PACIFIC BEACH IN FEBRUARY – AN ARTIST’S JOURNAL BY-THE-SEA

February 2016 - Page 1 W

Pacific Beach in February – For now the beach is still pancake flat during the minus tides although the sand is starting to erode away for the winter.  Soon the reef rocks will be fully exposed & a million cobblestones will be here instead of sand.  Meanwhile, bicyclists take full advantage of the flat beach for a ride before sunset & we all enjoy our walks by the sea.  The surfers have names for all the beach breaks and one of those names is Grimace.  A week later the sand has eroded away so much that there are rocks exposed in the minus tide that we have never seen before.  Grimace reef rock normally hidden out of sight under the sea now shows itself giving an understanding of why one must know where this reef rock is while surfing & why to avoid it.  There are other large sea worn rocks of interesting shapes clustered together & that is where lots of shells are washing up now.  One day I find several whole and some broken Frog shells & the largest Pismo Clam shell I have ever seen is just lying on the beach with both shells perfectly hinged together.  Each half of the shell is larger than both my hands put together & I marvel at how huge this living mollusk clam was, but the shell is empty now & some sea creature or shorebird had a good meal. Another find is a large Wavy Turban shell broken almost neatly in half with the sea shell interior architecture revealed to show just how perfect nature’s designs are.  Large round kelp pods as big as a baseball, glow like amber gems in the sunlight.  One day after a rain storm there are lots of two inch high pink seaweed plants, which still have their roots attached to tiny eroded pebbles.  The pebbles must have been broken loose by the storm surge & now these small seaweed plants decorate the shore like sea bouquets washed up just for my delight.  I gather a few “bouquets” to bring home the scent of the sea.  At home, I put them in miniature clay flower pots beside some ferns & sea shells on my patio table.  

One afternoon I drive by Mission Bay near the bird sanctuary & notice the beach filled with the normal sea gulls, but also lots of larger birds with black wings.  I hurry home to get my large camera & take a quick look at my San Diego guide to local birds & can it be?  Are they Black Skimmers, which I have never seen?  I grab my camera & rush back.  I walk along the shore of the bay trying to come up behind the giant flock of birds without scaring them off.  Yes!  They are Black Skimmers!  Large black birds with a bright red-orange bill that appears to be broken because the top part is shorter than the bottom part.  Nature’s design to allow the Black Skimmers to fly just above the surface of the sea & use the bottom longer bill to scoop up fish right up into their mouths!  Amazing.  There are hundreds of birds here today.  Sea gulls, Black Skimmers & Elegant Terns, too.  Elegant Terns with cheery orange bills & black feathered heads are busy strutting on the beach.  The flock of birds moves like a wave as I edge closer step by step & they chatter loudly trying to decide if they will just slowly move away from me or take off like a cloud of black & white feathers on the wind.  The Elegant Terns voices are quite loud while the Black Skimmers add a softer “hoo-hoo” bass note to the bird song.  The sun is setting as I walk along the bay on this San Diego winter day in February enjoying nature’s delights of this moment.  As always, I am grateful to have these times in my life by-the-sea. 

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