Thursday, July 5, 2007

Two Days at Bolsa Chica

Good birding spots are like good friends: the longer you know them, the more interesting they get. Last Sunday, Glenn and I spent our millionth weekend afternoon at Bolsa Chica, and yesterday was our million-and-first trip there. And both times, we came away surprised.

My usual Sunday ritual is to rise at the crack of dawn, drive up to Santa Monica for a work-related meeting, drive back home (stopping in Little Saigon for some excellent banh mi to take home for lunch), eat said banh mi, and think about where we'd like to look for birds. This time, we decided to head to Bolsa Chica.

Up on the mesa of dying eucalyptuses, we spotted a young Peregrine Falcon perched in one of the bare trees. We explored the area for about an hour, and on the way out, saw the same bird, in the exact same spot. Glenn and another photographer decided that they wanted some in-flight shots of her, and they figured that since she'd been in the same spot for over an hour, she'd probably be taking off soon.

So we stood and waited. She just stood there.

We waited some more. She stared disdainfully down at us.

She hopped. The guys gripped their cameras.

And she casually hopped down to the base of the branch she was sitting on and grabbed a large hunk of meat that had been sitting there. Then she hopped back to her original post and began eating it.

Apparently, she had eaten the rest of this kill before, and had stored the leftovers nearby for later consumption. I posted a query about this behavior on Orange County Birding, and another birder told me that he'd seen a peregrine hording multiple kills—"much more than he could eat before it rotted"—on a high-rise windowsill where it had been nesting! (Thanks for the info, John!) So our Bolsa Chica girl wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary.

Yesterday, we returned to Bolsa Chica to see if we could find her again. She wasn't there, but we spotted a sea lion swimming from the north end of the lagoon towards the tidegates, and later saw him/her sunbathing on the retaining wall by the tidegates. A number of people came up to us and asked if we thought it was sick and needed help—I was wondering the same thing, and also wondering why anyone would think we had any clue about diagnosing the health of sea lions. Maybe our dorky birder gear made us look smart. Or Glenn's British Colonial accent reminded them of Steve Irwin. Or something.

We spent some time watching egrets and terns fishing in the area, then headed towards the footbridge. Just when we decided the area was unspeakably boring, we spotted this Brant:


Then we headed home (feeling greatly superior to all those poor shmucks still waiting to get into the beach parking lot across the street) and enjoyed the the rest of the holiday. A great benefit of living in a city where fireworks are legal is the free entertainment—all we have to do is step outside and watch our neighbors blow stuff up.

Almost as much fun as seeing a Brant in July.

No comments: