Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the toney Southern California enclave of Huntington Beach holds such an amazing wetland: Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve. It’s existence is a testament to locals who fought for its preservation and who still work for it today, as in the guided tours run by the Amigos de Bolsa Chica. And a visit in December is to give yourself (and the kids) something free, memorable, and lasting: the gift of birds.
You might not think of winter as an appealing time to roam a wetland, but now is prime time for seeing high concentrations of shorebirds and migratory waterfowl— godwits, western grebes, sandpipers, black-necked stilts (shown above) pintails, willets, and more. Birders here have logged as many as 70 different species on a winter day (Nov-Mar). And at any time of year in Bolsa’s 1200 acres of undeveloped wetlands, lowlands, and lower mesa you could spot egrets, herons, northern harrier, and peregrine falcon.
Bolsa Chica Tours
The Amigos de Bolsa Chica, a 33-year-old preservation group, provides school programs and free guided tours for visitors; trained docents lead all their tours. Check out their first-come tours on the first Saturday of every month (9-10:30); gather at the south lot of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, across the street from the main entrance to Bolsa Chica State Beach. The kids will get a fun lesson on the area’s history, birds, endangered species, ecology and restoration. And you may walk off a few of those holiday pounds. If you're really inspired by their work, volunteer or donate to the Amigos.