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Great Egret with a tasty snack at the Bolsa Chica Wetlands

Many times when we think about incredible wildlife or biodiversity we think about exotic places. If only we could go there if only we could visit places that are in the travel magazines and National Geographic and get to see those amazing animals ourselves. But one of the greatest and most diverse ecosystems in the world today exists very close to us. In fact we don’t have to hop on a plane or pay that much to get there. All we have to do is pay attention. Wetlands are known today as an incredible home for many different kinds of animals.

And even though the Bolsa Chica Wetlands is just down the street from me. . . it may not be for you and honestly, there are little “wetlands” far nearer than that. Now not all wetlands are the same, but wherever there is wetness, moisture, or water there is life. Water provides a basic need for all living things from little tiny animals you see under a magnifying glass or microscope, to larvae of different insects, microorganisms, algae, to animals you can see with your naked eye–amphibians, fish, birds and all the larger animals that come to the water sources to drink: house-cats, dogs, sparrows, hawks, deer, mountain lions, coyotes, rabbits, wasps–and these are just to name a few (and a few more typical of Southern California). But wherever there is water there is overcrowding, amazing biodiversity, and large amounts of animals living next to, on top of and inside of one another.

Where there is water you’ll find all kinds of families like this Mama Mallard and her little ones

In order for all living things to have a home three basic needs must be met: 1) shelter or a physical living space 2) food and water (energy sources) 3) family (other animals like it).

Where there is water you’ll find all kinds of families like this Mama Mallard and her little ones

Take time to look closer this week and see what kinds of animals are living in your closest “wetland” whether it be a local park, a bird bath, or a puddle on the sidewalk. It could be as simple as observing the soil in your backyard after a little rainwater has made the soil moist for insects and worms and ground dwelling spiders or looking under a microscope at water left in the household pet’s water dish. It may take time to see them and it may take a magnifying glass but you’d be surprised about the biodiversity that exists in the wet lands around us. Wherever there is water and wetness there is life! And remember when looking don’t get discouraged. It’s not always easy to find the animals immediately, but that’s just what makes observing the biodiversity around us even more exciting. It’s the thrill of being the first person to see this animal living its life in its habitat . . . and you don’t have to be a world traveler to do that. I know this past week I got to see some little backswimmers and waterboatmen swimming around in my cat’s water dish! And whenever I am in the wetlands I see so many different kinds of birds every time I am there. I can’t wait to see what’s in my “backyard” this week!

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