the Snowies and the Great Egret weren't merely keeping this little Snowy company, they were after his very large fish. He wasn't about to give it up. It was a huge fish. I don't know how he would ever get it down.

The Snowy with the fish takes off and they all take off in hot pursuit.

The Snowy, crest raised in annoyance, headed out for a more isolated eating spot with his "friends" in hot pursuit.

This Snowy is persistent. No fish yet for this patient Snowy.

A few false tries.

Success. Snowy gets a wiggly little fish.

For Egrets and Herons, persistence always pays off.


I just love watching Willets. They are so cute. They often come near the bridge. Their call is so loud and the bold black-and-white pattern on their wings contrasts with their usual drab, gray plumage.

Another Willet in breeding plumage. Usually they are just plain gray.

Black Skimmer at Bolsa Chica from OC Birder Girl on Vimeo.

I love to see Black Skimmers, bills open, skimming the water for fish and other goodies. They snap their heads up when they catch something. I love to stand by the bridge or the channels to see them fly by, bills in the water, hugging the shore.

Being able to walk onto the bridge as I heal from falling and injuring my knees, is such a blessing. Sticking to what the doctor recommends is hard, but I have no desire to land back in square one again. Too much, too soon had me on meds and with ice packs and even a cane. However, I am improving daily and keeping as active as I can. For me, birding in Orange County is always like a healing balm to the soul. Have fun out there birding in Orange County. Climb a hill for me! I'll be right behind you by a few months!

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Walking Across the Bolsa Chica Bridge

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve still where I left it. The spring sounds of about a thousand terns of various sorts filled the air in a strangely soothing way. All photographs and text on this blog unless otherwise stated are copyright © Karen McQuade (the OC Birder Girl and author of this blog). All rights reserved.

Well, after almost two months of not being able to go on any walks due to double knee injuries and other assorted knee maladies, I was finally able to get out for a mini walk across most of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve footbridge. Just what the doctor ordered: A short walk on a flat surface. Packed my Mom, who also loves nature, in the car and headed to Bolsa Chica.

Willet in breeding plumage. The green, green pickleweed of Bolsa Chica in the spring.

The breeze was still blowing at the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. The Willets were still foraging in the green, spring pickleweed.

Belding's Savannah Sparrow perched on a mussel shell ready to shake off after a bath. Lots of snail and mussel shells sticking out of the wetland mud.

The Belding's Savannah Sparrows were still flitting here and there in the pickleweed. One took a nice bath in the shallows, and then perched on a mussel shell that was poking out of the mud. It shook the water out of its feathers and sat there in the sun for a moment. The weather couldn't have been nicer. Cool breeze and warm sun. California beach weather.

Great Egret fishing in the shallows.

There were Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets intent on a meal. I love the graceful way these slender white birds look wading out in the water.

Snowy Egret fishing in the middle of the water.

Morning is a great time at Bolsa Chica. I drank it in after having been away for so long. Thought I was getting bored with it, but it is a little bit of heaven. It is a favorite place where the cares of everyday life just drop away. I never will understand people who bring it with them here and yak on their cells or pipe in music that drowns out the natural beauty of where they are. It is hard to find friends who just want to be quiet out in nature. They are rare jewels.

Snowy Egret on his way somewhere as he passes over the footbridge. Notice his yellow feet.

There were lots of birds in flight, flying right over us on the bridge.

Snowy Egret and a Great Egret for comparison.

When you see a Great Egret and a Snowy together, the differences are obvious. The major difference is the size. The Snowy Egret is small and has a black bill. The Great Egret is much larger and has a yellow/orange bill--tipped in black in breeding season, but still yellow/orange.

This Great Egret was fishing by the footbridge.
There was a Great Egret (above) fishing while getting periodic bomb-diving from the terns who were very unhappy he was in one of their favorite places. This is not unusual. Many Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets get harassed by the terns who don't like competition. Sometimes on rare occasions, they fight back. Mostly they ignore them and keep on fishing.

A beautiful bird. The Great Egret is a graceful bird.

I watched him for a while as he crept through the water looking for fish. Even took a video of him catching a fish. See below.

Great Egret Catches a Fish from OC Birder Girl on Vimeo.

Forester's Tern fishing.
The tern--Forester's Terns, Least Terns, and Elegant Terns--are everywhere calling without ceasing. Flying high in the blue sky and low over the bridge just missing us, giving out with their raspy cries as the zip by.

Snowy Egret.

Black Skimmer skimming for fish.

I love watching the Black Skimmers skimming along the water by the shore. They are so big and fast that it is hard to see that their bills are open skimming the water.

Black-necked Stilts were flying from one area of pickleweed to another.

Seems like the Black-necked Stilts got smart and are building nest farther from the bridge. I love to watch them flying with their dark pink legs trailing out behind.

Willets still foraging as we head out.

It was a short, but sweet walk, and we headed back to the car both feeling more relaxed and peaceful.

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Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

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