I’ve written before about being seasonally confused, and you’d think after spending this much time avoiding snowy states I’d be used to seeing surfers and spending time at the pool in the middle of winter, but I’m not. And that’s okay, because it means it’s still a thrill.
This past winter (2013-2014), while much of the country was bearing the brunt of snowstorm after blizzard after icy chill, we cruised back and forth between southern California and Arizona.
Of course we avoid cities whenever possible, but we like exploring, and sometimes that means we’ll venture to the edge of a metropolis, as we did this past March. Yep, eat your hearts out, friends and family in the north…. this was the view out of the Jeep window in early March near Oceanside, California:
On excursions like this one, when we’ve left the RV safely tethered someplace and have ventured out in the Jeep, we leave ourselves open to whatever might come our way. And this morning we were rewarded with ample parking along this stretch of North Beach in San Clemente:
We watched the surfers: now you see him…
…and now you don’t!
But the person getting the most wave action was this paddleboarder, who seemed to be able to spot the cresting waves and get to them faster than the old-fashioned method of laying on the board and smacking your hands in the water:
Brown Pelicans soared overhead…
…a commuter train zoomed behind us (what a view to see every day on the way to work, eh?!?) while a mom and kids picnicked in the sand…
…and we admired the wet rocks spilled up on the sand from the ocean. Amazing what work tiny grains of sand can do on the surface of a rock, isn’t it?
Yeah, it was a stunning day to be at the beach…
…but we had more to explore before heading home, like Dana Point, where we walked along this inland waterway, hoping to see something extraordinary…
…and being richly rewarded, first by this amazing succulent plant that looked like a type of aloe but was taller than I am!
And then we spotted this gorgeous Black Oystercatcher. I’ve always wanted to see one — it’s always a treat to see a bird that looks exactly like its pictures! So often I see birds but can’t find them in the guides because their coloring or barring or something is just a little different than described.
But if I’d wondered at all about this bird, it started pecking at something….
…then it pecked at something else, then it moved on down the rocks a ways, and then we were all rewarded:
What’s better than seeing an oystercatcher catch an oyster?!?
Well… maybe this. Who’s stalking prey in almost the same spot? This stunning Snowy Egret:
Another birdwatching first 🙂 Yep, this was a fun discovery. We weren’t done yet, but it was time to bid our new friends goodbye (not that they’d notice).
We passed this little ground critter sunning himself (herself?)…
and we just about to climb back into the Jeep when Bob said, “Honey, look up in the tree.”
What was he seeing?
Nope, I wasn’t seeing it either. Not at first… then I began to make it out. A Great Blue Heron nest! Yep, in that tree. It was hard to get a photo, but if you look closely, you’ll see the adult peering down…
…and preening its chest, here:
How cool is that?!? Seeing a magnificent bird like the Great Blue Heron at its nest is one of those terrific moments, especially coming upon it by accident. I swear, the best things we discover are those we don’t set out to see in the first place.
One of the places I’d read about and wanted to see was Old San Juan Capistrano, but we missed the parking area, and twisting around the narrow streets was enough to convince us we’d tackle this town another day. We decided to head back to Dana Point and get a bite to eat at one of the busy restaurants there.
Wind and Sea, with its great views of the harbor, has a nice oceanside ambiance. Although the lobster ravioli was very good, it doesn’t rank in the Bob and Ellen’s Best Eats awards, and the key lime pie was nowhere near as good as the Dolphin Den in Avon, NC. Even so, our bellies were full, and that meant we were re-fueled for the trip home.
But our surprises for the day weren’t over yet. On the raised boardwalk around the outside of the restaurant, we paused to watch the boats come and go and gaze at the birds crowding the wharf across the water. And that’s when we noticed….what? What is that?!?
Maybe the question should be “What are they?” Looks like a few harbor seals sunning their fins and flippers as they float along:
Maybe the locals are used to seeing this, but although we’ve seen many harbor seals, this was new to us.
Here’s where I thought I was done with this post. But as I was reviewing photos (and there were dozens and dozens from this one day trip), a particular bird caught my eye in the background of that first seal photo. Can you see it? (Actually, there are two….)
Here’s a closer look:
And here’s a blurry close-up of one of them:
To the right of the Great Blue Heron is a Black-Crowned Night Heron. Didn’t expect to see one of these, but I guess they’re pretty common in these parts.
The locals probably thought I was nuts. That’s okay. I used to think people who took pictures of the robin were crazy, and now that I don’t see them very often I completely understand their awe.
And that’s something we could all use a bit of now and then, isn’t it?