Shorebirds Return to Pacific Beach in July

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July is sunshine here on the coast.  The coastal fog will not return until the fall.  There are bright sun yellow primroses in bloom.  A ground cover filled with pollen & covered with bees that seem to be wearing fuzzy yellow britches, their legs are so filled with pollen.  It is magical to see the bees everywhere this summer.  I wonder if the bit of winter rain we had helped them to recover. 

San Diego beaches in July are crowded with sunbathers, swimmers & children.  These crowds are at Mission Beach or on the beaches near Crystal Pier.  It is a July beachscape of colorful umbrellas lining the shore.  The beaches here are cleaned every morning by huge tractors dragging a 14-foot rake to clear the beach of sea weed, trash & anything else in its path. The sunbathers do not want to lay out on a beach that is not pristine.  No shore birds or seals congregate here.

The north end of Pacific beach is completely different.  The cobblestones are mostly gone now & this end of the beach near the protected Tourmaline tide pools has opened up.  As the cobblestones leave, the sandy beaches return & so do the shore birds.  When the cobblestones fill the beach, walking on the cobblestones is a challenge for even the young surfers & at my age a turned ankle is not something I even want to think about.  The return of the sandy beach here makes me smile.  Sea weed is returning to this area now, too. Breaking waves lined with seaweed at the edge of the shore turn deep violet-blue.  I walk all the way to the tide pools & stroll by the “Stone Man” rock.  “Stone Man” is still up to his neck in cobblestone piles, but he knows that even those cobble stones will soon roll back to the sea. 

This end of the beach is my favorite spot in summer.  The sea weed on the beach is very stinky so no sunbathers venture here.  This is a designated surfing area so no swimmers come here either. It is quieter here, too.  I pretend I am alone.  There is no beach “grooming” here so the beach is more natural.  The beach is littered with crab & lobster shells.  Fish bones wash up here.  Sea gulls sleep on clumps of sea weed.  Unfortunately, garbage washes up here a lot as well.  Many of us who walk here carry bags to pick up the trash.  Beach towels, sunglasses, shoes, drink cups, kids plastic beach toys, clothes, bottle caps, plastic bits everywhere.  Lobster traps wash up here.  The trash is endless.  It is awful what humans are doing to the sea. 

Dogs are only allowed on the beach here in early morning or early evening & they must be kept on the leash.  I walk along hoping that today there are no dogs on the beach at all to disturb the natural behavior of the shore birds.  The birds are lucky this morning & the Whimbrels, Godwits & Willets dip their beaks into the rotting seaweed & the sand at the edge of the sea looking for their breakfast.  The gulls are carrying around lobster shells & fighting over a small crab.  The tiny Sanderlings run back & forth with their quick, quick bicycling legs in a never ending wave chase.  I wonder if they are finding sand crabs today.  These little birds run back & forth like a feathered tide.  Always moving.  It is rare to see a Sanderling standing on one leg & sleeping or sitting on the sand to rest.      

Today there is a dozen 2-foot tall Snowy egrets moving about on the damp & rotting clumps of seaweed.  They arch & curve their long necks while their snowy white feathers lift gracefully in the wind showing their beautiful & delicate lacy plumes.  These wind-blown peeks of individual feathers take my breath away.  Such a beautiful bird with their bright yellow feet & ballet dances.  How could these birds ever been relentlessly hunted just to put pretty feathers on ladies hats?    It is a sad reminder that it is not just this current time that people seem so disconnected from nature. 

I take photo after photo of the shore birds & revel in being able to stand quietly among them & observe the beauty of their lives.  I walk back along the beach stopping to look closely at seaweed washed up onto the beach.  I spot a few Striped shore crabs that run very fast from me.  I wonder if they think I am a very large bird wanting to eat them.  I photograph the piles of sea weed arranged artfully by the waves into a natural work of art.  As slowly as I can, I return to the busyness of life by the beach in summer.  In the parking lot, I walk past a chain link fence hung with a hundred pairs of lost sunglasses.  They are probably too damaged by salt water & sand to be re-used, but the surfers and locals here make a huge effort to protect this beach, which we love with all our hearts.

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