Cindy Hardin, Director of Outdoor Education & Volunteer Coordinator

Photos by Leslie Davidson

Our Ballona docent group was greeted by birds aplenty immediately upon our arrival. Within minutes we had the Reddish Egret in our view.

Our Ballona docent group was greeted by birds aplenty immediately upon our arrival. Within minutes we had the Reddish Egret in our view.

Docent training at Ballona began on September 13th, and sessions were well attended by both new and returning naturalists. The group was treated to several fabulous speakers that shared information about various aspects of the wetlands, including the archeology of the indigenous people of the region, invertebrates and bids that are found at the wetlands, and the historical ecology of the site.

It has become an annual training tradition to include a docent field trip to the Bolsa Chica Wetlands in beautiful Huntington Beach, along with our on-site sessions. Our neighbor wetland to the south is a lovely spot, with diverse habitats that include an upland section, tidal marshes and a connection to the open ocean. Training coincides beautifully with the Fall Migration, and we always have a chance to see birds that are returning to spend the winter in Southern California, and others that are using Bolsa Chica as a stopover to re-fuel and rest as they undertake their long seasonal journeys.

Fifteen Audubon docents arrived at the Bolsa Chica parking lot at 9 am on September 22nd, and almost immediately an Osprey soared directly overhead. The marsh was at mid-tide, and abuzz with avian activity. Shorebirds were probing the mudflats, and Forester’s Terns were scooping the topsmelt that was present in the thousands. As we walked the four mile loop trail that included the upland area of the mesa, it seemed that every bird we saw was on the hunt for a meal. As we descended the mesa we caught the cooling breezes coming off the ocean, which were quite welcome on the sunny day.

All of that walking and birding (and watching the birds forage) brought on hunger pangs for the human participants, so we finished up with a delicious lunch at a local Mexican restaurant that is usually part of this excursion.

The Bolsa Chica Wetlands are a mere 45 minute drive from the LAX area. If you have never had a chance to visit it is something to put on your list. Los Angeles Audubon’s docent group makes this trip every year, and anyone and everyone are welcome to join us. If you would like to be informed of next year’s trip, please drop me an e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I would be happy to notify you when planning for next year. Don’t worry-we won’t try to rope you into being a docent! But, after you see how much fun is included in our activities, you might just want to become part of our group of wonderful volunteer naturalists.

Meanwhile, if you have a little time on your hands before September 2017, and are looking to “head south” for the day, Bolsa Chica is open from dawn to dusk daily, and well worth the trip.

Thanks to ace staff photographer Leslie Davidson for the beautiful photos.

The Reddish Egret soon broke into her dance as we watched. She is actually herding fish in the shallows by flapping her wings and kicking her legs. This species was rarely seen north of the Mexican border until recently, but several have been present at Bolsa Chica in recent years.

The Reddish Egret was not the only bird looking for lunch, and the bird on the right has met with success! These Marbled Godwits are recently returned from their summer sojourn to the northwestern states. Although Godwits spend their winters in estuarine habitats, they summer on the prairies of places like Idaho and Washington, where they nest in the tall grasses.

There was lots of foraging on view during our visit. This White Pelican was having great success in the pocket wetland section of Bolsa Chica. Every fall large flocks of these birds make a stopover at Bolsa Chica for a much needed rest as they journey to freshwater habitats further south.

The juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron was the rare bird sighting of the day. Like the Reddish Egret, this bird was once rarely seen north of the Mexican border. We were lucky to catch this one, and it was quite cooperative in posing for its close-up.

There are plenty of snags at Bolsa Chica, and they are a favorite perch of the Ospreys that reside there. We saw lots of mullets in the shallow waters of the marsh, which help to keep the Ospreys fat and happy.

This Semipalmated Plover was keeping an eye on our group between probes in the mudflat as he searched for invertebrates.