When the sea gull chicks have molted most of their down feathers, but don’t quite have all of their regular feathers in yet, the bone structure of their skull clearly shows. The chicks go from being adorable baby birds with polka-dotted heads to being sort of sinister looking until their flight feathers completely grow in.
I think this molting process makes them look sort of vulture like, which is very interesting to me because sea gulls are scavenger birds. I used to think of sea gulls only as pretty birds on the wing overhead emitting the classic sea gull sound, which is the quintessential hallmark of being by-the-sea.
Since I started hanging out with the harbor seals during the pupping season, I have seen the seagulls savaging the afterbirth from the harbor seals after a pup is born. The seagulls are the clean-up crew in the seal pup birth process. Here’s a photo of a harbor seal mother with her newborn pup just a few minutes old. The sea gulls immediately show up to clean-up the afterbirth. Sometimes the sea gulls even show up when the harbor seal mother is in labor & wait for the birth. When I’m observing the pregnant seals & gulls start showing up, it can be a sign that a seal is in labor. The seagulls know before I do. It is an amazing example of the symbiosis in nature.
When the pup is born, the mother turns around to touch her nose to her pup’s nose. She smells her pup because that is how she will recognize her pup from other pups. It is a bonding behavior that is also affectionate, too.
Sea gull chick faces with feathers growing in. There’s still a bit of down, but they are getting close to where they will be able to fly soon.
The sea gull chicks are growing very fast now & are getting closer to being the same size as their parents.
It’s hard to believe that just a short time ago, these sea gull chicks were still in their eggs waiting for mom to incubate them into life.
I am an environmentalist because of spending so much time observing nature. My life as an artist by-the-sea observing the sea gulls has taught me that the sea gulls deserve our respect & protection, too. The lesson for me is that I need to protect every single creature because that is the way nature works. If one species is considered a pest because of their odor or ugliness or is hunted for their meat, fur or fins or tusks and that species ceases to exist, then the chain is broken. Something fragile is gone & nature will never be the same. Each creature on this planet is here for a sacred purpose in their life. Even me.
This first week in July started out with a giant school of anchovy fish off of the coast of La Jolla! This is the biggest anchovy school seen in more than 30 years. The video on the news was so wondrous to see as the school of fish swam away from the people in the water and you could see the school of fish change shape. It reminded me of the murmuration of Starling birds which is another similar movement, but of birds instead of fish.
You can watch the Scripps Institution of Oceanography video of this wonder of nature here:
If you would like to see the murmuration of Starlings, you can view it here:
Don’t you think they have similar movements? Performance art by nature.
I noticed that there were a lot of Cormorants on Seal Rock this week, which is a bit unusual. It took me a few days to realize that the birds are moving there to get away from where they used to be, which is now swarming with people. It brings me joy to know that the Cormorants have gone to where they feel safer and cannot be harassed by people. They cannot live on this rock as high tides wash over it, but still it’s nice to know they have a place to sit in peace for some of the day.
La Jolla Cove is where the Cormorants used to spend their day (along with the pelicans and sea lions), but the City of San Diego has encouraged people to walk down there now. The people have chased away all the birds and instead of hundreds of sea lions, there are only about 30 of them left. The City of San Diego was sued by some La Jolla restaurants and hotels regarding the odor of the wild life there so they opened a gate to allow the ignorant and uncaring tourists to chase away the wild life, which they have done. This used to be my “happy place” now all I see is lifeguard tower construction and people harassing the sea lions. Really sad.
These photos show the La Jolla Cove after public access was opened. As you can see it’s an ugly and dead area now, which is filled with people instead of wild life. Look at the photos before & you can see that it was a little piece of paradise. (By the way people could still go to the beach at the Cove just not walk out onto the bluffs.)
It was unbelievable to me that on the 4th of July, the fireworks were shot right off the bluff. What little wildlife is left there had to endure fireworks being shot almost right over them. People were laughing and bbq’ing all the while that wild life was suffering. Some 4th of July celebration. By the way, this area is part of a protected marine area so I cannot understand why fireworks were even allowed there at all because fireworks cause environmental pollution too.
