Situated between the Pacific Coast Highway and active oil derricks, the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve appears at first glance to be more of a wasteland than a valuable wetland. However, these revered grounds are one of the best birding spots in the United States, attracting flocks migrating the Pacific Flyway between North and South America.
Nearly 200 bird species are documented in Bolsa Chica each year, including many rare and endangered species. Sightings of great blue herons, snowy egrets and brown pelicans are common; lucky visitors can even spot a rare white pelican at the right time of the year. So bring your binoculars, layered warm clothing and camera with a telephoto lens. Depending on the season, observers report multiple varieties of Finches, Grebes, Hummingbirds, Kinglets, Loons, Owls, Swallows and Terns, as well as other coastal birds such as Avocets, Cormorants, Ducks, Egrets, Gulls, Herons, Kingfishers, Sandpipers, Surf Scoters and Stilts.
The best place to observe Bolsa Chica wildlife is from the footbridge and trail just off Pacific Coast Highway. Two different volunteer support groups also offer free tours leaving the parking lot at this location. The Amigos de Bolsa Chica tour is on the first Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. This same group also offers a free Bird Tour on the last Saturday of the month at 9 a.m. The Bolsa Chica Land Trust tour is on the third Sunday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon. The tours follow a loop trail through the wetlands and are hosted by trained guides who discuss identification of birds, ecology, endangered species, and the early history and current status of the wetlands.