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At 2:30 on a Monday afternoon, we were the only people at the shuttle stop, waiting for a ride to the Chula Vista Nature Center. By the time the shuttle arrived (it comes every 15 minutes), we had been joined by one couple and a family of three.

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During the 5-minute ride from the parking lot to the center itself, Mary the bus driver gave us information about the history and current exhibits. She also let us know where to find the sea turtles and where to be for the 3:00 shark feeding and the 3:30 eagle feeding.

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Sea turtles

The current art exhibit, Washed Ashore: Plastics, Sea Life & Art, features large-scale sculptures created by Angela Haseltine Pozzi and made from debris collected at beaches. The first thing that greets visitors after disembarking the shuttle, is a giant fish made of orange and yellow plastics.

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The big fish

The center’s aquariums include marine life found in San Diego Bay: sea turtles, leopard sharks, horn sharks, bat rays, stingrays, and (my favorite) shovelnose guitarfish, among others. We watched as Beth, the only full-time animal care specialist on staff, fed them.

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Beth

Later, we watched Lauryn, the relief animal keeper, feed dead rats and chicks to Franklin, the bald eagle, and Dorado, the golden eagle, both of whom have amputated wings. All birds at the center are rescue birds that cannot be returned to the wild. Others include barn and great horned owls, turkey vultures, and peregrine falcons.

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Eagle food

The Chula Vista Nature Center is open 10-5 daily. Admission prices are $14 for adults (18-64); $9 for seniors, students with i.d., and children (4-7).

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