Tuesday, May 02, 2006

For the Birds!

For a college project, this past Saturday Ariana and I took a trip to Bolsa Chica Salt Marsh, one of California's last natural wetlands. Interestingly, I was intrigued by the "world" just east of the Pacific Ocean. It amazes me that despite the growing number of developments nearby (including an oil-drilling cemetary) and the congested and gaseous highway off the banks of the marsh, this beautiful ecosystem continues to exist.

Upon stepping onto the boardwalk that stretches across the marsh, we became interested in a type of "egret" (we'll call her "Snowy" because you know me and my naming convention?) which stood (or floated, whichever way you were looking at it) so majestically, donned in white feathers. Snowy was in no particular hurry and didn't seemed at all bothered by the pestering "California Tern" (we'll call this one "Terry") hovering just feets above her. In fact, Snowy was so laid back, she was like a cottonball on top of the water being blown side to side by the light breeze. I tried to get a close up picture of Snowy with my brand new camera phone (because the zoom lens is 100x better than any digital camera or Minolta zoom lenses out there!!!) but chickened-out (no pun intended) for fear of dropping it in the water below. So now you'll just have to use your imagination. She must have been bored by the fact we were admiring her beauty. She began to take off in some awkward flight pattern as though she was pedaling on top of the water (talk about walking on water!) but Ariana pointed out that Snowy was having difficulties lifting herself upwards because she appeared to be simply "too heavy". She was struggling quite a bit and began to flap her long wings in desperation. For a minute there I thought I saw Snowy's tongue hanging out to the side in pure exhaustion. But once she was able to use the wind beneath her wings (hey, isn't that a song?) to her advantage, she was off and running to her new destination...the grassy banks nearby. While in flight Snowy was by far my favorite UNTIL the inevitable happened. She decided to unleash a load of "waste energy" while in mid-air. She didn't make it in time to her grassy throne.

So off to observe the tern (Terry). He was quite the busy-bee as he was seen hovering above us. He zoomed in and zoomed out and I could have sworn I heard what sounded like small jet engines on his wings. He was FAST! He had a keen eye for prey down below as he dove swiftly into the water and quickly exited after either missing his target or successfully grabbing lunch. Terry was quite the funny bird. Ariana and I began to walk further down the boardwalk but were frequently visited by Terry as he landed on the railings. He was a ham too. He loved having his picture taken. After each snap of the camera lens, he would turn to the other side, and we'd snap-away at his other profile. Once we started to walk away, he squawked at us. Fine! "I'll take just 2 or 3 more but that's it, Terry! You're hogging up camera time!" I squealed. Great, I'm talking to birds now.

On our way back to our car, we were instantly amused by this cute little Eared Grebe (we'll call him "Elmo") with red eyes (how fitting) who loved to swim. Showoff! He stayed under-water more than he surfaced. He was hunting wabbits! Ooops, that's Elmer Fudd. He was hunting, alright. But for worms or small fish. In the shallow water (which to him was probably FEETS deep) you could see Elmo jet from one place to another, using his webbed-feet to paddle him along, after pushing off the ground floor. He was quite the entertainer. I think he knew he had an audience. He was back-paddling, and spewing water out of his bill out in the air, humming and whistling...just kidding. You'd think that by his acrobatics - summersaults and flips. I could almost hear that Elmo voice of his singing along to some Sesame Street tune. At the end of the trip, Elmo won the award for "Best Performance by a Bird".

If you are looking for a place to take the kids for a small nature walk or if you're remotely interesting in bird-watching, I recommend the Bolsa Chica Salt Marsh. It's nature at its best! Bring binoculars, a light jacket or sweater (maybe a hat to cover your precious "do" from incoming bombs) and have a great time. We did!

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