Monday, August 01, 2005

Chasing Egrets

Reddish Egrets, to be precise.  The birding community was abuzz with sightings of Reddish Egrets (Egretta rufescens) at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach. It will be a lifer for my wife, Cynthia, and myself, so we decided to go Saturday morning, July 30th. It has been said that the egrets only appear when the tide is low. The tide will be at its lowest, so we read, around noontime.
We intended to park at the Warner Avenue area but we were stopped by volunteers who were getting ready to clean-up the general area. We parked at the main parking area at PCH instead. Most of the people we met were already leaving, somewhat disappointed that they have not seen the now famous Reddish Egrets. Undaunted, we hiked the trail all the way up to the bluffs beyond the tidal gate, following a group of photographers lugging their humongous lenses. Along the way, another photographer pointed us to a very cooperative Great Blue Heron. 

And then not too far from it, another cooperative bird, this time a Black-crowned Night Heron, allowed me to take some close-up pictures.

On the bluff midway between the tidal gate and Warner Ave, the photographers with the big lenses set up their gear and watched and waited for the egret to arrive. We watched and waited with them, taking pictures of the other denizens of the lagoon below. There were Black-bellied Plovers, Western and Least Sandpipers, Long-billed Curlews, Marbled Godwits, Willets, Long-billed Dowitchers and various peeps all congregating on the bountiful mud flats that surfaced as the water slowly ebbed.
Noontime came and still no sign of the elusive bird. Our stomachs were starting to grumble so we reluctantly left the bluffs and went back to the boardwalk one more time to check out if the Egrets somehow managed to get there without being seen by the people at the bluffs. Not seeing any sign of them and with hearts sinking, we drove off into PCH to look for a place to eat. Glancing to my right as we drove along, I thought I saw a somewhat dark egret in the middle of the lagoon. Must be hunger, I thought to myself, that gave me these visions. As we turned right to Warner, I noticed that the parking lot there had now been opened and the volunteer cleaners had started to leave. I told Cynthia to give our search for the Reddish Egret one more try. To my delight, she agreed. After parking the car, I scoped the area where I thought I saw the egret and although the distance was quite great, I was now convinced that it was actually there. I looked up the bluff and saw the photographers (yes, they were still there) training their lenses towards the bird that I saw. I literally sprinted the half-mile distance (at least that's how it seemed to me) to the top of the bluff. Gasping for breath, I looked down, and there in all its beauty was the Reddish Egret, frolicking and gamboling in the lagoon, doing its quaint little dance, doing pirouettes, half-flying in the air, darting to catch a tiny fish in the shallow waters. We watched this avian ballet for about an hour and then, as if on cue, the prima ballerina exited stage left, leaving its audience awe-struck. We almost applauded and shouted Bravo and Encore! But it went on to another location for what we presume to be another sterling performance with another audience whose hearts would be enraptured by the dazzling dance of this divine diva of Bolsa Chica!

We left the place very happy and all the excitement seemed to have diminished our hunger that we even had our lunch at West Covina - a good half hour away.

No comments: