Bolsa Chica: on the Wetlands – Wasteland Border

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

For a seemingly desolate wasteland that is backed by oil fields, a couple busy roads and suburban sprawl, the Bolsa Chica Wetland has surprisingly a lot of wildlife.

That’s mainly thanks to the state of  California, which started buying land here in 1973, and Amigos de Bolsa, which sued them to better manage it.  The amigos say the coastal area near Huntington Beach has been misused since about 1900, when duck hunters closed off the inlet. Then a parade of ranchers, oil drillers and finally developers, who dreamed of a snazzy marina, messed it up. Since an out of court settlement in 1989, the state has been buying and restoring land at Bolsa Chica, which translates to something like little pocket. The wetlands now have 1,200 acres. A lot of it looks more like a strip mine, but surprisingly many critters live there.

Another group, the non-political Bolsa Chica Conservancy, works to restore the wetland and teach people about it. The day I was there, tons of volunteers were working as part of California’s annual coastal clean-up day. Still another group, the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, wants to get all 1,700 acres.

Just walking through the chapparal in the recent heatwave, my husband David and I saw rabbits, furtive Beechley ground squirrels, hundreds of wading birds, including two great blue herons, peregrines hunting, a dozen or so godwits, a cormorant nest (apparently there are more in the haunted-looking trees in spring). Since there’s so little shade cover, I expected all critters to be napping. Up north we saw black skimmers that birders said are usually found here.

Check out Bolsa Chica

Where to See Wildlife in California

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