POLKA-DOTTED SEA GULL CHICKS ARRIVE! La Jolla has become a breeding site now for the California Western Gulls. I counted more than 30 seagull nests from the La Jolla Cove to South Casa Beach this June. It is a rare treat to be able to see the sea gull chicks with their polka-dotted feathers and their huge feet. It takes only a week before they start jumping up & down & flapping their wings as if to say “I can’t wait to fly!” Both parents take care of the sea gull chicks so it is a real family environment. The seagull parents must protect their chicks from marauding gulls who will try to steal the fish & tuna crabs that they regurgitate for their chicks to eat.
There were several sea gull nests built on the sand at Casa Beach this year. Once the beach was open to people again on May 15th, it became a real challenge for the gulls to sit on their nests undisturbed by tourists. A few people surrounded the nests with seaweed “lines” to try to keep people a safe distance away. The gulls sitting on the nest panted from the heat, endured the people getting too close & successfully hatched their chicks. Five chicks were hatched on the beach. In such a difficult environment, it was no surprise that two chicks died. The chicks don’t get their flight feathers for several weeks & so they are unable to fly away to safety from the tourists. The gull parents shriek hysterically at people to get away from their chicks, but people are just not aware that what they are doing is jeopardizing the lives of these little polka-dotted gulls. I named two chicks “Winnie” & “Wilbur” after a nice young couple I met there who came to see the Harbor seals & were so interested in the wild life & appreciated being able to view it respectfully. As “Winnie” & “Wilbur” got a bit older, they would walk to the edge of the sea & sip ocean water from time to time. It was fun to see them strolling among the resting Harbor seals. “Willow” basically lived on the reef rocks with the Harbor seals & walked among the tide pools there in the rocks. One day there was a black & white speckled Harbor seal sleeping on the reef rock & “Willow’s” polka-dotted feathers seemed to match the Harbor seal’s fur perfectly. Every spring the sea gull chick’s just utterly charm me with their adorableness.
Flocks of adult sea gulls hang out on the beach, too. Sometimes one gull will start “laughing” & other gulls join in. I find the sea gulls so delightful. The gulls have learned to pester the tourists for food & the tourists will feed them because they do not know it is not a good idea to feed them human food or to feed them at all. After all these sea gulls, Harbor seals & sea lions here are wild animals & this is not a petting zoo. It is a shame that there are no educational signs anywhere here giving the tourists an opportunity to really understand that what they are seeing here is rare, beautiful & deserves to be treated with respect.
The Harbor seals “pup club” is in full swing now. The pups are about 5 months old, were weaned months ago & all hang out together. One of the Harbor seal pups on the beach today has a very distinct heart-shaped nose. The Harbor seal pups have to adjust to the tourists approaching them now, which is quite a shock to these little seals. The rope on the beach to keep people back is a guideline that is not enforced by the City of San Diego. Some tourists come to La Jolla specifically to see the Harbor seals, but other tourists don’t care about seeing the seals and come only to swim & sunbathe on the beach that the Harbor seals live on. All it takes is one tourist crossing the rope to the beach to cause the Harbor seals to “flush off” (leave) the beach completely. Additionally, if one tourist crosses the rope, all the other tourists follow & the Harbor seals will not return for the day. There are miles & miles of beaches for tourists & residents to sunbathe & swim. There is only this one tiny beach for the Harbor seals to live on. Just before sunset the tourists pack up their beach chairs & towels to head home for the day. Once the beach is empty of people swimming & sun bathing other visitors will gladly stay behind the rope to see the Harbor seals come up onto the beach to sleep for the night. In the months of June, July & August if you visit La Jolla & are able to see the Harbor seals, then you are lucky indeed.
At the La Jolla Cove, the Joshua tree is in full bloom with heavy cascades of waxy, white flowers hanging low. Here at the Cove with the sea lion colony, it is pupping season for the California Sea Lions now & there are 3 healthy pups with their mothers. A huge 700-pound male sea lion I have nicknamed “The Beast” struts around barking his dominance. He tries to chase the tourists away from the new additions to his family. The sea lion mothers will bring their pups up to the rocks on the beach during high tide to nurse them & keep them safe. Taking their pups back to the sea is sometimes a struggle for the little pups so the mother simply picks up her pup by the scruff of the neck & carries him to the beach. The sea lion pups have soft gray fur & their tiny ears & faces are darling. These pups will nurse for one year before they are weaned so it is critical for them to be able to stay with their moms & to be safe on the beach alone while their moms go out to fish.
Summer is beginning. It is a challenge for the wild life here to endure the influx of hundreds of thousands of tourists who arrive now. Local colleges & schools are closed for the summer now and this also brings an influx of residents to the beaches, too. Of course it is lovely to go to the beach. Of course people should be able to swim in the sea. I only wish that people left some space for the sea lions, seals & shore birds while they enjoyed the shore.