It Was a Soggy Day
By Rachael Lloyd
The weather predictions were united in their prophecies. Friday, February 3, was expected to be a cloudy day with very light misty showers, if any at all. With the weather forecasts on our side and a positive attitude volunteers from REI in Huntington Beach and Amigos joined up in the south parking lot of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. The pavement was dry and bright morning light penetrated blue-grey skies as we trekked across the footbridge toward Nest Site 1. Waiting to unlock the chain link gate for us on the other side were volunteers from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Nest Site 1 is a large sand bar created to provide habitat and breeding grounds for a number of wetland bird species, especially the endangered Least Tern and Snowy Plover. Historically these 2 species laid their eggs in shallow depressions scooped out in open beach sand. Due to the fact that virtually all of California's sandy beaches were claimed for human recreation, the eggs of these species were crushed under the feet of beach visitors. The number of surviving chicks dropped alarmingly. Fortunately the Least Terns and Snowy Plovers have found the man-made nest sites in the reserve to their liking and numbers are on the upswing.
Another species from the botanical kingdom has found the reserve sand bars to its liking as well. Slenderleaf iceplant (Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum) is an invasive plant foreign to the Bolsa Chica area. As such it outcompetes and displaces naturally occurring plant species and can completely cover open areas of sand. This is bad for the endangered birds since they will not nest in vegetated areas. Our task was to eradicate as much of it as possible. Armed with rakes and hoes we started to scrape and pull out the Slenderleaf iceplant just as the sky darkened and a light rain began to fall.
A little rain turned into a serious shower and still we kept at it. We endured for an hour as each fresh rain drop that fell felt somehow heavier and plopped a little harder on our wet heads. Our hardy group of volunteers was finally forced to call it a day but not before our assigned area was raked and cleared of Slenderleaf iceplant. Although the group was disappointed at not being able to complete the three hours of labor they originally volunteered for, the day was still a success. Combined effort by 16 people for only one hour when multiplied equals 16 hours of labor. This is a major contribution to the health and well-being of the reserve and its natural inhabitants. A big thank you to our resilient new friends from REI for volunteering and hanging in when the going got tough.