Sunday, June 14, 2015

Basking in the Gloom at Bolsa Chica Wetlands

We had a rare "reverse spring" this year, for the first time in about a century: the months have gotten cooler as we've advanced farther into the year, making it the grayest May and gloomiest of Junes since I moved here.

But oddly, I haven't minded.

When I first arrived here and was subjected to a daily and day-long marine layer by my Venice office, I kept protesting, "This is not what I moved to California for!" But I've started to accept Southern California – and specifically Los Angeles – for what it is, and everything it offers, not just the California you see in the movies. So instead of hiding inside during May Gray and June Gloom, this year, I'm embracing it, and heading out into it.

Actually, I kinda like it now.



I bet the Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Orange County are gorgeous on a sunny, clear day...



...but this weekend, under threat of rain (and a few sprinkles that did manifest), it was deliciously spooky.



It's a surprisingly urban area, despite its five miles of trails: it abuts a housing development which was built on top of a sacred Indian burial ground...



...and it used to be full of oil derricks, which the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach paid to clean up, in order to restore the habitat.



Because of its location across from the Palos Verdes Peninsula, along the shore of Huntington Beach by the Pacific Coast Highway, it also used to be part of the coastal defense system...



...and still shows the base of two Panama mounts for 155mm guns, which would swivel around a circular track.



Unfortunately, a historic WWII-era bunker was demolished and buried by a developer, despite its eligibility for landmark status.



The bunker was connected to the mounts and an Army-run gun club by a series of underground tunnels, the remains of which you can still see today along the nature trails...



...some of which are dirt, and others paved, or sidewalks that no longer lead anywhere.



This is a tidal wetland, with saltwater coming in from and going out to the ocean...



...the flow controlled by a dam and a berm.



There are also four rainfall-fed freshwater areas, giving the entire ecological reserve quite a bit of biodiversity, with many species of birds – from the tern...



...to the yellow-footed snowy egret.



There's the invasive harlequin beetle, which pretty much destroys the bladder pod plant...



...and at least one gopher snake, slithering across the trail.



And then there's the great blue heron – oh, the great blue heron, nesting in the palm trees, feeding their hungry, squawking chicks!



Despite their relatively full size, you can identify the fledgling juveniles – almost ready to go off on their own – by their fluffy, mottled feathers, and their fixed position. Though they stretch out their wings occasionally, they do not fly away – yet.

I'm sure somebody would much prefer this area be turned into a commercial district or ocean view housing development, but I, for one, was so grateful that so much nature was so accessible at Bolsa Chica. I couldn't get enough of those birds. I'm glad they have a safe habitat for breeding. I love those guys.

Next time I venture out into the gloom, though, I just have to remember to wear sunscreen, because California can burn you, even on a cloudy day.