Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

What do you do when you visit Anaheim, Calif., but aren’t going to Disneyland?

Well, besides joining 35,000 other Yankees fans to watch your favorite nine wreck the Angels, I’d suggest visiting the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

At the recommendation of a message board I frequent, my parents – Randy and Robbie – Veronica and I went to check this place out when in California recently.

Seeing it from a distance, it doesn’t look like much. There is a busy highway next door, some oil derricks spread throughout the preserve and oil platforms on the open ocean a few miles away.

Great Blue Heron babies are weird looking, but it was still an amazing sight to see.

We found a parking spot and figured we’d give it a brief look and then find something better to do.

But appearances can lie at times.

Throughout our 2-mile stroll throughout the refuge we saw Sand Pipers, pelicans, Snowy Egrets, a Great Snowy Egret hunting and eating a lizard, Great Blue Herons and their babies, a Pacific Angel Shark, some crazy colored ducks and so much more.

Saw this shark cruising the shallows. Weird looking creature.

The highlight for me was definitely the blue herons and the babies. We had lots of blue herons that lived near our house in Tacoma and I see them occasionally flying around Nampa, but I’ve never seen a nest.

There was a stand of palm trees on a hill overlooking the refuge and each tree had a blue heron nest in it. They were pretty far away and I have terrible eyesight, so it wasn’t until I downloaded my photos that I saw the babies, but they were pretty cool.

The Great Snowy Egret hunting was neat as well. It was stalking around a dry area, using its extremely long neck – almost like a giraffe – to search for food. Seeing it dart quickly to snatch a lizard certainly isn’t something you see every day.

Seeing nature in nature is always a delight to me. I loved zoos and aquariums growing up, but having the economic privilege to be able to travel to places where you can see creatures in their natural environment is something I cherish.

Nom, nom, nom. A Great Snowy Egret eating a lizard.

On a side note, the highlight of the day may have been at the very beginning. We were walking on a boardwalk when Veronica suddenly shouted. We all hurried to her thinking she must have found something really cool to see.

Alas, she had somehow dropped her wedding ring into the mud below. The boardwalk was a good eight feet above the muddy water and her ring was visible below.

Being the good husband I am, I just laughed and took pictures of her while she climbed over the edge and eventually used her barefoot to grab the ring with her toes and pull it up. In fact, I’d note that my mom and I both took pictures and video, while my dad and Veronica were the only ones who seemed concerned with getting the ring back.

Veronica scaling the boardwalk to fetch her wedding ring out of the mud.

I guess I know who I take after most.

Anyway, we received some very dirty looks from the birding community who probably assumed we were trashing the place by climbing into an area you aren’t supposed to go.

Anyway, if you find yourself in Anaheim and don’t want to give all your money to the corporate greed that is Disneyland, head over to the coast and check out the cool critters at Bolsa Chica.

– Craig Craker

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