Speaking of tourists impacting my “happy place”, one of the problems we have here is a tremendous trail of tons of garbage left behind by visitors. The photo below is trash picked up off of one tiny beach left one by the tourists. Thankfully the high tide had not come in to sweep the garbage out to sea. Do the tourists really not care that the beautiful area they are coming to see is being ruined by them? Ugh. A friend and I carried 16 hotel beach towels, an umbrella, 2 beach mats, a 4 foot wide green inner tube and all of these beach toys up a flight of stairs and loaded it all up into the trunk of my car. I took the towels to the Laundromat and washed them, hosed off all of the kids toys and took all of it to a thrift shop so they could sell the stuff. Apparently a lot of the tourists are going home somewhere with no ocean and think it’s just okay to abandon the stuff they have on the beach. One friend of mine belongs to a group of residents who walk the beach at 6 a.m. every morning and she carries 2 trash bags with her – one for stuff that can be cleaned and donated to thrift shops and one bag for all the trash – drink cups, soda & beer cans, condoms, cigarette butts, etc. It is ironic to me that humans want to drive off the “smelly and filthy” wild life, when it is clear to me who the smelly and filthy creatures really are.
Oh one more thing, when the City of San Diego workers pick up this massive amount of garbage left by the tourists on our beaches, it all goes to the landfill. It simply is not feasible for the City of San Diego to do otherwise as the amount of trash left by tourists is tons. Yes, literally tons.
Someone left this message on the construction fence at the Cove.
As an artist by-the-sea, it is a constant challenge to try to protect the wild life & environment here. Living by-the-sea is what inspires my art. The sea brings me balance and peace, but not when the tourists have invaded the area. It makes me acutely aware that when people go on vacation somewhere that we are visiting someone else’s home and that they love their home as much as I love San Diego. I just wish that the people who came here realized that this is our home, too. I also wish that the residents of San Diego would step up and protect what they love about San Diego before the tourists destroy what we love so much and it is gone. Once this wild life leaves, it won’t come back. Once our oceans are filled with plastics and garbage, it will be terribly hard to undo. Once the bluffs are covered with graffiti, the beauty of them will not be seen.
There is a protected beach in Laguna Beach that has a beautiful sign to remind visitors that they are visiting a protected area. If it were up to me, the City of San Diego would have these signs all along our beach front and every single beach would be a protected area. Did you know that the American Indians thought that the La Jolla Cove was sacred ground? It is. I feel it when I am there. It is such a tragedy that the people who come and visit here don’t feel that and that even the residents that live here don’t understand that we need to protect our environment here before it’s too late. I will never, ever agree with those who say to me that beaches belong to people and that people trump wild life. Beaches don’t belong to anybody. Beaches belong to all of us who live on this planet, which includes the sea lions, harbor seals, pelicans, sea gulls, cormorants, snowy egrets, hermit crabs, starfish, sea anemones, and fish and yes, people, too, but people don’t trump wild life. Ever. Obviously, I know that not all tourists and not all residents hate the wild life. I frequently speak to visitors here who want to know where all the seals are and have come specifically to enjoy the wild life. I also have friends who will no longer come to the La Jolla Cove because of the harassment of wild life. In the height of the tourist season in San Diego, when the Cove is over run by hundreds of thousands of people, it is hard to remember that there are people who appreciate and love this place as much as I do. We all impact our environment and we each must take responsibility for our personal footprint on this planet. I hesitated to publish this article, but I have to hope that education will eventually lead to protection and respect for the wild life in this place I love.
One more thing for this week, a piece of art I created called “Sacred Tools” was accepted for an important art show. A small joy in a week of emotional challenges that come from living in a much too popular tourist destination. I’m writing this towards the end of July and I’m counting the days to Labor Day when most of the tourists will go home and kids of all ages go back to school. In the middle of summer, I’m longing for a San Diego winter.
2014 ART JOURNAL – 1ST WEEK OF JULY