Birders on watch for Canada geese, plovers

Migration to SB salt marsh makes for great viewing

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Ryan Winkleman, with online forum called Orange County Birding, said nearly 500 species of birds have been documented in the county. Courtesy photo

Hope is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all … — Emily Dickinson

On any given day, bird watchers can see least terns, light-footed clapper rails, great blue herons and peregrine falcons at the nearly 1,000 acres of coastal salt marsh at the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge.

But October, when birds migrate north to south and from mountains to coasts, is a special time for birders.

They’ve got a good chance of spotting Canada geese, American avocets, various hawks, black-bellied plovers, black-necked stilts, sandpipers and others. For some migrating birds, the marsh is a stop-over. For others, particularly those from inland mountains, this is their winter home.

“The good news is that the numbers look very good. The {native} population seems to be doing fine,” said Rick Nye, manager of the Wildlife Refuge.

That means a maze of tidal channels and cordgrass that tube worms, sea stars, green sea turtles and other marine organisms — including an occasional shark — call home. It also means migratory birds have good reason to make their annual trek for feeding and resting.

Because of COVID-19, tours of the marsh off PCH between Seal Beach and Sunset Beach have been cancelled, but birders and other wildlife enthusiasts can see plenty of activity from the Bolsa Chica Wetlands and Simple Green (15922 Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach).

Both of those viewing places are favorites of photographers and artists, as well.

Ryan Winkleman, a moderator for an online forum called Orange County Birding, said nearly 500 species of birds have been documented in the county.

Just this month, birder Will Black has spotted American avocets, northern shovelers, sandpipers and killdeer.

“I also saw what appeared to be a young (first winter?) mew gull,” Black reported.

Others have seen yellow crowned night herons and tricolored herons, mostly at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and Dana Point Harbor.

The Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge is on property owned by the Naval Weapons Station.

For more information, call 562-254-4352.