Thursday, March 15, 2012
The Reddish Egrets of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands
When I’m not hanging around Parker the sea lion, Ollie the sea otter, and Noodles the penguin at the Aquarium of the Pacific, I like to spent my free time taking in the local wildlife found around Southern California. One of my favorite activities is to head down to the Bolsa Chica Wetlands to take in the “Dance of the Reddish Egret”.
During my walks along the water’s edge at Bolsa Chica I sometimes come upon enthusiastic birders who ask me if I’ve seen them. The “them” that they are referring to is the reddish egret. A bird that has become quite a celebrity amongst local bird watchers hoping to include it in their life list. An exotic expatriate more normally found along the Gulf of Mexico this small group of reddish egrets that forage at Bolsa Chica are considered a rare sighting in California. A restored wetland that is only a few miles down the coast from the Aquarium of the Pacific, Bolsa Chica has seen these reddish egrets hang around the area for the last several years.
What makes these egrets quite fascinating to me is their dance-like foraging behavior. They will travel in a serendipitous manner while knee deep in the water along the banks hunting for the small fish and other critters that make up their diet. When they find a promising disturbance underwater the reddish egret will extend its wings out like a fan while looking at the shadow the wings are casting on the surface of the water. To me it seems like that they are using their wings to cut down on the glare on the water and to scare up prey. The way that this elegant bird moves reminds me of a Japanese Odori Dancer with a fan. It’s quite an entertaining way to spend a morning watching these birds.
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