Sunday, December 4, 2011

Marsh plants and creatures of the sea

Inlets from the ocean snaking through the marshes
This weekend, a mundane, obligatory trip to the Sweetwater Marsh Wildlife National Refuge and Chula Vista Nature Center, with my son and a couple of his friends, turn out a lot nicer than I imagined. I have to commend the boys for being better behaved, then I expected, in light of our docent who was highly `musical'. Beans was not his friend!

It had been years since I had been to the Nature Center. I was impressed with how much it had expanded and how well it was run. Perhaps, it was the time of year, fall -almost winter ( winter starts December 21st), we had a clear and beautiful sight of the whole marsh and the bay, and the city beyond. The pictures do not do it any justice.

I never realized how many endangered species of birds and plants call the Sweetwater Marsh Wildlife Refuge home. Gunpowder Point on the marsh is only known native US population of Palmer's Frankenia (Frankenia Palmeri Wats). Cuttings from the 2 surviving colony is being propagated.  It was interesting to learn about halophytes like the endangered Saltmarsh Bird's Beak (cordylanthus maritimus) also found on the marsh. I was impressed at how the Nature Center was breeding and returning back to the wild the light footed clapper bird, which was almost extinct. More than 300 birds have been released into the wild todate. Such great work done so close to home and I was unaware until duty called.
The Saltmarsh Bird's Beak - extra salt is excreted out making it look like the plant is sprinkled with sugar
You know what else I was unaware of? I knew that there had been a gunpowder factory on the site during WWI . What I did not know is they were processing kelp at the site to produce acetone and potash key components of gunpowder. Imagine that kelp!

I truly enjoyed the outside exhibits particularly of the owls which is a current favorite of mine. I am sporting a little owl ring on my pointer finger. They were hiding in their habitat and I only had my iphone with me to take photos so I do not have any good shots to share. However, I have a picture of the snowy egret to share. The reflection on the water almost more `real' than the bird itself!

There was a beautiful patch of pricky pear cactus that was in full bloom and fruiting. I am definitely putting a patch of them in Temecula.

There was also a nice display of agave and yucca outside the aviary. I love how sculptural they are but I hate thorns. I am going to plant them at the edge of the property.
Agave Palmeri and Yucca Baccata
What really touched my heart, was the exhibits inside the Nature Center building- the creatures of the sea. Firstly, the seahorses. They were a lot smaller than those I had seen previously. As expected, my son A, reminded me that I had yet to purchase the seahorses he gave me money for, on one of my birthdays a few years ago. I must have been fascinated by them as a child but my daughter L made them even more special to me. To this day, I remain, astounded at the essay and the research she did when she was just in 2nd grade about the seahorses. 2nd grade I tell you!! I am not sure I was reading, let alone writing and researching at 2nd grade. That was when I discovered first hand how the US school system encouraged and empowered its students. Even as I blogging this, I am so tempted but I have to figure out how to keep them happy and alive when I travel......Have to do more research.

Seahorse hugging the seaweed with its tail

Seahorses playing

The squids with their bulging eyes are both gross and adorable at the same time. Are they baby squids or a type of squid that is small?
Those bulging eyes seem to stare straight at you
Manthis prawns. Is it bad that I am thinking how delicious they are? Hey, I can think that but still not eat them if they were my pet. I had kept alive Freddy the crayfish  my kids brought back from school for longer than you can imagine. I remember when Freddy shed his shell for the first time- I was not expecting it. I was like"who is Freddy wrestling with." We had only one crayfish!! Hey, I learnt a lot when my kids were in elementary school.... I will hunt for pictures of Lucky the Bullfrog, my prince of a frog, another of my kids science research from school. Will post them another day.
Almost the size of a small lobster

Wow! What Star presence! Aren't they beautiful? Each different but equally enchanting!
Four beautiful and different Starfishes. Sea Urchin in foreground

The Starfish looks like it is studded with pearls

So Patrick the Starfish ala Sponge Bob

So now I am imagining a tank of all these beautiful creatures; seahorses, squids, starfishes and maybe some shrimps. Hmm, can they all live together?


  1. When I was a child, I was really fascinated by seahorses. I also see them behind glass cabinets at the sinseh shops. The crayfish must be very happy living in an aquarium and not ending up as food on the table. It is indeed a fascinating underwater world.

  2. Freddy the crayfish lived to a ripe old age.. We Chinese just eat everything!! As much as western medicine is discovering what the Chinese have know forever medicinal wise, there are somethings like the seahorses, flying squirrels etc that I think we can forgo.