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Rare birds

Here’s a blog post on a completely different subject — but given that I am a versatile blogger, I figure what the heck? Maybe someone can help me learn something here.

Today I drove down to Orange County to have lunch with a very dear friend in a restaurant where we have often shared long lunches. I think we were there nearly an hour today before we even got around to ordering food.  We had a lot of catching up to do, as the last time I saw her was last April when Kurt was still able to walk for short distances. Soon, however, we were both giggling like teenagers (all without assistance from anything stronger than decaf for me and iced tea for her!). By the time we finally went our separate ways, nearly three hours had passed. It couldn’t have been a more perfect lunch.

I wasn’t done, though. From there I went up to Huntington Beach to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, which has been one of my favorite places to go birding since I first went there probably 15 years ago with the only birding class I’ve ever taken. Back then, they were just getting started with restoring the wetlands; today it is a fully restored tidal system that also has miles of walking/running trails and raised observation mounds with benches for serious birding or simple relaxing.

Almost as soon as I left my car I noticed a flock of large white birds far across the water. I thought they might be white pelicans but they were too far away to be sure. I zoomed in as far as I could go with my camera but still couldn’t say for sure. I had to download the photo to my PC when I got home and then zoom in on that before I could positively identify them as white pelicans. Any day that includes white pelicans is a blue-ribbon, all-star, heavy-metal birding day as far as I’m concerned.

But that was just the beginning. There were literally thousands of water birds there today, and I was working my middle-aged brain overtime trying to remember the names of what I was seeing. I knew the beautiful boy whose photo appears just below was some sort of teal, but the light was too bright for me to view my bird ID app on my iPhone, so I had to come home before I could verify that he was a green-winged teal — listed as “common” at Bolsa Chica but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one before.

I think I saw all of the local varieties of grebe, including my favorite, the western grebe, although I didn’t get a good photo of him. There were dozens of northern pintails, buffleheads, and ruddy ducks, hundreds of American wideons (whose call sounds exactly like the little squeak that yellow rubber duckies make), and all the usual common birds for this region including great egrets, snowy egrets, bazillions of coots, and a large variety of sandpiper-type birds that I can never tell one from another.

Then I saw the bird that really astonished, and still eludes me. When I first saw it I was sure it was a reddish egret, but I’ve never seen one before except way down in central Baja California where I did a gray whale watching ecotour a couple of years ago. When I got home, my bird ID app confirmed that they shouldn’t be this far north. The only other two possibilities I can come up with are little blue heron and tri-colored heron. All three birds are shown as “well, maybe sighted once or twice” on the list for Bolsa Chica.

Here is a photo of a bunch of reddish egrets that I took down in Baja:

Notice how they are striding through the water. Sometimes, they run through the water in what looks like a crazy, drunken dance. Unlike other large water birds they don’t wait for fish to come to them; they chase after the fish.

So here is the bird I saw today. The colors, size, shape and mannerisms immediately made me think “reddish egret!” The photo is blurry but I hope that someone out there in the blogosphere sees it and can tell me what I saw. Any ideas? Anyone?

By the way, this slow happy runner had her GPS watch on, so I can tell you that I walked a leisurely 2.89 miles today. I feel strong, well loosened up, and ready (I hope) for a good long run tomorrow morning. More importantly, I got to spend time in a very special place… a place where it is possible to see, hear, and feel the natural world and become oblivious to the fact that there are cars whizzing by at 60 MPH on PCH quite nearby. It is in places like this that I feel most alive and at peace. I need to be out there, completely absorbed in nature. I feel whole there.

I guess I’m a bit of a rare bird myself.