Big news in La Jolla with a bluff collapse that closed up a sliver of a cave near Casa Beach. What causes these bluff collapses? Hard to say because sandstone is weak to begin with, but with the El Nino storms & high tides this winter it is likely that the waves were undercutting the base of the cliff. Even the little bit of rain that arrived could have weakened the cliff & caused this bluff collapse. It’s interesting to pull up a photo from 2015 and see right through to the beach. Now in 2016 there is only a big closed square with tumbling blocks of shale that collapsed to the bottom. There have been other bluff collapses here with an arch off of Sunset Cliffs that had been there forever collapsed this winter, too. California coast has been retreating or eroding for more than 18,000 years, but still it is a surprise to see tons of sandstone & shale collapse. The Native American Kumeyaay Indians in this area called La Jolla the “land of holes” because of all the sea-level caves between La Jolla Shores & the La Jolla Cove. I always thought that La Jolla meant “The Jewel”, but recently read that the Spanish settlers here transcribed it in error to “The Jewel”. I like knowing that it is the “Land of Holes”, but also think of this part of La Jolla as “The Jewel” due to all the wild life that lives in this area.
July has brought the hatching of sea gull chicks everywhere. This area has now become one of the few seagull breeding sites. I frequently hear locals say that they have never seen the polka-dotted gull chicks before & I am grateful that I have this opportunity. A few sea gulls built their nests on the sand at Casa Beach while it was closed to people. Two little gull chicks I named “Winnie & Wilbur” sit on their seaweed nest waiting for their parents to bring fish or Tuna crabs to eat. Another chick I call “Willow” was hatched in a nest near the seawall. “Willow” hangs out with the Harbor seals on the rocks. I’m surprised she hasn’t been swept away by the incoming tide. These little chicks managed to survive through the crowds of people on the beach to watch the 4th of July fireworks, but then disappeared a day later. Accepting that all of these sea gull chicks will not make it is difficult, but when it is caused by human interference or stupidity, my heart just breaks. Thankfully lots of sea gull chicks born earlier in the season have fledged now. Once the gull chicks can fly they are safe from the humans who can’t seem to find a way to respect the wild life here. I am at least grateful to see that they can fly away. I already miss the tiny polka-dotted sea gull chicks that are just adorable, but there will be another season next year.
Harbor seals retreat to the reef rocks off shore, which are exposed at low tide now. The Harbor seals can sleep & rest there peacefully undisturbed by people. When high tide arrives though, the waves start to break onto the rocks. At first the Harbor seals lift their heads & tails to stay dry as the waves approach. The seals want to stay on the reef rocks to rest as long as possible, but eventually a huge wave breaks over the reef rock & the seals are swept into the sea. Time to wake up! In the winter, the seals would move to the beach, but during the summer months people have taken over the beach to sunbathe & swim. It’s good to get to the beach by 7 a.m. at low tide for me to see lots of Harbor seals out on the reef rocks. I am so happy to see them. One day I count more than 80 seals out on the reef rocks. Sleeping seals stretch & yawn from time to time giving us the opportunity to see their sharp fangs, carnivore teeth & bright pink tongues. Stretching seals look like they are waving hello to me.
Out of the corner of my eye I spot movement on the water. Silver bait fish are leaping out of the sea & then a Harbor seal pups head pops up out of the water! Lunch for a Harbor seal isn’t any fresher than a school of mackerel on the move. A chartered fishing boat is quite near here and packed to the max with fishermen. Since there are mackerel on the move here, they probably are catching fish that congregate where the bait fish are. Here in the shallow water I can see lots of bright orange Garibaldi fish today. The flash of bright orange always delights me. Garibaldi fish are plentiful here although they are endangered. It is quite wonderful to see our state fish living in the coastal kelp beds.
High tide waves are filling Casa Beach this evening. The waves break all the way up to the bottom of the stairs. About 20 brave Harbor seals are starting to arrive onto the beach to sleep for the night. People on the beach to sunbathe & swim are gone now & the people left are standing respectfully behind the rope to separate people from the seals. These people are only here to see the seals & want to give the seals space to come ashore. One Harbor seal moves across the rope to the people side. As usual people start running up to get close to a wild Harbor seal. I spend an hour gently keeping the people away from the seal. I breathe a sigh of relief as the seal finally moves back to the other side of the rope. If only this beach was closed to people year round.
At the La Jolla Cove, “The Beast”, a gigantic male sea lion is swimming off shore & barking repeatedly. Since he is the father of his family & has recently acquired two small sea lion pups “The Beast” clearly appears upset that people won’t leave his family alone. People getting too close to the sea lions for photo ops are relentless. Once in a while the sea lions here will bite people who just keep trying to pet them or poke them. The sea lions just want to rest & sleep on the beach. Sea lions and Harbor seals cannot swim forever. These marine mammals breathe oxygen just like us & they are not fish who can swim endlessly. When I come to the beach early or late in the summer & observe the sea lions & Harbor seals living their lives in peace, I learn so much. Not just about the seals & sea lions, but about myself & where I fit into this world. I only wish that the people who come here to see the seals & sea lions really came to see them instead of behaving like they are at a petting zoo & these marine mammals are only alive for their entertainment. We need a park ranger here to monitor the people & educational signs because without education these people will never realize what they are missing. The photos on selfie sticks, the people laying down next to a seal or sea lion & laughing at how they are pretending to be one miss the entire point. It is a privilege to observe nature not a right.
I walk by South Casa beach and there is still one large Harbor seal sleeping on a reef rock. “Lion Rock” is spewing out sea water as the tide rises and today he looks like he is smiling with every gush of ocean water. “Lion Rock” has been here for ages & ages & if he can still smile at the changes of tides & the turning of the seasons, than so can I. I say a little prayer for the protection of the wild life here so that in the future other generations will get to appreciate “The Jewel” that La Jolla really is.