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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