BE STILL, a Lesson from My Friends at the Bolsa Chica
By Karen Belville

The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve (BCER) is a special place. I visit for many different reasons. I usually find myself going there for a specific purpose and tend to be on a time schedule. Sometimes it is to learn more about birds and ecology. Other times it is to lead a group, pick up trash, complete a project, enjoy time with friends, or just get some exercise.

Recently I had a new experience with a small group of long-time friends. One of my friends had never been to BCER and really wanted to experience it. She is battling stage 4 cancer and has become more compromised with her endurance. This allowed us time to walk slowly and rest frequently on the benches to wait and observe. We walked from the south parking lot and over the bridge to the path for about a third of a mile. The trip up and back took us three hours.

Kelly O'Reilly RetiresBe Still Towel Design
Photo by Karen Belville.
It was amazing what we experienced! We spotted hundreds of topsmelt under the bridge, a Horned Lark in the special area for nesting endangered birds, Killdeers running around the mudflats, and a Reddish Egret frolicking through the water. My friends and I watched Buffleheads, Grebes and Surf Scoters diving, and Cormorants drying out their wings. We saw Ruddy Turnstones poking and flipping small rocks; a Whimbrel, Curlew, and Marbled Godwit poking through the mud; and a Snowy Egret shuffling at water’s edge by the cordgrass and pickleweed.

Over a period of 20 minutes, we noticed a flock of Turkey Vultures, gradually aggregating with one soaring vulture and concluding with a party of six gathered together devouring something white! We also observed an Osprey eating a very large fish on a distant tree. There were many adorable Sandpipers, Sanderlings and “Peeps” skittering around. A highlight was finding a Northern Harrier gliding, hunting and finally fighting with another large bird over an octopus! As we were walking across the bridge back to our cars, the Grand Finale was the sound of two Ridgway’s Rails calling to each other and the subsequent sighting of one of the Ridgway’s Rails swimming under the bridge to reach the other bank.

Magical! Lessons learned: 1) Take your time. 2) Wait for nature to come to you 3) Enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, movement, and unexpected surprises of nature 3) Embrace the quiet moments 4) Appreciate and protect the gifts BCER has to offer. One of my friends in the group gave a parting gift to all of us. It was a towel with a Heron and a message “BE STILL”. That says it all.