Friday, September 26, 2008

Crack o' Dawn at Bolsa Chica

Early morning at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Just before 6:30am, I roll into the PCH parking lot of Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Some people might think I would be the only one there. They would be wrong.

Photographers crowd the damp footbridge to catch the morning light.

The early morning shadows and warm light draw the usual suspects to the bridge and they snap away as birds fly over and talk between shots. It's almost always men. Sometimes a woman or two passes through, but this is a guy thing. Like a fishing camaraderie. Like hunters, they talk about the perfect shot they got, or the one that got away. It is aperture and f-stops and powerful lenses. Just the guys hanging out.

A Snowy Egret--Egretta thula lands on the bridge.

I take my time. I have two hours before work. The crisp morning air is filled with Willets and other birds waking up, and the murmur of guy talk down the bridge. The footbridge is covered with dew and the railing is decorated with drops of dew ready to drop into the water below.

Waking up.

A Snowy Egret--Egretta thula lands on the wet railing and watches the sunrise. I watch him. I like how the warm morning light falls on his white feathers. It's morning. He seems to be waking up and getting ready to drop down into the cold morning water by the bridge.

Sting ray passes under the bridge.

There is life under the bridge as well. Sting rays on parade pass under the bridge. Is the Snowie watching them, too?

Getting his feet wet.

The Snowy seems to be annoyed finally with his wet feet. He takes a few swipes at his wet feet and flicks the drops into the water. Despite several tries I cannot get my video to focus on him in this light.

Snowy Egret--Egretta thula in the golden morning light.

The Snowy and I both enjoy the golden sunrising over the Bolsa Chica.

Anything that lands on the bridge is a celebrity and the bird paparazzi gather.

Sooner or later any bird who lands on the bridge railing--other than a Rock Dove (Pigeon)-- becomes popular. All the photographers--myself included--gathered around the Snowy on the railing.

A Brown Pelicans--Pelecanus occidentalis splashes down to catch fish.

The shadows and the golden light make for some beautiful scenery and action. I watch as a Brown Pelican fishes in the first light. Unlike American White Pelicans who fish all night if need be, the Brown Pelican usually needs the light for his kind of fishing.

Double-crested Cormorant--Phalacrocorax auritus.

Looking away from the Snowie, I see Double-crested Cormorants out in the water that may have been fishing all night. I decide to move on and see what else is out this beautiful morning. I pass through the crowd of guys on the bridge and they make way, moving their tripods and rumbling low good mornings as I pass. Gentlemen all. Like a tip of the hat, then the are back to the intricacies of photography. Advising each other and reminiscing.

The post is a resting place for many birds at Bolsa Chica. Resting here to groom itself before beginning to fish is a Great Egret--Ardea alba.

As I move on down the bridge, I see the silhouette of a Great Egret--Ardea alba. It is preening itself as it sits on the post that seems to be a favorite perch for many of the Bolsa Chica birds from terns to egrets and herons.


The Great Egret is busily tucking every feather into the right place after a good night's sleep. He has no time to notice me.

Are these anemones? I am not up on underwater animals. They are pretty whatever they may be.

I keep walking. Others have been this far already this morning. I am not the first or even one of the first this morning to walk beyond the photographers.

Footprints of early risers on the Bolsa Chica bridge.

As early as I get up, I am always surprised that there are so many people there before me.

Fish in the water by and under the bridge.

I like to look in the water and see what life is teaming beneath the rippling surface. This morning fish are definitely teaming in the waters by the bridge. It will most likely draw terns and Brown Pelicans later in the day if they stay. I like it when I can stand on the bridge and terns and Brown Pelicans zing past me and splash into the water. Too bad I have to work today.

Great Egret--Ardea alba on the post.

As I pass the Great Egret and get on the other side, the light that cast him or her in the shadows now casts a warm light on its white feathers.

There are always Willets--Catoptrophorus semipalmatus in the pickleweed at Bolsa Chica.

As I walk along I look down and see Willets foraging in the pickleweed beside the bridge.

A Great Blue Heron--Ardea herodias hunts in the pickleweed.

The Willets are not he only ones at this buffet. A Great Blue Heron is hunting in the channels, puddles among the pickleweed.

Wet-headed Willet.

The Willets' heads are soon wet with dew from the wet pickleweed.

Bridge shadow on the pickleweed.

The bridge itself casts a shadow out into the pickleweed. I can't resist a shot or two. The bridge has so many moods depending on the time of day, the weather, and who is on the bridge. It is very photogenic.

Black-crowned Night Heron--Nycticorax nycticorax hunts by the pickleweed.

Black-crowned Night Herons are nocturnal and can be seen in early morning and a few hours before sunset. They can be seen in daylight in breeding season as they try to keep up with their nestlings' demands for food. But today, it is fall and he will probably soon head for a quiet place where he can sleep undisturbed.

More Snowies fishing in the shallows past the bridge.

A Great Blue Heron--Ardea herodias flying away to quieter haunts.
A Great Blue Heron flying by looking for a quieter place to fish.

On the shore, shorebirds. Marbled Godwits--Limosa fedoa.
I love silhouetted shorebirds, and seeing several great silhouettes this morning brought a smile to my face.

Brown Pelicans--Pelecanus occidentalis.
A Brown Pelicans--Pelecanus occidentalis flying overhead looking almost prehistoric. Creation. It's amazing. Time to head back across the bridge. I hurry across. The guys and their cameras had thinned out a little. Moving their tripods, smiling, rumbling their good mornings again and nodding as I was passing through. "D'you have a good time?" one man was saying. I murmur that I did and hurry on.

A huddle of Marbled Godwits--Limosa fedoa and Willets as usual out in the pickleweed.

The pickleweed is full of groups of wing-to-wing Marbled Godwits and Willets. They always hang together and are almost always out in the pickleweed by the bridge. Today they are hanging like the guys on the bridge.

Almost looks like this Snowy is bowing.

A last fishing Snowy as I approach the parking lot. It may be the one that was on the bridge earlier. Or perhaps another. It was a beautiful morning of birding at Bolsa Chica. Ahhh. I feel relaxed. There is a peace that settles on me. Early morning birding is like a nice cup o' tea. A good way to start the day.

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